I don’t use these words lightly, nor do I write that sentence with dramatic flair.
As the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention nears, I can’t help but remember my time there two years ago. It was a time of anticipation, of hope, of seeing light pierce the darkness of sexual abuse. The powers that be wanted to put a spotlight on that very real issue within the church–and rightly so. The Houston Chronicle piece about numerous abusers in our midst being shuffled here and there between congregations without penalty, and certainly without transparency, had rocked the evangelical world. The issue became a PR nightmare for the Southern Baptists, as you can imagine.
Enter survivors like me (along with so many other important voices within and without the convention.) I will not speak for them, however, as they have their own stories to tell about these events. But I can say this: I shared my vulnerability both at the convention and at the ERLC Caring Well Conference. For the sake of the gospel and my love of the church, I sacrificed pieces of my narrative for public consumption.
There is always risk when you share your story. I understand that down to my bones. I have shared often for decades now, weighing risks against benefits, and I’ve have found mostly benefits. Why? Because sharing these in-the-dark stories helps others feel less alone. It dignifies other people’s narratives. It renders a blow to the enemy of our souls who uses sexual abuse as one of his greatest weapons against humanity.
The sad thing is that he also uses complacency and silence, particularly in the church’s response to abuse.
The Southern Baptist Convention, in the intervening years after all that vulnerability by survivors, has tended toward complacency and silence. A flurry of good happened in the aftermath of the convention and the Caring Well conference, but of late we’re seeing a shrinking back, and a hustle toward reputation management–once again. I’m literally sickened by it. (My stomach is aching as I write this). Those who have gone before me, who have advocated much longer within this behemoth called the SBC, warned this would happen, and they were right. It would appear to be a show of support for survivors when the PR spotlight was hot, but when the world moved on to other news, the SBC powers-that-be would quietly slip from godly fear (doing the right thing no matter what) toward a cowardly fear of shareholders’s opinions.
As outgoing president of the ERLC Russel Moore wrote about his own experience in dealing with those powers-that-be, “The presenting issue here is that, first and foremost, of sexual abuse. This Executive Committee, through their bylaws workgroup, ‘exonerated’ churches, in a spur-of-the-moment meeting, from serious charges of sexual abuse cover-up. One of those churches actively had on staff at the time a sex offender. J.D. Greear, our SBC president, and I were critical of this move, believing that it jeopardized not only the gospel witness of the SBC, but, more importantly, the lives of vulnerable children in Southern Baptist churches.” (Source).
Instead of calling out abuse and doing the right thing, burying truth prevailed.
Behind the scenes tactics directed at Dr. Moore and others in the midst of this issue has been chilling. He continues, “I am trying to say this as clearly as I can to you, brothers and sisters: These are the tactics that have been used to create a culture where countless children have been torn to shreds, where women have been raped and then “broken down.” (Source).
How does this represent the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would Jesus applaud the abuse of children? Would he have looked the other way when a person experienced rape? Would he shame a victim, then break him or her down to try to keep her silent for the sake of an institution? When stated plainly like this, it’s obvious, isn’t it?
Back to the thesis of this essay–being used. It’s never easy to share trauma publicly. Each time, though there is great benefit, a piece of your soul is chipped off. Because the act of telling the truth is a spiritual battle, you experience extreme spiritual warfare in doing so. Back in the 1990s I used to naively plow forward when I shared my story, unaware yet of the spiritual backlash. But when I prayed at the SBC and when I spoke at the ERLC Caring Well Conference, I knew what would come. And even though I prepared for it and my prayer team stayed on alert, my soul wasn’t ready.
There is always a cost to shedding light on darkness, particularly when you’re risking your vulnerability.
Because of the sheer weight of backlash (not merely directed my way, but at so many survivors and advocates), the onslaught of difficult stories that came my way, and ill treatment by other Christ followers, I took a Sabbatical at the beginning of 2020. My soul, wearied by it all, was languishing. Even so, there was a little part of me that felt like if sharing my story moved the needle in the behemoth that is the SBC, perhaps it meant something after all. (Please hear me: I have no illusions that my story meant much in light of other stories where abuse happened within the walls of the church or other Southern Baptist institutions, but I did hope that it would have a bit of an impact nonetheless).
Yet now as I face the anniversary of my time at the SBC annual meeting, I am disheartened. Though most likely unintended, I nonetheless feel like I was part of a reactionary PR machine responding to the very real trauma of sexual abuse and cover up in our midst. While I am grateful for a response and corporate repentance, as well as the formation of the Caring Well initiative, I have a valid fear that the powers-that-be will tuck all that away in favor of blindly moving forward, interested far more in handling public reputation rather than doing the right thing when the spotlight has shifted.
Sexual predation within the church is not a PR issue. It is a horrific crime, an abuse of power. It is not to be quietly shuffled away for the sake of reputation curation–it is to be faced head on, come what may. James 4:7 is clear: “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” It’s never easy to do the hard work of exposing this kind of darkness. But it is necessary. It is right. My fear is that survivors were sacrificed on the altar of a PR initiative, only to be dismissed or sidelined when sexual abuse in our midst threatened the bottom line or infuriated the vocal few.
I feel used.
This stinks. You are so beautiful and transparent with your willingness to be vulnerable. I admire this heart Christ has given you and I mourn with you.
This is not in vain. Human shortcomings are showing and the ruler of this dirt thinks he has an advantage but stand firm. God will have His way. You are doing your piececof the pie. You are obedient. He is pleased with you. Hold on and look up.
This will continue to disappoint and yet He has the victory. I don’t mean to demean your true pain just to encourage you that truth is always worth it, my sister!
Such a good word, thank you, Mary!
I am so sorry you experienced trauma, betrayal, abuse, and feel used. This was never in the heart of God💖 for you. He loves you so much. I pray you—and all who endured abuse at the hands of those who should have loved and protected them—will be healed, comforted, encouraged, and realize this is not the end. There is a righteous judge who will one day make all wrongs right.https://www.renagroot.com/post/fear-not
Mary – as a Southern Baptist, I am saddened and sickened by the lack of follow through, and the pain the convention has caused you. I believe that we can do better and know that so many of us are grateful for your vulnerability so that we could be made aware of this grievous problem in our churches. May God forgive us for acting, and may He give us the fortitude to do what’s right and protect the vulnerable within our churches. God bless you and thank you for your courage.
I believe so too, that’s why I keep talking. 🙂
I feel like it’s no coincidence that this posted on my birthday. Check out my Facebook post on June 3rd. The subject matter of the Suspense novel is abuse and trafficking.
Thank you for sharing your story; for sharing “you”. I know it must be so hard to be exposed. But thank you for being willing to expose truth for the sake of others. It’s hard to understand why God allows His children to suffer. I know a young girl that we rescued (after months of concentrated prayer) from a horrible drug and sexual abuse ring whose now living safely with my daughters family. I am happy to say that the man and women who where using not only her but their own children are now in prison and the other nine children are living in foster homes. But the scars are deep and the emotional pain will be felt for years. It’s hard to fathom. Abuse, sexual or otherwise, is horrible in and of itself. But when it’s in the Church, whether Baptist any other denomonation, it seems worse because these are the people we are supposed to trust, to go to for help and counseling…God’s people.
I am not trying to demean what has happend to you in anyway. Only tryng to find a way to understand the sufferings of so many. My heart breaks! But I have to remember that this breaks the heart of Jesus even more. And He is Soverign. For those of us who have suffered, I am reminded of the verses in 2 Cor. 1:3-7 …v4…who comforts us in all our affictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…I could go on but this is not my blog. I apologize for my ramblings. We know, we as Christians will suffer for Christs sake, and those that don’t know him yet, God uses what He can to draw them unto Himself, for His glory. And Satan will continue to try to kill, steal and destroy. So please, keep telling your story. The world needs to hear that there is hope in Jesus, no matter the world tries to tell us.
Bless you Sister. And may God continue to heal you, strenghthen you and shine His glory through you.
You should write this as a blog post!
I heard your interview on the Holy Post podcast and came to this website. First, thank you for speaking out so well. I’d like to read more about male victims of abuse as I know many of them in my role as a Pastor as well as working with urban homeless populations for over 25 years. Thanks for shedding light on this. I grew up in the fundamentalist GARBC tradition. I was appalled as I read the stories that came out of the ABWE mission organization that at one time was associated with the GARBC. The cover ups and victim blaming that went on approved by their board are breathtakingly evil. If you are not familiar with this (and I hope you are), I would be happy to fill you in on more details regarding the abuse by missionary Donn Ketcham and the subsequent cover up by the board, even alluding GRACE investigators. Also, I wanted to read the Houston Chronicle article, but their subscription service is so aggressive I couldn’t get to the first line. Is there a way to access that article without them forcing me to pay for it? Thank you.
I had to get a subscription to open it. So I understand your frustration, Bill. I’ve heard and read such awful stories of Ketcham. I’m so sorry that happened within your former denomination.
I’m weeping, Mary. As someone who’s little sister’s youth pastor’s mug shot was on the cover story of that Houston Chronicle piece, and as someone who has endured sexual assault within the walls of my childhood SBC church, I weep with you. I’m angry with you. I’m lamenting with you. I’m so so sorry you were used in this way.
Your story, their stories, were His… Jesus was up there testifying. I just feel a bigger story and spiritual reality at play in all this.That God himself has been weighing, sifting, testing, exposing the true heart of this organization to themselves, to others, as a merciful wake-up call before handing them over to a deeper discipline and judgement. He is a Defender and doesn’t take lightly to His name being used vainly like this. I’ve seen it play out. Jesus holds our stories and tells them Himself with justice and an invitation to choose life. They’ll ignore His voice at cost.
I agree. So much. The reckoning is coming.
Oh Morgan, I’m weeping with you, too.
Mary, I know you did exactly what you believed to be right and helpful to the mission of change. I believe that you weighed the cost, prayed extensively, sought counsel, anguished in the re telling and re opening of your abuse and story, you deeply gave. We always give hoping that it will make a difference, that even if a few are spared or are educated, it’s worth all the cost.
This system has yet to care about the cost. That’s one of the biggest lessons for us all. The machine, the system, the titles, the reputations of the institution (which really translates to how the pocketbook and “giving” are affected) it all matters MORE. More than the teachings of Jesus that they butcher. More than God sending His son to give freedom from bondage and allow a way to the Father. More than the real image, it’s all about the facade. The egos, pride, titles, accolades matter so much MORE than the sheep they proclaim to shepherd – it’s not the great commission, it’s the greatest omission of everything right and true under a false witness. They don’t know Him, if they did, as we do, they couldn’t turn their backs on His beloved.
Thank you for the sharing of your wounds and burden, thank you for opening a door for change, thank you for the cost of your gifts. It is worth it to the ONE who matters most. It is worth it to me. It is worth it to many.
Amen to this, and thank you so much. Humbling coming from you, someone I consider a hero.
I can relate. This is so painful to hear and read, but God will have the last say. He will show up! I just have to hold on to the promise from God that nothing is hidden that shall not be uncovered. My love and prayers are with you.
Amen to that verse, Delores!
I am praying for you ❤️
I welcome those prayers, Sarah.
Mary, I remember when your book came out (#We/Me Too)and when I read it. I remember how proud I felt of you for writing it and for being willing to go out and fight the fight. I remember when you were asked to speak at SBC and how there was a copy of your book on each chair. Like you, I felt hope. It is so disheartening to what has transpired since. I will say this…what is done in darkness will be brought to light…and the Holy Spirit will use your words to continue to attempt to convict of sin. You did what God asked of you. He will continue to use it. Much love and respect.
Thank you so much, Linda.
Mary, thank you for being the voice for all of us who’ve experienced abuse but don’t have a platform for our voices to be heard. You are a courageous mighty woman of God!
The whole church system is very broken. It has become what has recently been described as the “Evangelical Industrial Complex,” instead of the loving body of Christ. God’s heart is surely grieved. I’m reminded of how Jesus was very outspoken in these words,
“but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt 18:6
The day of Judgement is coming and many will cry out, but Lord didn’t we….
Yes, the EIC, coined by Skye Jethani, is alive and well–unfortunately.
Hi Mary, I just read your post on Facebook and then found your email. I commented on your Facebook post but wanted to add part of my own story for you here. First, back in the ’50s, my grandpa was ministering at an independent Christian Church in a very small town. The church had a custodian who somehow managed to isolate my then four-year-old aunt and molest her. I don’t know the circumstances of how he was caught. My aunt is still very uncomfortable talking about it and actually blocked it out for many years. When she remembered, she asked my grandpa what had happened to the man, and he told her he was dismissed. Years later, I was working as a secretary at that same church and came across old board meeting minutes. What happened to that man? Nothing! The board cited 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 to justify their lack of response. I was sick. I wonder how many other children that man violated? Second, I was molested by my stepfather when I was ten years old. I told, but nothing ever happened to him either. Anyway, I’ve always felt that I needed to use my own experience to help others. I mentioned it to our preacher and he put me in touch with Brent Messinger from Rescue Innocence, an organization that helps victims of human trafficking. Brent said that often kids like me run away, and the traffickers scoop them up. He said he could come to my church to give a presentation and that as part of it if I was willing, I could tell my story. I jumped at the chance and reached out to the church where I live now, and a previous church that is still within decent driving distance. The church here said, maybe, but then dismissed the idea. I never heard back from my previous church. A year later when a child whose family goes there was molested, I told her grandmother that the church dropped the ball by ignoring it. I don’t have to tell you her reaction, do I? Oh, and when I first published my story on my blog, my sister didn’t speak to me for about six months because she didn’t understand how I could embarrass the family like that! You keep right on speaking out Mary!
Wow, you have walked through so much. Thank you for your continued bravery. Your story makes me furious!
Connie, this makes me so sad, and yet, so full of admiration for you. I’m so sorry for the reactions of those around you. You are a hero — speaking and being willing to expose what is hidden. It’s unthinkable that churches would continue to suppress this. I pray you continue to know the healing love of God and that you continue to advocate as you are able.
Traffickers see a pretty girl who feels broken, vulnerable, and ugly. They will offer modeling jobs, a forever marriage, a better family, great sex… and then use the vulnerable, broken feeling to keep them in line. Abused children have a much higher risk of being found by traffickers. Stop the abuse!
Thankful for God’s great love.
You have singlehandedly guided my walk through my experience with abuse in an SBC church. It was your blog posts and books that gave light in the darkness. I am forever indebted to you, and the SBC is forever indebted to your service and the gifts you have shared. Thank you. You deserve better. I’m sorry this hurts so much. In the midst of the pain, you continue to be an example and gift to me. Thank you
I’m so grateful the book was helpful to you, Allie.
Standing with you as a brother in Christ.
Humbled, so humbled. Thank you, Byron.
Jesus is the Solid Rock you are standing on! Praise His Holy Name for the blessings and strength He gives you! As you continue to lean on Him, He’ll continue to give you the strength to do what is right and necessary to continue to shine The Light on this darkness! I empathize with your pain, but just know, this pain is a blessing in disguise to continue to heal you and others and you are a soldier in the Army Of God!! What an inspiration for all us! Love & prayers my sister! 💞
You are such an encourager, thanks Becky.
Mary, your story has meant so much to so many. I say that confidently because I’m one of those “many.” Whether or not the proper response ever comes from the powers that be, know that you do not labor in vain. A whole host is standing with you, sister.
Amen to this, dear, dear Lindsay.
Mary, my heart breaks with yours. As a survivor, I have a hard time trusting others, especially those in a position of authority. The continued coverups by institutions reinforces the distrust. For me, it is a constant battle between withdrawing to self-protect my mental health and engaging in the battle with the goal to help other survivors. The battles against sexual abuse along with other social injustices have been many. We have made progress but the war continues.
I journaled a few years ago that I identify with David. Sometimes I am David against Goliath, full of faith, courage and energy. Sometimes I am David in the cave in need of rest and support. Sometimes I just am, feeling content with my circumstances and comfortable with who I am. I see you the same way, and based on your comments, you appear to currently be David in the cave. I know that you will return to once again face Goliath. For now, you need rest and you have my support. I hear you when you say you feel used, and I agree that you were. You were used for both good and bad. You were used for PR purposes by an institution to give lip service to a real and horrendous sin that cripples and destroys the lives of many. You were also used by God to speak to the horrors that so many of us have experienced. You were used to give a voice to those who have been silenced, ignored, or who were too afraid or traumatized to speak up. You were used to inspire others to tell their stories and regain the power that was lost when they were powerless. Your sacrifice, vulnerability, and courage have not been in vain. Thank you for all that you do in the fight against sexual abuse. You are loved my dear sister in Christ. God Bless.
Oh Lesa, thank you for these words. They are a balm.
So well said! I think many see themselves in your words, Lesa! Thank you!
Mary, the church is blessed by the stand you take for the truth. Holy God grant Mary strength, peace, hope for this journey asked of her.
Mary. Let the Word-of God hold you, keep you
Amen, thank you Susan.
Mary, my heart grieves with you. I hate how satan whispers lies to make Christians complacent and silence especially when we should be standing up for the abused, the little children with no voice. Sadly, I was one of those Christians and now I am not. I was also one of the abused little children with no voice. Even though I was not abused by the SBC your story and others like yours have helped me with my walk through dark valleys. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sorry people use your story to hurt you. I’m always amazed at how, even though our stories are different they are so much the same. Praying you clarity and comfort today. You are loved!
Yes, I agree. So many stories are the same. It must change.
You have spoken up and spoken out for thousands of other sexual abuse survivors. No matter what happens within the SBC, your work matters to so many. That said, I am coming to believe that SBC cannot admit to its flaws and remain intact. I believe (and I was raised SBC) that the institution is built on white supremacy and patriarchy. It is all about power and control. The only change will be when enough people choose to exercise their faith in Christ in a different setting that is hopefully more loving and more transparent.
Thank you for all you do every day.
I so hear you, Kathy.
Kathy. I am challenging that the institution is built on white supremacy and patriarchy. The institution I assume you mean is the church which is built on Christ who was neither white nor a supremacist but Son of man of all colours and came and returned to the Father, the Patriarch of all. To categorise evil to a colour of skin and gender is narrow-minded and the person of that view is in danger of being racist and sexist. Hear me: I too have been abused sexually spiritually financially physically mentally emotionally and often bullied in many various churches of different denominations. In short, people calling themselves by His Name seized the opportunity and exploited to their own benefit. I never say I am a Christian but that I belong to God. I know that God will judge all those who exploited me and I am only responsible to Him. He will do a better job of dealing with all evildoers than I could ever have done. It took me about 40 years to get to this realisation and PS I am a female in Australia from Europe.
Thank you everyone for your sharing. Such a difficult topic.I’m guessing EVERY SINGLE ONE of us women who grew up or ministered in an evangelical church has experienced some kind of sexual abuse/harassment, etc. AND/OR known of it personally in lives of closely loved ones.
My question is on another note: WHERE ARE OUR BROTHERS, HUSBANDS, FATHERS in the comments and support of these devastating matters within our beloved church family of Jesus Christ??? Do they not have wives they love and care about? Daughters? Sisters?
I’m truly bewildered.
I know of many good men who have been supportive (including my husband), but I do agree, sometimes it feels like victims carry this burden alone.
My husband and son-in-law too, praise God! And it seems my pastor, but I don’t know of any others.
“It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Is. 55:11
Mary, this verse whispered in my mind as I read about your pain, anger, and discouragement. When you accepted God’s assignment to speak at the Caring Well Conference, I listened. Your words inspired me as a sister survivor and therapist to other hurting survivors. Thank you for your obedience.
Donna, you made my day. Thank you for your work with survivors. You’re on the front lines.
Oh, Mary. I am mourning with you. I’ve been an original subscriber to Pray Every Day and read all your books, and I feel I know your heart. It breaks mine that yours is broken. I’m a sexual abuse survivor myself and raised a Southern Baptist. I’ve been watching J.D. Greear’s church via livestream through the pandemic. I hope and pray that his word has been good. But where is this message not being dealt with appropriately? Is there a place to see charges against churches and pastors? I’m so terribly hurt for you and me both. You have saved my life through Pray Every Day. I love and appreciate you. ❤️❤️❤️
Thanks for your kind words, Laura. We’ll see what happens at the convention in a couple weeks.
My sexual abuse was not from the church but I do know denominations care more about reputation and giving money than fixing the problem. That angers me as well and we all know it angers God. I never understood the reasoning behind a caught pastor or church employee just being reassigned to a new location. What that says to me is that the “powers that be” look at it as the victim caused the sin to happen and if we just move the abuser it will not happen again. It is the same mentality about Rape. If the woman was not dressed that way or did not walk alone in that area etc than the rape would of not happened. I have discovered that a male dominated leadership of any institution leans towards victim blame. Scripture is clear that sin is a condition of a heart therefore any sin that happens if the fault of the person comitting the sin not the recipient of it. Until that way of thinking changes, nothing will change.
I have never understood the reassigning either, Teresa.
Grateful for courageous voices like you who speak against injustice.
Mary, thank you for sharing. What the SBC has been and is doing is disgusting. They trotted out people like you and Rachael and Boz to make it look like they were doing something, but they really didn’t care. There is a valid reason why you feel used. This is infuriating.
I just got through reading Russell Moore’s letter. There are many times that I’ve given people the benefit of the doubt and not wanted to believe that they were doing things intentionally. But Dr. Moore makes it obvious that there’s a lot of crap that happens by design.
I’m so sorry.
Joel, thanks for your kind words, and for your observations. Moore’s letter was certainly telling.
I think if the abusers understand that we are looking for healing and do not wish harm to them they might be more open to receiving Christ’s true healing power so they do not continue doing what they’re doing and that there won’t be a legacy of hidden sins. Darkness only breeds more darkness. I can’t imagine the pain they must have to go through when they really understand, and God shows them, the harm they’ve inflicted. I know the terrible pain I had to walk through for healing but it’s not our responsibility to carry the pain and shame that is not ours. (I won’t include my name as I’ve had much backlash that is not resolved) I think it’s easier for them to not open their wounds. I would like them to know that there is healing on the other side, that God loves them, and it’s scary and hard but if they face those demons not only will they improve their lives and receive salvation but also be a beacon for others. Let’s see some brave people who are willing to talk about what they did to harm without carrying the shame or condemnation. This really only comes when they confess and receive Christ. Do you think if they apologized and accepted their part their would be a more universal healing? All for HIs Glory!
Yes yes yes, darkness breeds darkness.
I am furious about how the SBC has dropped the ball on this issue. Like so many other things, initial efforts look so promising and encouraging, and then they lose momentum. From distraction, discomfort, pushback from those in power. Any or all of it and more. Deciding maybe it’s not really that important. I lost a great deal of respect for Greear when he chose to hire Brian Lorritts, who kept his BIL in the employ of the churc he served previously, even after he was aware of the abuse that was happening. No excuse, in my opinion. You were used – to raise awareness and bring potential solutions AND later to make a show of “well, we’ve addressed the issue.” Be encouraged that judgment is coming. It will be righteous and it won’t be pretty. Sometimes the only way I can even begin to consider letting go of these hard injustices is found in known that God will meet out perfect justice. My heart breaks and grieves with you. I’m holding your heart tenderly in my hands, lifting it before our good Father. I pray often for the evil and corruption in our churches/institutions to be exposed. Infection is killed in the bright light of Truth.
Thank you so much for empathizing and praying, Terri.
This crushes me because I was so excited for you and for your chance to tell the truth and help leaders do the right thing. It is heart breaking to think that they would do anything less. I am sorry for how it looks, but you know that you did the right thing – and that God’s word never returns void; I pray that your words and testimony will be a seed that grows and overpowers the evil that keeps silencing those who need to speak. So thankful fo you and your willingness to go into battle for all.
Yes, I agree. I don’t regret speaking out. I’m grateful individuals were helped. It’s just so hard to move the needle in an institution.
I am a victim of sexual abuse by the pastor as a female adult while employed as an office manager. He had much power and control over me. He is a predator who abused his power. I did not receive support from the board nor congregation. To them he was the ideal pastor and well known in the community. I felt rejected, unimportant, dismissed and unbelievable. I was not going to be silenced and determined to be a voice. It was a long journey through the legal system. Laws need to be changed. I still was silenced and left with discouragement. He remains untainted and unexposed… still a sexual predator!
I’m so sorry, Wanda. What a difficult experience.
I found it disheartening when our abuse survivor groups were cancelled because the church said they couldn’t afford the insurance.
I keep circling back to a famous quote about power by John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton. When put in its context, it is even more damning:
“I cannot accept your canon [law] that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”
The idea that “great men are almost always bad men” should scare any person seeking office in the church.
Perhaps the very structure of the organized church guarantees the corruption of its office holders. You questioned whether Jesus would treat survivors like the church does. I think it is fair to ask if Jesus had such formal structure in mind at all.
One evidence of that for me came as I listened to a theology podcast about how only priests in this one denomination could hold their hands in a certain way when praying. It seemed to me nothing more than a public show of “I have the power. I can hold my hands like this and you can’t”
Does SBC (or any other denomination) really need a president? Or even more fundamentally, does SBC need to exist?
Well said. Once people get power, power transforms people–and not in a good way.
Praying for you, my friend. God sees you and knows your heart. May the Lord be your guard behind, before, and beside you…within and without. I pray you will have spaces and relationships where you can experience God’s rest, healing, and grace. I pray God will keep giving you words to speak in God’s good time that both challenge and inspire his people to repent and be about God’s great work of redemption.
I love your shepherd heart, Troy. Thank you.
This isn’t right. You are so courageous. You are inspiring. You deserved better. Complicity is the most difficult thing to see in ourselves and a huge contributor to the evil among us. You paid a price you should never have had to pay. Thank you for sharing your story. You are so brave and care so much for others. You and all of the survivors deserve so much better.
Honestly, it was worth it. I’m just disappointed that there’s been little corporate momentum.
You are being used…by an almighty God Who sees and knows all. Nothing that you do for Him is wasted. He is moving, friend. He will bring Truth to the lies, and call to account every single person who contributed in any way to this horrific theft of innocence.
Jesus, we watch the world and despair––until we put our focus back on who YOU are. You will not let the lies stand. You will not abide those who sacrifice others on the altar of reputation. You will judge and righteousness will reign. May that day be soon, Lord Jesus. We are ready. But we wait on Your perfect timing, knowing that Your wisdom and grace are far greater than our pain and outrage. We trust You. We love You. And we beg you, even in this moment, to sweep through those who have been abuse and fill them with the sure knowledge that You know, You care, and You will bring justice.
Karen, I appreciate you so much. Thank you. Thanks for that prayer, friend.
Southern Baptists are essentially independent Baptist churches that pool their resources for the sake of Gospel ministry. There is no top-down denominational control. The entities and institutions of Southern Baptists have no say in what Southern Baptist churches do, other than making some very general biblical standards for cooperation. Most of the Southern Baptist churches do not send messengers to the Convention each year and have no idea what goes on there or what it is for. Very few Southern Baptists even know about the Executive Committee or who is on it or what it does. Most have not heard your stories or anything about the controversy because they just don’t follow these things. The SBC has almost no impact on the actual day-to-day workings of the individual churches. Having said that, the entities and institutions could do a better and more pro-active job of trying to communicate with churches about sexual abuse in the churches and a biblical way to handle it. I think the younger generation of pastors is increasingly rejecting the former “hush-it-up-for-the-sake-of-the-church’s-reputation” response. I know I’ve rejected it as a pastor. I’ve determined that if I receive an allegation of sexual abuse in my church, I will immediately refer it to the police. God ordained the state to implement justice just as he ordained the church to preach the gospel. I also participate in jail ministry so I know that being incarcerated can be the best thing for some people to experience. I was sexually abused (just once) as a child so I understand something of the pain, embarrassment, and shame that it brings. I understand why people don’t want to speak of it for many years. I would encourage you all to not put too much stock in a top-down transformation of Southern Baptist Convention leadership. Even if they did significantly change it would not necessarily change the individual churches. This is not a top-down denomination. It is at the level of local church leadership that change must occur. Talk to your local church pastors about this issue. Tell your stories to them. Direct them to solid resources. Send them links to news articles and blogs they should look at. Talk to them about the dangers and unbiblical nature of trying to deal with this issue in-house. I think a grassroots movement will be much more effective than a change in some denominational policy. I’m not trying to poo-poo the efforts at that level; I’m saying that there are many younger pastors who have a better view of this issue and I think that will increase in the future. I hope that’s an encouragement.
I so hear you. Your wisdom is right on. Life change happens at the micro level.
Mary, I hear you and I am committed to making change in my local SBC church as well as educating other churches in my sphere of influence.
Yes. It is not either/or. It is, I think, as you communicate, recognizing what the responsibilities and opportunities are in all corners–from the personal, to the local, to the national, etc.
Thanks for writing. I have a suspicion that one thing that makes this such a difficult issue is that, at least intuitively, we sense the intimate connection between spirituality and sexuality. And if there is sexual abuse going on…….well, there is likely spiritual abuse. We want to think sexual abuse is the broken window in the back of the church that no one sees. We do not want to see how it is a knife driven in the heart of who we are.
But I guess that is somewhat true for the “religious” response to all sin.
The Good News about racism, sin, death, sickness and sexual abuse is it delivers right to us–our need for a Saviour–for a marvelous light. Will we let the power, love and soundness of mind of the Gospel be delivered –or will we try to answer with a religious facade?
I do agree this gets at the authenticity of the gospel and its relevance for those broken by abuse.
I’m so sorry this has happened. I work with traumatized women who’ve experienced all manner of abuse, which if not acknowledged and addressed, leads to a host of issues. In the end, these people are unheard and often unable to complete their purpose in life. Thanks so much for writing this piece, Mary. I would love to include a link to this in my own blog, Confessions of an Accidental Blogger. The site isn’t ready yet (I’m a newbie), but I know your message will work well in the future. Please let me know if that’s okay with you.
Yes, feel free, Lori~!
Mary, I so appreciate your voice, the way you speak for the fragile, the young, the used, those bold enough to speak, but who have been shushed over and over again. It thrills me when people with the authority to bend the ear of those in power do so. I know you feel shushed as well, but your ability to appeal is coming. I feel it. Thank you!
Thank you, Kathleen.
One of the biggest reasons I first left the Catholic Religion of my youth, and then why I finally walked away from institutional/corporate church. Fellowship in the home with others on the path to TRUTH and JOY in Christ has completely changed my life. And stories like these confirm that God has been leading me on the right path in my ministry and my own walk. Thank you, Mary. I’ve been following you a long time and I always appreciate your transparency.
The day of reckoning will come. Not a single excuse will stand before the Lord. God bless you, dear sister. Keep shining light on the darkness.