Clohessy & Christa Brown
Louisville, Kentucky, the Southern Baptist Convention
gathered for its annual two-day hoopla. The theme of this
year's convention was "Actions
speak louder than words."
Southern Baptist Messengers:
"Actions speak louder than words." It's a good slogan, but
do you really mean it?
A year ago, your Executive Committee announced its decision not
to create a clergy-predator database or an office
to field abuse claims. (Eric Gorski - Associated Press, "Southern
Baptists reject sex-abuse database," Washington Post,
What message do you imagine this do-nothing decision sent? To
Baptist clergy abuse survivors, it sent a message of "we
don't really care." To Baptist clergy-predators, it sent a
message of "we'll look the other way."
sure, we heard the fine preaching of Executive Committee
president Morris Chapman. We heard him "encourage" local
churches to rout out predators. But that was just words. Where
is the action?
Southern Baptist woman Alyce Faulkner also heard Chapman's
preaching, but she didn't applaud like so many others. "Am I
the only one sick of empty words?" she asked. "We rally
around words -- when will we rally around reality? Once again,
we resolve to do nothing. God help us." (Miracle
of Mercy blog, 6/10/08)
Law professor Marci Hamilton summed up the sad reality of this
denomination's inaction. "The Southern Baptist Convention
has . . . proven why it is that children are at risk for sexual
abuse in our society: It's easier to issue ineffectual
platitudes while looking the other way." ("The Southern
Baptist Convention's unconvincing claims...," FindLaw,
June 12, 2008)
Make no mistake about it: others can see that this
denomination's response to clergy sex abuse is just talk --
platitudes and preaching. Where is the action?
your Executive Committee even do so much as a legitimate study
on the clergy abuse issue, as messengers directed it to in 2007?
Some might reasonably wonder. When asked, no one at SBC
headquarters could provide a budget for the "study," and SBC
official Roger "Sing" Oldham admitted that there was no
specific budget for it. (Elizabeth Ulrich, "What
would Jesus say?" Nashville Scene, 2/14/08) Recently, in
talking about a marketing strategy, your former vice-president
of evangelization, John Avant, said that "you can't have a
vision that doesn't have a funded budget." (David Waters,
"Southern Baptist decline and God's bottom line," Washington
Post, 12/22/08) He's right. Without even so much as a
funded budget, it's obvious that your Executive Committee
never had any vision for effectively addressing or even studying
Baptist clergy sex abuse.
When this denomination finally decides to actually take action
against clergy sex abuse, here are the basics of what it needs
to provide: (1) a safe and welcoming place for people to report
clergy sex abuse; (2) an objective, professionally trained panel
for responsibly assessing abuse reports; and (3) an efficient
means of assuring that the assessment information reaches people
in the pews -- i.e., a database.
Tell your Baptist officials to get busy. Tell them you're
tired of just talk. Tell them "actions speak louder than
words." Tell them soon.
Action is what protects kids; not words.
Very truly yours,
SNAP National Director
SNAP Baptist Outreach Director