Commenting in the afterglow of what has been described as one of the more peaceful Southern Baptist Conventions risks being labeled a naysayer.
Reports of more prayer than many remember at an SBC gives pause to any suggestion of critique. Baptist Blogger pointed out some painful realities of the decreased attendance on contested SBC Presidential elections that leave one wondering if the slight attendance also lessens the likelihood of controversy.
Quickly, according to Baptist Blogger the vote count for President at this year's SBC was 3,490 or .00022% of the recent 15.7 million Southern Baptists on rolls in SBC churches. Or, the number represents .0006% of the 5.8 million who attend church regularly. Observers need to keep these figures in mind for obvious reasons.
Before continuing you should know I was in Forsyth, MO, and not in Baltimore, MD, last week. Our family vacation landed at the same time as the SBC and it was more inviting to spend the week with our two grandsons than wishing I was while taking in the fanfare of the SBC.
If possible, I would prefer my initial question be understood in the context larger than a single meeting of the SBC. The matter of a conscience for the SBC is beyond any single meeting of a group of messengers regardless how small. My question stems from a recent post by Ed Stetzer at his Christianity Today hosted blog.
Today Ed wrote in response the recent debacle that was Leadership's piece by an anonymous sexual predator who wrote of his affair. You may find the original post linked in Stetzer's post.
The piece Ed wrote contained this bit, “It's Abuse Not Affair.” You should read the post if you have not.
Why consider Ed Stetzer the conscience of the SBC? First, Ed appears to have a wider reach than our in-house ERLC.
Over the years I have watched Ed grow his brand. Some, maybe even Ed, will not like that description. But, Ed once posted at a LIfeway hosted site. While more than Southern Baptists read there, it most surely limited his reach. Ed wrote more denominational specific material, read SBC issues, at Between The Times hosted by SEBTS. Today, Ed's personal site is something of a portal to his varied projects, interests, and relationships. Now he writes for a much wider audience, one not dissimilar from the diversity witnessed in his varied speaking engagements. His blog is now hosted at Christianity Today.
Like it or not, Ed shares relationships within and without the SBC. He may not be the only high profile SBC leader who embraces the diversity within the Christian Church/Tradition. But, he seems helpfully located to deliver a message that we should do more with regard to clergy sex abuse than we do.
Some of you may remember failed attempts to create an SBC database of those involved in clergy sexual abuse cases. This is flat embarrassing. Not a few pastors have heard the stories themselves. And, while second hand information does not give us much force, collectively we could demand that we either stop pointing up the scandals in the RCC or get to the task of ferreting out these cads sooner than later.
Recently I was reminded of an incident I only know of second hand. But, that some I know appear to have swept concerns under the rug is flat unconscionable. Embarrassing.
Second, Ed pastors a local church. Every time an incident comes up like the one that surfaced in the now pulled CT piece, the rest of us pastors wince. We face the hard work of rehabbing the image of trust and faithfulness. Instances that do not qualify as felonious have a terribly long shelf life. Just ask some of us.
But while I am thankful for the emphasis on the prevention of child sexual abuse, and the rightful prosecution of those who commit such heinous acts, I think its also necessary to point out that all sexual misconduct between clergy and those they are charged with serving should be met with the same resolve. Though the victim may be over 18, and considered a “consenting adult,” the fact is that in such a situation, a pastor has used his office to take advantage of another. It may not be a crime, but its definitely abuse.
Yes, some of our leaders were once pastors. Maybe they could do a good job from memory. But, some of these instances were for very short periods of time. Others now sit aloft in denominational hierarchies occasionally dipping into the lowly pool of pastoral life as a guest preacher all the while touting that work as the greatest work being done. But, not too willing to visit an average SBC church on their expense account dime. No, those larger churches are the preferred venue. Ed may suffer the same accusation, but at least he is planting and pastoring from his influential position at Lifeway.
Finally, Ed said something. If others used their positions to say something within the SBC, I apologize. Leave a link and I will update this post accordingly. But, Ed said something.
Squabble over Calvinism and Traditionalists. Banter about your CP giving or our lack thereof. Shout about out decline.
But, say something about this horrid, scandalous blight. Use your position whatever it may be but please, say something. Even more, do something!