Baptist21 Panel Says Protecting Sexual Abuse Victims is Central to the Mission of the Church

B21 panelists included (left to right) Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Jen Wilkin, author and Bible teacher; J. D. Greer, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Not pictured are Dhati Lewis, vice president of Send Network and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Photo by Van Payne

Protecting sexual abuse victims is central to the mission of the church, said a group of denominational leaders during the Baptist21 panel on June 11 in Birmingham, Ala.

Immediately after the panel, Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, addressed his church’s handling of a sexual abuse case as reported June 10 in the New York Times. The panel was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, June 11-12.

The panel featured Danny Akin, Albert Mohler, J.D. Greear, Jen Wilkin, Russell Moore, and Dhati Lewis, and was moderated by Nate Akin, the director of Baptist21. The six panelists addressed a broad range of issues, from sexual abuse in the church to complementarianism and racial reconciliation. B21 is a pastor-led network that focuses on addressing issues relevant to Southern Baptists in the 21st century.

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he is often told that emphasizing the protection of abuse victims distracts from the mission of the Gospel. This mindset is “foolish,” he said.

“This is the mission,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “The mission as a shepherd is presenting the church and the Gospel and everything that is attached to it as a safe place for the vulnerable.”

Learning how to deal with sexual abuse allegations is a “primary component” of training men and women for ministry, said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, during the panel.

Small churches tend to be looser about abuse allegations because the accused are often beloved members of their communities, Akin said. But research indicates that abusers don’t look obviously dangerous and often seem like good people, making it that much easier to groom their victims. Abusers, Akin said, often look “just like us.”

“We are going to be the haven for the hurting that we should have been all along,” Akin said. “I believe God will honor this, but it’s not easy. It’s very difficult when the people that you have to expose … are family members or people that you’ve trusted or worked with for years. They were very good at hiding this.”

Some critics claim that complementarianism, the theological view that men and women have unique but complementary roles in the church and the home, makes churches and organizations more susceptible to sexual abuse and dysfunction.

According to Jen Wilkin, noted author and Bible teacher, there is no theological boundary line in sexual abuse cases. It exists in every theological camp and denomination, she said.

Yet the precise practices within complementarian churches are often insufficient, Wilkin said. Churches often misidentify abusive marriages as merely bad marriages.

“Complementarianism [can] become just as dangerous a place for people who are in systems of abuse as in any other theological environment,” she said. “Just because we have a theological position that we are deeply convicted of does not mean our practice is good.”

Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press