The sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention calls for lament, honesty, unity and action, panelists said Monday evening (June 10) regarding an increasingly obvious problem in the country’s largest Protestant denomination.
More than 1,250 people registered for “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention,” a conversation co-hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study at an exhibit hall in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
SBC President J.D. Greear told the audience, “Right now, this is a time for lament. It is a time for sorrow. It is a time for humility and brokenness.”
It also is a time for Southern Baptists to speak clearly to the convention and the world about how committed they are to addressing the crisis correctly — and to take action, he said.
“The credibility of what we actually believe about the Gospel is at stake,” Greear said, adding he has learned from the survivor community, “[T]he strongest words without actions that follow up those words are worse than not saying words at all.”
Rachael Denhollander — lawyer, advocate and abuse survivor — told the audience there is a wide range of emotions in the survivor community. “By and large the survivor community loves the church; they love Jesus; they love the Gospel,” she said. “And our desire is to see the church do this better so that it becomes the refuge it was intended to be.
“There is a lot of skepticism, and I think some of it is justified, because the survivor community is used to hearing a lot of words,” Denhollander said. “What we’re not used to seeing is action.”
The sexual abuse crisis requires men and women to work together and not against each other, said Beth Moore, popular Bible teacher and an abuse survivor. It also calls for truth, she said.
The Southern Baptist family “is sick,” she said. “We need help. This is not conjecture. This is a proven fact that has come forth. It is before our very eyes. And what will just kill us will be denial. We will never get healthy if we cannot get honest.”
She is hopeful, Moore said.
“One of the things that I feel is relief that we really are talking about it,” she said. “And I can tell you that we do have some things happening right now that I have never seen happen. I feel hope because we are speaking plainly about it, and I feel a tremendous sense of resolve.”
ERLC President Russell Moore said the Baptist belief regarding local church autonomy should not prevent action on the sexual abuse issue.
While no church has authority over another church, Moore said, “We have always understood that we have an accountability toward one another when we cooperate with one another.
“[S]imply to say that church autonomy means that we can’t deal with this is horrific,” he said. “We have an accountability to one another. We’re in cooperation with one another, and cooperation means mutual accountability.”
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Source: Baptist Press