Where Do We Start?
Tchividjian suggested the denomination establish a Southern Baptist Commission Into Responses to Sexual Abuse. This would be a commission that is comprised of survivors, church leaders, and laypeople. “And when I say survivors, I don’t just mean the acceptable ones,” he said. This commission would create a safe and, if requested, confidential process that wants to listen and learn from any survivor who’s ever been abused within this denomination.
Such a thing has been done before, Tchividjian points out. The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse was formed by the Australian government in 2012. The Commission collected the testimonies of 16,000 people who claimed to have been sexually abused. It took five years to collect the data, which garnered 8,000 in-person interviews.
“Brothers and sisters, if the Australian government can do it, so can the church that professes to be the bride of Jesus,” Tchividjian suggested to the group. Do this for five years, Tchividjian admonished, “and then let’s have a conference.”
Conclusion: There Is Hope
In the past 25 years, Tchividjian says he has learned the most from survivors who “fall outside that box” he mentioned earlier (that box typically encompasses someone who “still loves the church, believes in Jesus, is attracted to somebody of the opposite gender, most likely votes Republican”). In fact, Tchvidjian said he cherishes these outside-the-box survivors, who have taught him a lot about “the beauty of Jesus through their unconditional love, kindness, their constant encouragement, their truth-telling, and their genuine friendship.”
These people, Tchividjian said with emotion, “brought me healing and me hope.”
Half-jokingly asking if he could “quote from a Catholic here?”, Tchividjian read from a work by Henri Nouwen:
Though they do not deny the darkness, they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but very real presence of God.
“Such flashes of light have been my hope for the last 25 years,” Tchividjian explained. “On days that I don’t want to go on any further…flashes of light appear and get me through another day. They remind me that God is in the midst of the darkness.”
Ending his strongly worded, yet measured rebuke of the denomination on a positive note, Tchividjian said, “I truly believe God is up to something really, really good.” Yes, it will be painful, he warned, but God is sanctifying his church. “Perhaps winter is coming to an end inside the church and spring is on its way.”