Why the Church Must Acknowledge Its Problem With Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Racism

Beth Moore addresses the GC2 abuse summit at Wheaton College.
Image: Brendan Jones

Beth Moore and Max Lucado made headlines at a recent conference in ways you might not expect.

A one-day summit on sexual abuse and harassment was held at Wheaton College. As the organizer explained, the group met “to help amplify a conversation” on this difficult subject.

Beth Moore was the featured speaker. Her story of sexual abuse was shared by others who spoke. Then Max Lucado closed the conference by sharing for the first time his own story of sexual abuse as a child.

They are not alone. According to a recent survey, eight in ten pastors know someone who has experienced domestic or sexual violence. A fifth of the clergy has experienced such violence themselves, including sexual assault, rape, or child sexual abuse.

“We are living in an age of historical reckoning.”

In other news, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary released a report detailing the school’s extensive historical ties to slavery, the Confederacy, and white supremacy.

The study found that all four founders of the school, one of the oldest and most influential seminaries in the US, owned slaves. Other findings: early faculty and trustees defended slavery as “righteous”; the seminary supported the Confederacy during the Civil War; and the school opposed racial equality well into the twentieth century.

Albert Mohler Jr., the seminary’s longtime president, prefaced the report: “We are living in an age of historical reckoning. The moral burden of history requires a far more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism, and even the avowal of white racial supremacy.”

Dr. Mohler added: “We will not attempt to rewrite the past, nor can we unwrite the past. Instead, we will write the truth as best we can know it. We will tell the story in full, and not hide.”

“Buildings, budgets, and baptisms”

When I became a Christian in 1973, the evangelical churches I knew focused primarily on evangelism.

Sunday sermons were intended to lead people to “walk the aisle” to the front of the sanctuary where the pastor or a staff member waited to “lead them to Christ.” Tuesday night outreach, where members would make evangelistic visits in the community, was a vital part of the weekly program. Evangelism training courses were expected for all leaders and members. “Who did you win to Jesus this week?” was a common question.

In the 1980s, the focus for many evangelicals shifted to “seeker-sensitive” worship and therapy-based sermons. Services were designed with non-Christians in mind; messages focused on the felt needs of attenders. Sermons on marriage, money management, and self-esteem were common.

Both approaches measured success by numbers–conversions and baptisms, attenders and members, finances and buildings. In my years as a pastor, it was clear to me that my work was evaluated by “buildings, budgets, and baptisms.”

I still believe that lost people need Jesus and Christians need to share him with the world. I still believe that pastors and churches should meet the needs of people as we share God’s love with them. And I still agree that measuring results is important.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison