Texas Baptists, we are faced with an unpleasant truth: People we care about have been hurt in our churches. The converse is true: People we care about have hurt people in our churches.
We have a choice: We can react against the news, or we can rise to the circumstances by bringing our best resources to bear on the problem of sexual abuse and misconduct in our midst.
Now is the time for us to employ all that’s best about us.
Working together in the wrong direction
I’m as troubled by the recent Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News report as anyone else. I’m angry and sad like so many others.
A particular grief is aroused by the accusations leveled at the reporting. Some are saying, “This is a media attack against the church.”
Sexual abuse claims are not something to be fended off by redirecting the blame to those who report sexual abuse.
All too often, victims have been blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for being attractive, for what they were wearing or for enticing their abusers somehow. Likewise, when a report is made to law enforcement or a state agency, all too often, the person making the report has been blamed for ruining reputations, careers, livelihoods or families.
And now, some accuse the newspapers that reported the sin—that’s what sexual abuse is—of mounting an “attack against the church.”
To accuse reporters of attacking the church is either to deny the truth of their reporting or to acknowledge we don’t want to deal with the truth of their reports. If the reports are not truthful, then what is the truth? If the reports do tell the truth, then why would Christians not want to deal with the truth?
The truth is we can do better, and we have a wealth of resources for doing better.
Working together in the right direction
Texas Baptists, we have schools and universities all over the state staffed with experts in addressing sin and caring for people. Let us respond to sexual abuse with our expertise in social work, pastoral care, legal counsel and medical care—among many other strengths—working for righteousness in Jesus’ name. And righteousness is not afraid of the truth.
Texas Baptists, we have financial, health, childcare and civic institutions, each of which is staffed with experts and equipped with resources to address the various facets of a problem like sexual abuse and misconduct. Their expert guidance is invaluable for doing the right thing in Jesus’ name.
Our many institutions position us to provide a world-class Christ-honoring response to the heinousness of sexual abuse. Imagine if they were employed together toward that end.
Texas Baptists, we have an immense network of associations and churches that can provide accountability. Each of these places is gifted with smart people who can walk the line between local autonomy—which is a historic Baptist principle—and shared responsibility. We’ve formed networks for other things; why not network for preventing and reporting sexual predation?
Texas Baptists, we’ve pooled our financial resources and have worked cooperatively on mission and ministry projects for more than a century. Don’t tell me local autonomy prevents us from working together to weed out and deal with sexual abuse in our midst.
No, we’re better than that. In fact, we’ve been equipped for more than that.
Texas Baptists, if our faith means anything at all, if all our preaching and teaching means anything at all, if the Holy Spirit living in us means anything at all, let’s rise to the circumstances by bringing our best resources to bear on the problem of sexual abuse and misconduct in our midst.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. For resources addressing sexual abuse, visit our Falling Seed column.