Southern Baptists Coddling Pedophiles?

02/22/2007: Anyone–especially a minister–who molests children or tolerates pedophiles among the ranks of the shepherds–is lower than scum and ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I could care less what denomination he represents: Catholic, Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or any shade thereof.

By now, we are well aware of the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, in which Church leaders at every level knowingly coddled child molesters and covered for them.

That this goes on among Southern Baptists should shock no one; while Southern Baptist ministers are more accountable to the membership than in the Catholic Church, the structure of the local church can still be constructed to intimidate those who would come forward and “rock the boat”.

This obviously does not happen at every church, but anyone who thinks this does not go on is smoking something that ought to be legal. It does go on; and it has gone on at some very high-profile churches, including Bellvue Baptist Church in Memphis, home of the late Adrian Rogers.

In fact, I hope the local authorities are investigating pastor Steve Gaines, who knew of the abuses of fellow minister Steve Williams, but neither took it to church leadership nor directed Williams’ son to the authorities, with ministerial support for the victim. As far as I am concerned, Gaines and Williams make Ted Haggard look like Mother Teresa.

If God causes fire and brimstone to consume those buildings, I’ll hold a celebratory feast.

To be fair, some SBC churches “get it”. At Highview Baptist–where I spent two years–they performed background checks on everyone. (I worked in the AWANA ministry, and they did one on me). They also had very strict rules–and enforced them diligently–regarding adult/child interaction, and also ministerial interaction with adults of the opposite sex.

Some might call that legalism, but those rules protected ministers, workers, adult parishioners, and children alike. I have my differences with Highview, but they are on the money on that issue.

Churches need to do such checks–and enforce similar accountability–for every prospective worker, teacher, deacon, preacher, and everyone who serves in a leadership capacity. If a church refuses to do that, then responsible members need to put their leaders’ feet to the fire and demand better.

I was at a church where–unknown to us–we had a child molester in our leadership. A background check would have been useless: the molester in this case had no prior criminal record. But personal references alone would have kept him out of any significant capacity within the church.

That person is now doing 20 years in prison, and let’s just say the church in question–while not guilty in this case (the abuses in this case happened after the molester left the church)–is now quite diligent about doing background checks.

In 2002, the SBC did what they do best: pass resolutions. In that case, they passed a resolution calling on churches to discipline ministers who engage in sexual abuse, and calling on them cooperate with authorities.

Excuse me, but that is lip-service. Surely the same denomination that removed seminary professors over Biblical inerrancy, abortion, homosexuality, and the ordination of women can DEMAND that churches adhere to a strict regimen of due diligence with respect to preventing sexual abuse.

A church that covers up sexual abuse should be kicked out of the convention.

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