Dear Church Family,
We had a meeting this past Sunday night (2/17/19) that dealt with a recent report from the Houston Chronicle regarding sexual abuse among Southern Baptist churches. The Houston Chronicle conducted a 6-month study/investigation and found that over the past 20 years, more than 700 people (nearly all children) had been abused by people associated with Southern Baptist churches. They found that 220 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers had either been convicted or plea bargained, and that there were 35 convicted or accused of sexual misconduct who were still allowed to work in their churches, or have moved on to another church.
The above statistics are reprehensible and point to a great sadness and the absolute necessity of having increased accountability within Southern Baptist churches. Sunday night, I made the following six comments, listed briefly here:
1. It is a time for sorrow and groaning over sin (Romans 8:23-24). We should thank the Houston Chronicle for their honest assessment because Christians should operate in the light of the reality of Jesus Christ.
2. Children are a precious heritage. Proverbs 31:8-9 and Matthew 18:5-6 underscore the absolute importance of protecting children and those over whom we have any type of authority. Therefore, in all of our ministries, we do not want to receive a “passable grade” but we want to pursue excellence and make our church a place of safety and an environment of protection for all people, especially our children.
3. Our policy as a church is clear. If there is ever an accusation, the first thing we do is contact the Mt. Pleasant Police Department. That is mandated by law and by our elders.
4. To those who have been the victims of abuse. You are victims. It is not your fault. Please don’t operate in shame. It is all too often that those who have been sinned against feel the weight of shame and guilt. Please understand the Abba Father goodness of the Living God who loves you and the glory of the cross that shouts hope and new beginnings.
5. It is a sacred trust to be in a position of leadership in the body of Christ. I Timothy 5:19-20 deals with the issue of considering an accusation against an elder or church leader. 1 Timothy 4:15-16 underscores the fact that leaders should always be pressing in to advance the kingdom of God while growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Darkness and evil love anonymity. One of the incredibly grievous issues revealed in the Houston Chronicle report is that 35 people have been allowed to either stay in their church, or move to another church with no accountability. This is a horrific reality. Therefore, I think we, as Southern Baptists, should have a ‘clearing house’ that deals with anyone in ministry convicted of sexual impropriety. The Southern Baptist Convention has a task force looking into these issues and it is my desire to see some type of mechanism of that nature to be established. The report will come at the annual Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham this June.
6. One of my favorite books is The Heart of a Servant Leader by C. John Miller. Dr. Miller was a professor of pastoral ministries at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for many years and served as a missionary in Spain and Nigeria. On the day the Houston Chronicle story was first published, I read a quote from his book, “My own conviction is that the flesh is still so strong in the Christian leader that each of us needs a healthy fear of our own capacity for ruining the work of God with our unconscious pride…I am very, very afraid of myself and I think that is a good place to be. We should always walk in brokenness as we look to the greatness and the glory of the cross of Christ, and the daily sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.”