I generally do not cheer at reports like this one. After all, there are a lot of good people in the Southern Baptist Convention–particularly missionaries both here and abroad–who will suffer as a result of the decline of the SBC.
At the same time, given the institutional coverup of sexual abuse scandals in their churches, I cannot say that I have any desire to see the SBC prosper.
And don’t start the, “SBC churches are autonomous, so the convention is limited in what they can do” line. Puhleeeze.
The same convention that has booted churches for endorsing homosexuality cannot take action against churches who cover for predatory ministers?
(If you try to shovel the “Baptist Churches are autonomous” argument over here, I will cyber-waterboard you without mercy.)
The current SBC President, Steve Gaines, would know of such coverups: he was directly involved in one at Bellvue Baptist Church where he was pastor. One of his ministers was known to have abused his son; Gaines sat on that knowledge. As far as I am concerned, he is no different from Ted Haggard. That the SBC has made him their President is a global disgrace.
Amy Smith of Watch Keep was well-connected at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a prominent hub of the conservative theology that has defined the Southern Baptist world for the last 35 years. Her father was a deacon there.
When she blew the lid on a whitewash of a sexual abuse scandal at Prestonwood, she became persona non grata in her own family. You can read about it here.
And sadly, the leadership of the SBC has shown no desire to get to the bottom of this problem. They have passed resolutions, even called for commissions to investigate the problem of sexual abusers in their ranks, but provided zero teeth to them.
I am not surprised that there are sexual abusers in the Church. They flock to the church (that’s where the children are) for the same reason that the robber hits the bank (that’s where the money is).
And as I’ve often said, the sexual predator is not the creepy-looking pervert; in fact, they are affable, charismatic, popular, well-respected, often married and with children of their own. Christians expect evil people to look evil; in fact it’s the other way around: just as Satan appears as an “angel in white”, the most vile people often look good and respectable.
Israel’s first king–Saul–was the best-looking man in the kingdom. He looked like he would make a good king, but–due to his lack of regard for God’s ways–he nearly led Israel to destruction.
Baptists, like the Israelites of old, have a long track record of picking leaders who, like Saul, look good and respectable, but who are evil and vile.
Even worse, when the extent of their depravity becomes known, churches are more prone to resort to CYA than to do the right thing and contact the authorities. As bad as the predators are, the Church compounds this by an order of magnitude by (a) not reporting accusations to authorities, (b) allowing the offender to resign and move, (c) disregarding, or making light of, the impact of the abuses on the victims, or, worse, (d) attacking the victims and/or those who blow the whistle on the coverups.
The SBC has a sordid history of doing exactly that. And it reflects a body whose leaders are fixated on their own self-interests rather than those of the Father.
Until they reverse course, I will root for their demise.