Southern Baptists and #ChurchToo: A Homeowner Analogy

Many years ago, Jim bought a new home. It was in a good location, it looked nice, and it was a very popular house. Jim entertained many guests there.

But as the years passed, Jim started to notice a problem. His basement had some cracks, and–when it rained–water was leaking into the house. The walls of the basement started bowing. He clearly had a foundation problem. He also noticed some termites in and around the house. He had heard the horror stories about termite damage, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time.

So Jim, realizing that this was an imminent threat to the house, hired the right people. He had a structural engineer assess the problem; he hired the best contractors to install rebar to reinforce his foundation; he hired a landscape firm to install French drains to provide easement. He even installed a sump pump.

In short order, Jim had the best foundation of any house in his neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Jim failed to address his termite problem.

So, as the years progressed, his foundation remained strong, and the house looked very good from the outside. But, unbeknownst to Jim, the termites were multiplying, eating the wood in his house, and weakening the structure of his home.

This year, things got bad in a hurry for Jim, as an entire portion of his roof completely collapsed.

Calling in the contractors, they determined that the extent of the termite infestation, and the damage, have rendered his house on the verge of condemnation. Without immediate, extensive renovation, his house will collapse by the end of the year. The money required for the renovation would be at LEAST half the value of the house itself. It would be a painful cost, but–sadly–he is facing this problem because he failed to address it when doing so would have been inconvenient but otherwise harmless.

Now, his options range from very painful to disastrous. If he punts on the renovations, he will lose everything. But the cost of renovation will be very exacting.

—-
In a nutshell, I’ve just described the Southern Baptist Convention.

About 45 years ago, the SBC was drowning in liberalism. They weren’t as liberal as the Episcopalian Church USA, or the Presbyterian Church USA, or the United Church of Christ. But they were heading in that direction.

A couple of bright, young stars in the SBC–Paul Pressler and his protege Paige Patterson–teamed up with old-school conservative stalwarts like Adrian Rodgers and W.A. Criswell and mounted a frontal assault on the liberalism problem. In the ensuing years, the SBC flushed out the liberalism and re-established themselves as an evangelical denomination with unwavering Biblical conservatism defined by Classical Fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, under the surface, the SBC had an abuse-coverup culture. A critical mass of churches, associations, and people within the SBC entities had some horrible and embarrassing family jewels–sexual abuse, intimidation, domestic violence–that they swept under the rug. Victims were often dismissed, maligned, told to “get over it”, were discouraged from reporting their abuses to authorities, or were told that authorities were contacted when in fact that never happened.

As now-disgraced serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar learned, those victims grow up. The victims of the old-school SBC “keep it all in the family” paradigm have become adults. And they have a voice. The Internet and social media have in fact become force multipliers that have amplified that voice.

Today, a large section of roof has fallen off the SBC house as their 2018 annual meeting approaches. The abuse scandals have shaken them to the core, and there is no hiding from them.

Paige Patterson has been fired, his title and compensation–including his retirement home at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS)–taken away.

And his problems may not be over, as he remains a defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit against his mentor, Paul Pressler.

In other words, by year’s end, the two most prominent architects of the conservative movement in the SBC–each enshrined in stained glass at SWBTS–may see their legacies forever tarnished by severe abuse and misconduct.

Here’s the real problem, though: if this were merely about Pressler and Patterson, it would be a tempest in a teapot, as they are only two people.

Sadly, the abuses and coverups are much, much worse, and more far-reaching than Pressler and Patterson. The abusers and their enablers have infested churches, local Baptist associations, state conventions, denomination entities, and the highest echelons of SBC leadership. Just this year, Frank Page, the President of the SBC Executive Committee, was forced to resign due to a sex scandal.

Paige Patterson is slated to preach the keynote sermon at this year’s annual meeting. Unless the convention holds a vote to stop that–or unless Patterson demurs–it will happen. And if Patterson preaches, it will be a catastrophic defining moment for the SBC.

What is needed: serious, unadulterated repentance. Many victims have been steamrolled over the years. The SBC needs to apologize to them and seek to make amends to the extent that this is feasible.

But the change needs to go further than that, (a) we need to rid the termites from the house, (b) repair the structure, and (c) make fundamental changes to discourage termites from entering the house.

(a) and (b) will be difficult and painful. Many current leaders–some of them very popular, and with letters after their names–must be held to account.

But (c) will take a lot of soul-searching, as that is going to require a major cultural change. The existing ministerial-industrial complex rewards charisma over character, and this makes it easy for predators and those of otherwise unscrupulous motives, to join the ranks of ministers.

Make no mistake: when a youth minister is taking a girl in the youth group home and deliberately goes to a remote place, pulls his pants down, and solicits a Clinton, that is more than just a young horndog with self-regulation issues; in fact, that reflects a person who will use people under his care to service his twisted desires.

Make no mistake: when someone is abused, reports that abuse to the church, and the church–in turn–lets the minister resign and go elsewhere, and they refuse to report the conduct to authorities, it reveals a dark truth about the church: they are materialistic, just like the world, and more interested in their personal prestige than in doing the right thing for someone abused by one of their own.

The SBC must face that sordid, ugly truth, repent of serving Mistress Mammon, and start training ministers who love God and refuse to pay homage to Mammon.

If they don’t, they will be irrelevant within the next five years.

28 thoughts on “Southern Baptists and #ChurchToo: A Homeowner Analogy

  1. it’s kinda a chicken and egg thing … the people in the churches like their warm fuzzies, even to the extent of accepting and explaining away and ignoring really bad things.

    there was a church in my college town whose pastor had a *little* problem with the young college boys. the elders of the church discovered this and kept it among themselves, apparently slapping their wonderful pastor on the wrist and telling him to go and sin no more. however, his passion for those young college boys was not contained, and continued, till it became such a big ‘problem’ the elders could not keep it a secret. when the church body became aware, they (1) couldn’t believe their wonderful pastor would do such a thing! (2) and *loved* him so much they essentially ignored his sin and ‘loved’ on him as a fellow believer in Christ … because he was such a great pastor and preacher and they just loved him sooo much!

    of course … if the congregations start holding their pastors accountable, they might then be held accountable themselves. and if the pastors hold their congregations accountable, then they might be held accountable themselves.

    they ultimate serve themselves, not God.

    what is so amazing to me in all this is that God still uses them anyway … that God’s ‘mission’ still continues … that God is Sovereign and Holy and Just … and that HIS will WILL prevail. that does not diminish our responsibility … it just shows the power of Holy God.

    • The larger problem, though, is that the victims are growing up. And they are PISSED. They reject the Christian faith, because they see God’s people as perfectly okay with children being raped while the pastor talks a nice talk on Sunday.

      On Twitter, I’ve gotten to know a Who’s Who of the victims. A few of them are Christian and even conservative, but just want culture change in the Church. Many have gone off the rails completely, rejecting Christ altogether.

      The way the Church handles these things is feeding the ranks of Nihilists.

      It was bad enough when it was Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart having zipper issues. But what we are seeing now makes those two guys look like old-school Eagle Scouts.

      • i remember making the decision to separate God from church with my girls. they were little, and every.single.sunday we’d drive home from church, they were crying over something that happened IN church. i decided that was not how i wanted my girls to view God, so we stopped going to church (and i tried several and several different denominations) but never stopped God. that was early in the single-mom years. since then, with all the things their dad and grandparents and uncle have done – all four of whom staunchly support the church over everything else – my girls have never once forsaken God.

        ironically, their dad eventually began taking them to church with him – a church he and i had been members of many years before kids, and one i liked. they made some friends there and have good memories. Youngest is going to her last year of summer camp in a few weeks. that gave them a good experience with church. however, they do not trust church or church people simply b/c they exist and believe this one church was/is an anomaly … esp after their dad’s funeral where his parents and brother were so cruel in their eulogies and how they handled my girls before, during, and after the funeral.

        when i read of those who turned on God b/c of what the church has done, my heart breaks, and i am thankful i did what i did so my girls still love God. it breaks my heart it had to be that way, though.

        • the bigger irony of all this is that, being in a preacher’s family, we heard many, many stories of preachers and their families making seriously bad choices – but my in-laws always believed they were ‘above’ all that. sigh.

          • he was actually not their favored son. their second son was by far their most favorite, which was part of his problem – he never felt or experienced his dad’s approval. it was what broke him and what drove him and what he could never earn.

            i sort of wish i had a recording of their eulogies at his funeral. i was shocked at how disrespectful his dad and brother were toward their dead son/brother.

            ironically – their other son has never married and still lives at home, and many close to the family think he likes men rather than women. probably so, but he’ll hide in the closet with that secret.

          • That is one futzed-up family. And to think…they are missionaries. You probably know how much vetting they went through to become SBC missionaries.

            The problem is that while the FMB (now the IMB) had an extensive screening process, it’s not easy to determine a person’s–let alone a couple’s–spiritual health.

            And back then, old-school cultural Fundamentalism was looked at as a good thing, so the missions board was probably wearing some really nice blinders.

        • I too feel sad and angry whenever I read about men and women walking away from Christianity as well as church due to sexual, spiritual or emotional abuse suffered in a church or church-related setting. I’m not upset with them; I’m upset with the abusers. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matt. 18:6: ““But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

          • That’s what pisses me off: these guys have no basic fear of God. If they did, they’d be in sackloth.

  2. however … God will not be mocked.

    sin always has consequences.

    and while God is a very patient God, there is a limit to His patience.

    and when the Bible says, “Prepare to meet your Maker,” … one best make sure they are prepared, because it God is not swayed by charisma.

    • I am currently reading Schizophrenic Christianity, by Jeri Massi.

      Massi, whose blog I follow, is an ally of mine in the Twitter world who is active in the watchblogger community. She has specialized in documenting the abuses in the IFB Fundamentalist and to a lesser extent the SBC world.

      Let’s just say it’s very sad to read. I knew a lot about the dirt on the Hyles family before, but she seems to confirm some of my sentiments: you have to wonder if many of these pastors and/or denominational leaders are even saved.

      • it’s good there are those like you who can handle all this stuff and not let it affect you. i just can’t. i can’t stay in these places. it makes me seriously depressed. so i take the little tidbits of info – just enough to stay informed, and ignore the rest.

        when i was a teenager i remember telling a pastor that my parents had done things to me. i remember that nothing was done about it.

        sometime in the last year or so my sister told me that this same pastor, when my parents asked for advice dealing with her when she was younger, made a comment that maybe the problem was them. basically, it was a passive-aggressive BS way to deal with a problem a teenage girl brought to him years before. later, this same preacher’s son would go off-the-rails and into all sorts of bad stuff. i was long gone by then and don’t remember the little that was told to me, just that it happened. makes one wonder lots of things that i don’t even want to think about, so i don’t.

  3. Amir, it is worse than just “irrelevance.” I would say the SBC is in danger of collapsing right back into liberalism. I guess there is a “deep state” within the SBC, and so much of what happens is about money and power. James White has been dealing with much of the anti-Calvinism in the SBC, and he has friends who are SBC pastors. Start listening to his comments at about 47:50 of this video:

    https://youtu.be/RCh-KJIZoRo

    Even George Soros is funding some of this stuff apparently. Even Albert Mohler’s school and seminary are not exempt from this. Listen to this video, and ask yourself if this doesn’t sound like your early days at Southern Seminary:

    https://youtu.be/gn-0j2euCzo

    Apparently, the sjw faction of the SBC behind a lot of this with the financial support of left wing screwballs like Soros. Someone made a good point the other day about how this racialism stuff and its concept if equal output could be used to destroy the conservative views on gender in the SBC. For example, if you must have equal outcomes, why are there not an equal number of female and male pastors? It is about race today, but gender tomorrow, and these kinds of things can be used to argue that Biblical teaching on gender is abusive. All in all, this will put the SBC right back into the position it was when you started seminary.

    It’s sad, but when you live by politics, you die by politics. If you live by money, power, and charisma, all it takes to bring you down is people with more money, power, and charisma. As you said, there needs to be mass repentance, and a mass shift in values in the SBC…not in what they *say* they value, but in what their *actions* say about what they value. If the conservatives don’t start being honest with God, and honest with themselves, the conservative resurgence in the SBC will end up being nothing but a blip on the radar screen of recorded history lasting no more than a generation.

  4. I expect the media will cover next week’s SBC meeting at least as thoroughly as the 2003 Episcopal General Convention, which approved the consecration of an openly non-celibate homosexual as a bishop. While I hope the SBC takes decisive action to begin cleaning house, I suspect their congregational polity could hamper attempts at reform. Also, I wonder how much the media will spin whatever takes place next week.

  5. Amir’s posts are probably as close as i’m going to get to all of this . . . but i don’t see putting a woman in the top place as a solution. i glanced somewhere where beth moore is being considered for the top spot?

    as Amir said, only sincere repentance.

    but as i doubt we’ll see that … and they’ll likely follow culture and throw a woman in the spot … it will just create new problems. ugh.

    • Dwight McKissic at Christianity Today suggested Beth Moore for SBC president. And, of course, Amir suggested Rachel Denhollander. I’m not a Baptist and we Anglicans have our own share of problems, but both of those ladies seem to be sound choices.

      Most likely, however, the winner will probably be one of the current nominees. They are J.D. Greear, who ran against current president Steve Gaines two years ago but withdrew for the sake of unity, and Ken Hemphill. The winner will certainly have a tough task on his hands.

  6. Feminist Hater said the following here regarding Titus 2 women:

    It is for older women to teach younger women HOW to do something not the WHY they need to do it, for that, they must seek out their husband or father. It cannot be more simply explained than that.

    The Titus 2 comments were made at a time when the Sunday Night service was conducted without benefit of the New Testament – since it hadn’t been assembled and distributed yet. Those services were being taught by folks who either had walked and talked with Jesus, or who had known personally, and been taught by, folks who had walked and talked with Jesus. Part of the point of those services was teaching how to move away from the Jewish Temple way of doing business and toward the Christ as the final sacrifice way of doing business. In other words – when the Titus 2 words were spoken, the New Testament Church was in the process of being created. Given that the men of that period were, on the whole, more educated than the women, it is understandable that they were more likely to understand the teachings of Jesus re. moving away from Temple traditions (in which the men would have participated) and toward the New Testament Church.

    In this post, I am not arguing FOR women being allowed to preach. I am arguing FOR common sense. And for that common sense to become obvious, you need to really think through what I am saying here.

    Consider: Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And, faith comes by hearing … the word of God.

    From where comes the value of hearing the word of God that is written in the Bible? From the words themselves? Or from the sex of the reader? When the words of the Bible are read aloud to sinners by a male, is the Holy Spirit freed to take those words and work conviction in the heart of the sinner – but if those same words are read aloud to the same sinners by a female, is the Holy Spirit constrained from taking those words and working conviction in the heart of the sinner? Do the words of God, read from the Bible, become of no value when read by a female?

    Back to feminist haters’ comment: at the time Titus was written, there was no New Testament for anybody to read from, male or female. And, as discussed, it was more likely that the men had a more clear picture of what the New Testament Church was to become. So it makes sense that women then might more readily know HOW something should be done and would need to learn WHY from a probably-more-educated male, preferably their husband.

    But consider today, where the New Testament is available to male and female alike. If it is the word of God that has the value, and that value does not change based on who is reading those words, common sense suggests that we are in different circumstances now than the circumstances the Titus 2 folks were in. Women do not need to ask their husband about the WHY of required behaviors. They can read for themselves the scriptures that tell anybody who reads them, male or female, the WHY.

    If the value lays in the inspired word of God, written down in the Bible – then it is the value of those words as they fall upon the heart of the hearer that makes the difference – regardless of the sex of the reader of those words (assuming a public reading). And if that is all that is done – publically reading from the word of God – it should make no difference to anyone whether that reading is done by male or female.

    The problem lies with the public part of this. I don’t think the soul exists who can, in public, say this is what it says without then following up with at least a little bit of this is what it means. And here I think we can make a more supportable argument that God says this explanatory activity (public speaking that goes beyond simply reading what it says) is reserved for males. Some point to Paul’s argument that this is so because Eve was deceived and Adam was not. I think we are on safer ground to stop after we have said – it is this way because God said so. If we move on to arguing about the deception of Eve, others can rightly point out to us that men are deceived just as women are. There are hundreds of “denominations” out there, most led by men. There are not all correct in their interpretation of what it means. That means they also are decieved – the men running those denominations.

    I think we are safer to claim that men lead the church, in spite of their ability to be deceived, only because God says so. But the serious conversation then needs to move into the larger arena of the checks and balances that God established for the Church that allows the Church to deal with – and expel – those who start preaching another gospel.

    • Actually, given the track record of women in pulpits and even in their own denominations, I’d say that Paul’s warnings about women in such positions were quite prescient.

      That’s not to say that we cannot recognize Deborahs and Huldahs and other women whom God certainly can call into such roles; those are, however, the exception and not the rule. Of the women I see out there, almost none of them preach sound doctrine. To me, that’s the starting point: if you’re not rightly dividing the word of truth, then nothing else matters.

      At the same time, what you are seeing in the SBC has nothing to do with what one thinks of having women pastors, deacons, or elders; good Christian patriarchs can oppose that and still oppose the culture of abuse and misogyny. I would also suggest that the example of Willow Creek–an “egalitarian” church that had women elders and a woman was slated to be one of Bill Hybels’ successors–shows that simply putting women in charge doesn’t necessarily help stanch the abuse culture. In fact, women were among those defending Hybels, even as evidence mounted against him.

      In the SBC, the underlying culture of misogyny, combined with a complete lack of accountability, is driving the abuse-coverup culture in the SBC. Allowing the ordination of women won’t change that. You know how I know that? The misogyny and abuse culture was quite the thing when the liberals were in charge; it predates the conservative movement.

      The liberals talked a great game in the seminaries, but–in point of fact–the issue of sexual abuse by clergy was not covered as such; they talked in some classes about the issue of pastors having affairs, but never framed that as an abuse of the office.

      Meanwhile, the ministerial-industrial complex–which includes churches, Bible schools, seminaries, and Christian media–has transformed ministry into a corporate ladder, just like the world. It rewards narcissistic, Dark Triad personalities, as those types can be very dynamic, charismatic, and attract a following. The problem with DTPDs? They have exactly the qualities that Paul warns against, only they are personally attractive.

      Until we dismiss the celebrity culture–that which gets fed by the ministerial-industrial complex–and start rewarding character over charisma, none of this is going to change.

      • i was sharing some of this with my Husband over dinner tonight. it’s always interesting to get his take on things like this b/c he has absolutely no history with this mess … and no tolerance for it, either … but his reactions are objective and insightful to me.

        i forget, sometimes, how accustomed i have become to it all. it’s not that i don’t know these things are wrong, it’s more that i accept they’re there and don’t believe there’s anything i can really do about it, so i choose not to let it be a part of my life anymore … and so i don’t have opportunity to realize how really bad this stuff is (if all that makes any sense at all).

        i find this to be especially true when you comment on the behavior of my ex and his family. i mean, i know it’s bad … but since i can’t let who they are rule my thoughts and emotions and life, and i have to put it to the side, i often don’t realize the degree to which is is bad – until you comment on it. then i’m kinda jolted back, thinking, wow, that is some really bad stuff.

    • Hi Richard – i think you asked me some questions over at Bloom’s? it’s been a crazy week, and i haven’t been able to get back to find those posts and think about them. if i forget, you’re welcome to pose the questions at my site. or here … i usually catch everything posted here, too 🙂

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