700 people (mostly women) have been targeted, groomed, sexually abused and victimized by more than 400 pastors and volunteers in Southern Baptist churches across the country since 1998. As a woman, a youth pastor, a church leader and a mother I have asked the same question repeatedly to myself (and to others), “How could this happen?” This article is a response to this question.
The SBC, not surprisingly, is not asking the same question I am asking. Russell Moore is asking a different question and herein lies the problem.
“Southern Baptists, we have reached our age of accountability,” said Russell Moore, who heads the SBC’s public policy arm. The vital question before us today is: What do we do next?” (Source)
I agree that the SBC has reached their long overdue “age of accountability.” Two decades is a disastrously long time for this type of abuse to go on and be covered up. However, I believe that Dr. Moore and the other SBC leaders are asking the wrong question.
Instead of asking, “What do we do next?” perhaps they should pause to consider how they got here. How did this culture of silence develop in their churches in the first place and how it has been so successfully sustained over such a long period of time. This is a church culture issue.
It is not, as some have suggested, merely an individual sin issue. In many of these abuse cases, the abuser was dismissed from the church staff or volunteer team only to continue his abuse in other churches and other places. The SBC should not be so hastily looking forward to “What do we do next?” and instead should be looking to the past and present moment to ask “How did we get here and how could this happen?” As with any systemic or cultural reform, we cannot move forward until we understand how we got here.
So, what about the SBC church culture allowed for this kind of abuse and cover-up? In Scot McKnight’s recent webinar on “Goodness Culture within the Church,” he points out that there is not one theology that leads to a healthy church culture or a toxic church culture (terms that McKnight employs in his upcoming book A Church Called Tov). I agree with him and I am not suggesting that the theology of the SBC churches is the sole factor contributing to the culture of silence created. However, I do believe that theology is one contributing factor that leads to a church culture’s health or toxicity.
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Source: Christianity Today