We tend to think that the problem with the @SBC is that the churches are autonomous, and so the organization can’t mandate change. But let’s not forget that while the broader @SBC authority structure is flat, within churches there is strong hierarchy, with women at the bottom.
Other Theories for Why Abuses Go Unchecked
Boto has his own theory for why such abuse goes unchecked in churches. “Not only Baptist churches but all churches are considered by sexual predators to be soft targets,” Boto explains. He goes on to explain a potential theological flaw that leads to the reinstatement of pastors known to be sexual predators:
I’m afraid sometimes people opt for mercy to the exclusion of justice, when in fact justice is corrective. Justice is God’s technique for dealing with sin. So I’m all for mercy. But it should not be precluded by justice. In fact, it should not precede justice.
(The article was careful to point out that Boto is serving as interim president of the Executive Committee because Frank Page, Boto’s predecessor, removed himself from leadership last year due to “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.”)
In addition to clergy returning to the pulpit after having been accused or even convicted of sexual misconduct, the other serious offense the article points out is other SBC leaders turning a blind eye or failing to act when accusations were brought forward. In addition to Page, other former SBC presidents mentioned include Paige Patterson, Ed Young, Steve Gaines and Jerry Vines.
There seems to be a general feeling—both on social media and throughout the HC’s article—that more often than not, leaders chose to protect the reputation of the SBC over the victims who were coming forward. And while there are notable exceptions to this rule (the article points out a handful of whistleblowers who tried to sound the alarm), the cases of cover-up are impossible to ignore. According to Moore, the church should not think of this article and the abuses it uncovered as “public relations problems to be managed” but rather as an invitation to bring about change. Moore writes:
No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.
Greear says he is “weeping with those who weep” after reading the HC article. He also voices his commitment to bring about change.
As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to “do better” and expect that to be enough. But today, change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem.