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BaptistLife.Com Forums. • View topic - What Has Changed?

What Has Changed?

Discuss current news and trends taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention.

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What Has Changed?

Postby Dave Roberts » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:18 am

I was reading this morning about the SBC vote to make failure to report of acting to cover up sexual abuse allegations a reason to exclude a church from the SBC. I have to wonder how this really changes anything. Didn't the power of exclusion exist all along? In my experiences with churches where I have known of allegations, those allegations often surfaced 5 to 20 years after the alleged events were covered up, usually brought by childhood victims who had become adults. By the time the allegations surfaced, many of the witnesses and even perpetrators were no longer available and certainly not part of the church. I realize this is symbolic, but how does it change anything in the SBC?
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:36 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Haruo » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:50 am

And I suppose that this provides a helpful shaming point. Now if the exclusion remedy isn't applied when applicable, people can point at this and shame the SBC and/or the church involved a bit more pointedly. Again not a huge step forward.

On a tangentially related topic, I was heartened to see this in the news this morning, not because it's good, but because it's nice to know you don't have to be Baptist or Catholic, or even religious, to pull this kind of crap.

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:54 am

In the end the only power is that of exclusion.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Sandy » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:58 am

https://www.npr.org/2019/06/12/73191918 ... ng-abuse-c
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/r ... 414085001/
https://sbcvoices.com/sexual-abuse-reco ... helmingly/

News coverage of the SBC seems a bit thin. Thought there might be a more in-depth explanation at SBC Voices and perhaps that will come later.

So reading the reports, what I've gathered is that the SBC is setting up a credentials committee to function year-round for the purpose of removing from affiliation churches which do not properly handle sexual abuse committed by a pastor, church staff member or employee, or volunteer. I'm not reading anything into that by saying that "improper handling" would include the church's failure to report the abuse properly to law enforcement and to inform any potential future church. I would also assume that means the church would be required to enter the information about incidents in their congregation in the denomination's data base of sexual abuse offenders. As I understand it, the committee would have the authority to determine whether the church met the expectations of the denomination in this regard and would be able to terminate their relationship with the SBC if they felt that they did not. They could recommend specific steps the church would need to make as a follow up. The choice for the church would be to either follow the committees recommendation or lose their SBC affiliation.

Part of the problem here is that the secular press writers who cover the SBC don't understand a denomination in which churches are independent and autonomous and that the conventions executive board and officers are not clerical authorities over churches and pastors. The trustee boards are authorities only over the entity that they serve. Even then, there are limits. Neither the SBC nor the executive board president nor the executive board can fire a pastor from a church. And while the convention has always had this authority, they haven't had a standing credentials committee for the purpose of making decisions and taking immediate action to dismiss churches they deem out of step with the convention's values when it comes to sexual abuse. They can dismiss a church for not firing a pastor accused and convicted of sexual abuse. Now, they can investigate, determine whether the church's actions were consistent with the expectations of the convention's constituency and dismiss the church if they're not.

I hope there are no more cases that will test the system to see how well it works.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:05 pm

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Sandy » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:32 pm

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Dave Roberts » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:47 pm

I'm not sure what the value is to lot of churches when it comes to their denominational affiliation. I have noticed in the past few years in riding across large chunks of Virginia and North Carolina, few church signs at Baptist churches tell me anything about their denomination. I can't tell if they are SBC, CBF, belong to one of the predominantly African-American groups, or what on their signs and on some of their websites. One church in my local area has SBC on their sign, and a few have the old world/cross/Bible signs, but most give no indication. I encounter also former SBC churches that now bill themselves as "the church at the hilltop" or "Greater Faith Community Church." I guess I just wonder how much clout this really will have. I hope it solves a big problem, but I have my real doubts. In CBF, we certainly don't have a better system, just a closer knowledge of a smaller pool of people. I don't see most Baptist associations functioning at all at this level.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:21 pm

Sandy shows a keen understanding of this. Changed language in the SBC foundational docs give broad power to exclude. Such is not limited to any single action or inaction.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:34 pm

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Thu Jun 13, 2019 8:59 am

Exclusion isn't a big disincentive but it's about all the SBC, or state convention, or association has. The idea of what Tim calls a "blacklist" and others call a registry or database had difficulties. All of you know that the SBC doesn't ordain, hire, supervise, or fire ministers. The SBC doesn't require training, education or any degrees. SBC entities (seminaries, mission boards, state conventions, etc) can require these and they do hire, supervise, and fire clergy. In what is broadly called denominational positions, sex abuse training is almost universally required across the SBC. Students have it as a graduation requirement in the seminaries, I believe.

The problem is what to do with churches that hire, condone, cover up, fail to report sex abuse. They can be excluded but that's about it.

What can be done with the minister who is accused of abuse but not convicted? Advocates call for a list to be created and maintained of these who have "confessed" or who have "credible reports" of abuse against them. The CBF in one state tried this. I don't know if it is still maintained or if it was effective. The CBF, mind you, deals with hundreds of ministers and churches. The SBC deals with tens of thousands. No one has a list of all "SBC" clergy. No church is required to report those whom they have ordained to the ministry. Only about 3/4 of SBC churches bother to file the annual church statistical report. That 1/4 amounts to around 12,000 churches.

I'm not sure the SBC can create a system for registered, approved, credentialled clergy.

But, I expect proposals to be made and am open to being persuaded about what can be done to solve the problem.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:31 am

William, that is a very good summary of the realities of SBC polity. And, while I like the system I'm in now, all polities have upsides and downsides including the way each denomination does or does not credential clergy. Even with all the layers of structure the UMC has abusers still sometimes slip through the cracks.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Sandy » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:30 pm

"Credentialled clergy" isn't necessarily a means of preventing abuse. Look at the Catholic church. A credentials process is only as good as the word of the individuals who earn the credentials. I would venture a guess that most of the SBC pastors and staff members who have been accused of abuse had been to college and seminary. It's not like the denomination is full of churches which don't require a degree and evidence of call for ordination.

Most of the secular press, and most people for that matter, have difficulty understanding that the SBC is not a "top down" denomination and that neither the convention nor the executive board have any authority over who a church calls as a pastor or staff member. They can't ordain a minister or defrock a minister. Press reporting and general perception makes it appear that the denominational leadership is "stonewalling," or not doing all that it can to prevent sexual abuse by clergy.

What the SBC did was to change one of its bylaws to alter the structure in order to allow a standing committee to determine whether a church has violated provisions for reporting sexual abuse and to take action to exclude that church from the denomination if its actions are deemed to be inconsistent with the convention's expectations. The victims of abuse by SBC clergy could not have hoped for a better outcome. They are also considering changing the constitution to expand their power over affiliation of churches to strengthen this practice. Two years ago, none of this would have happened.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:10 pm

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 6:03 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby JE Pettibone » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:38 am

Ed: Why William, when an association within the SBC can disassociate a local church for departing from their understanding of Baptist polity, can they not simply declare sexual abuse to be contrary to Baptist polity and disassociate from a church that harbors an abuser on their staff? And what is to keep the SBC or State convention from publishing a list of churches that have been declared to be out of fellowship along with the reason. The list could be grouped according to offences A. allowing open communion, B. Ordination of staff other than pastors, C. Ordination of women to pastoral ministry, D, Allowing homosexuals into full fellowship E. harboring abusers on staff, ect,ect. This way it would make it easier for selection committees to determine which prospects to eliminate.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:49 am

I would say the SBC would do well to do something like Ed is suggesting.

The public doesn't know the differences between one denomination and another. A NPR report lumped together the problems in the RCC and the SBC without really mentioning that the polities are very different. If the SBC can't control what their local churches do in this respect than at least the SBC should be able to sever ties from such churches. If the convention doesn't do everything it can within its polity then it may get tarred with a continuing abuse scandal like the RCC.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:54 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:57 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:59 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Dave Roberts » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:33 am

I would give this year's SBC President a commendation for pushing the issue over the objections of the friends of Patterson and Pressler. He showed courage in pressing the issue.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:40 am

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:52 pm

The allies of pattersons have pretty much gone underground. There is no longer any active militant Trad group. JD had an open field publicly. SWBTS can't change fast enough in undoing a lot of the pp stuff that severely eroded enrollment, financial health and other things. He was fired, after all, an action overwhelmingly upheld by last year's convention.
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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:00 pm

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Re: What Has Changed?

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 15, 2019 2:16 pm

There's always a mix and "moderate" is a loaded word. I dont think there is much interest in another CR which is what the militant Trads wanted. No one would say the SBC is anywhere in the neighborhood of the CBF on some high profile doctrinal issues.
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