One thing Easter does point to as a particular problem of the church—SBC or otherwise—is a desire to “keep things in house” when problems arise. Unfortunately, churches can care more about the reputation of the institution than the wellbeing of the vulnerable. This affects women, children, even men who have been abused. The only way this dynamic will change, Easter says, is to put the needs of the vulnerable first before the reputation of the organization.
Easter says the SBC has been asked to compile a clergy sex offender registry in the past, but they have not done that to date. As early as 2007, the SBC was asked by SNAP to compile such a registry for the churches affiliated with its convention.
Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma, was one of the advocates asking the SBC to compile the registry in 2007. Burleson will be speaking at the rally this year. Other speakers include former victims of abuse and advocates for the abused, including Easter, the founder of The Courage Conference; author and speaker Mary DeMuth; Dr. Christy Sim; Carolyn Deevers; and Pastor Gricel Medina of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
How Will the Rally Be Received by the SBC?
One can only wonder how an ecumenical group of abuse survivors and advocates—some affiliated with the SBC and some not—will be received at the annual meeting. Easter does not seem to be too concerned about the reception. “If God has a message that needs to be heard, it doesn’t matter the vessel it’s coming from… Those who have ears to hear will come and hear.”
When asked specifically about Pastor Medina, a woman ordained through another denomination, Easter says the SBC used to have more ordained women in the past. Additionally, she says the rally is not a church service, anticipating any objection some may have to listen to a woman speak.
The organizers are not sure exactly who will answer the invitation which they’ve extended to anyone concerned with the mistreatment and abuse of women. However, Easter emphasized the rally does not have an anti-SBC agenda. “The rally is happening because we love the church and love the SBC and we believe it can be a safer place for women. We’re not against the SBC, we just want to make them better and stronger,” Easter says. Everyone will come for different reasons, she believes, but “as long as you are coming to protect women and end abuse, we welcome you.”
However, the very name of the rally indicates the organizers understand that this will not be an easy message for the SBC to swallow. “For such a time as this” refers to the story of Esther, who Easter describes as a biblical example of a victim of abuse. Esther had to go, uninvited, into the throne room of the husband she was forced to marry and plead for the lives of her people. Her act was one of disobedience against not only her husband, but the law and tradition of the land. God had called her to speak out, though, and this is the only reason Esther prevailed.
This is precisely the calling the organizers of the rally feel.
Find more information about the For Such a Time as This Rally.