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Amy Smith, Houston SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) director, who blogs at Watch Keep released a very important article today regarding the cover-up of abuse in the Southern Baptist Churches. The article follows in its entirety between the sets of asterisks. Additional information follows below the article.
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See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: The Southern Baptist Convention and child sexual abuse within
A pastor at our church of almost 18 years, Houston’s First Baptist Church, has told me and my husband this week that it’s for the best that we step down from serving there, teaching in the youth ministry, since we don’t see what I’m doing is a problem, like he does: my efforts to shine the light of truth and spread awareness about the horrific problem of child sexual within Southern Baptist churches and the silence from SBC leaders. Up until this blog post, I have never mentioned our church or any of the HFBC pastors on my blog.
I have never talked to this pastor, Doug Bischoff before, not in person, not on the phone, not via email. Last Friday, he left me a message, but I was out of town. Then, Monday, I didn’t get a chance to call him back, being my 18th wedding anniversary, etc…and he left me another message late that afternoon, in a little put-out sounding tone of voice, in my opinion, saying, “trying to reach you, don’t know if you’re out of town or what.” So about 5:00 Monday evening I called him back and pointed out I had been out of town and about to go out to dinner for our anniversary, but wanted to see what he needed, and then he proceeds to, after saying he wouldn’t take much of my time, take offense at my blog. He started out telling me he had called a friend of mine whom I teach with at church, to that which I was shocked, asking why he would call and discuss the issues he has regarding me and my blog with her BEFORE talking to me? He made the excuse that he couldn’t reach me, so he called her. What was so urgent? This, apparently:
I saw your blog.
I’m confused. You don’t see it as a problem? [speaking out about child sexual abuse by Baptist clergy, about Baptist churches that cover up such abuse, about silence from SBC leaders about this abuse, about the vocal support of another evangelical pastor C.J. Mahaney accused in a lawsuit by 11 plaintiffs of covering up child sex abuse, and planning an awareness event next week at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston]
What good is it going to do, you standing outside the SBC?
What good will it do if the SBC president did issue a statement on abuse?
We’re not like the Methodists. [each Baptist church is locally autonomous]
How can you say that? [that child sexual abuse within Baptist churches is a systemic problem]
You may be seen as fringe.
No, I do not see what I am doing as a problem. Neither does my husband, and he told Doug this in no uncertain terms in a meeting with him in person the next day at the church.
How can I say it’s systemic? Because I know the stats of the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the general population and I’ve talked to survivors. How can I say that? Because the SBC holds up pastors like Jack Graham as models of leadership, who is on record having fired a minister, John Langworthy for child sexual abuse, but broke the law by failing to report this abuse to the police. Jack Graham will be a featured panel speaker on leadership this Sunday at the SBC pastors conference in Houston.No one in the SBC has held him accountable. No one. Prestonwood still must go to the police. They have knowledge of child sex crimes that they have never reported as required by the TX mandatory reporting law.
What good will it do? If my presence outside the convention, holding a picture of a child, an actual survivor of child sexual abuse by clergy, gives even just one person some hope, some encouragement that they are not alone, that they are not to blame, that someone believes them, and maybe someone that day or one day has the courage to call the police, seek justice, get help, start healing and protect other kids, then it’s worth it.
How did you find her blog? my husband asked. Doug Bischoff said that his boss, pastor Gregg Matte showed it to him and asked him to call me. Gregg Matte is the president of the SBC pastors’ conference.
One of the excuses for not doing or saying anything about abuse is that “we’re not like the Methodists.” I told Doug that this is the same old, lame, tired, and cowardly excuse of “local church autonomy” given by Baptists for decades now as reasons to not address this issue. The irony is that the SBC will be convening in a national, annual meeting next week in Houston. There will be a range of speakers addressing the thousands of Southern Baptists in attendance. Thus, we are respectfully asking for an opportunity to address the full assembly and share our organization’s expertise on how church members and staff should respond when accusations of abuse arise. Ourletter to SBC officials is embedded below.
We’ve distilled much of what we’ve learned about this subject over the past 25 years into a short pamphlet that’s posted on our SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) website:
After the phone call from Doug and my husband’s meeting with him*, this is our takeaway: they agree with us that child sexual abuse is bad, and they don’t want me to stop what I’m doing, but the church doesn’t support me raising awareness by pointing out the problem within SBC churches and pastors that cover abuse up by failing to report. It’s not a problem for me to point out these issues with Catholic churches or Penn State, just don’t point the finger at my own Southern Baptist Convention.
*some added details from my husband Matt about his with meeting with Doug Bischoff at HFBC on Tuesday:
About the last 10 minutes of their meeting was a discussion of us stepping down from teaching. Doug brought this subject up. He told Matt, “Amy told me yesterday that she is stepping down, and I told her we should think about it. But I have been thinking about it overnight, and I think it’s for the best that she step down.”
To that my husband asked “Why?” Doug said, “You don’t see it as a conflict?”
Doug never once told me or my husband that he wanted us to keep serving in the youth ministry.
That’s not the way of the Jesus I know, love and serve. He called out sin, wrongdoing and corruption among his own followers.
When the Church Prefers Perpetrators by Mary DeMuth:
Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry personality over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow.
Jesus looked for the outcasted. He dignified the marginalized.
The church does far better when it acknowledges its sin, living fearlessly and honestly, than when it prefers to show a pretty, unadulterated face to the world. Unfortunately, we have become so enamored with the ministries we have built, forgetting that God Himself builds His church (and thinking it weighs on our shoulders), that we have lived in depraved fear, preferring the words of perpetrators over the words of those abused. We wrongly believe that we are in the business of reputation management.
Of course, I am not in the midst of this recent scandal, and I am not at all walking in either crowd’s shoes, leaders or victims, but from the outside it feels a lot like covering up for the sake of keeping the ministry machine alive.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. — DIETRICH BONHOEFFER
What Kind of Hard Heart? by Matt B. Redmond
What kind of heart is so hardened it would publicly insult the blogs that have given a voice to the sexually abused while publicly embracing one who is accused of conspiring to cover up and silence the abused?
What kind of hard heart are we witnessing?
This was my question to Sir Patrick Stewart at Comicpalooza 2013. I wanted to thank Patrick Stewart for his speech at Amnesty International it personally help me put a name to the abuse, sexual abuse in my case, I had experienced in the past. He responded very passionately and the last thing I thought I would get at was a heartfelt hug.
When he embraced me he told me “You never have to go through that again, you’re safe now”. I just kept thanking him. I hope everyone who needs help in abusive or violent situations has the courage to do so. There are people willing and ready to help you.
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Here are a couple more related items of interest. Peter Lumpkins has also been drawing attention to this issue:
I’ve never proposed a resolution before. Truth is, I’ve not written one either. But if this issue is not a valid subject about which Southern Baptists should publicly express a strong voice, I’m not sure what qualifies as an issue we should address.
For all its flaws, I just submitted the following resolution to the Resolutions Committee for the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas. As with all resolutions, it has but a small hope it will make it out of committee deliberations. I fully understand this dynamic. Nonetheless, the resolution raises the question which Southern Baptists must sooner or later officially address.
Here are is a sampling of Lumpkins’ Resolution on Sexual Abuse of Children:
RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, June 11-12, 2013, urge Southern Baptists to renew our allegiance to our Lord Jesus to love children as He loves children and suffer them to come unto Him for of such is the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:14); and be it further
RESOLVED that Southern Baptists pledge our commitment to work and fully cooperate with duly appointed God-ordained government officials in exposing and bringing to justice all probable perpetrators, sexual or otherwise, who morally and criminally do harm to the children placed in our trust, and not in any perceivable way display reluctance in fully cooperating with lawful authorities by attempting to handle the issue “amongst ourselves” by subjecting either the supposed victim or alleged criminal perpetrator to private “church discipline” or relational “restoration” apart from full revelation to God-ordained government authorities; and be it further
RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study, develop, and implement sound procedural policies pertaining to our spiritual, moral and legal obligations in nurturing loving care for our children and protecting their rightful interests as members of the human family made in God’s image from the inhumane, immoral treatment of probable sinful renegades in the church; and be it further . . . .
Associated Baptist Press also picked up the story here: Blog: Pastor chastises abuse activist
Be sure to check out the comments. You can see that Houston’s First Baptist Church responded to defend themselves. . I’ve taken a screen shot, but go check out the conversation. If churches would be open, honest, and address issues of abuse appropriately, there would be no need for Amy Smith to volunteer her time with SNAP. Amy is not the threat here, their integrity to God and His children is the real issue. Defending the defenseless should be top priority.
Thank you, Amy, for your tireless efforts on behalf of those who have no voice. ~ja
UPDATED: But wait . . . . there’s more. Amy sent me an e-mail a few hours ago and also mentioned on the Wartburg Watch blog about a voice mail from Houston police. Check this out:
Related article: Bene Diction Blogs On: First Baptist Church Houston – “I saw your blog”
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