Victim advocate Ashley Easter tweets: “DANGER! Danger! Don’t report first to the SBC report to the police and then consider if it’s really safe to use the SBC tip line at all!”
Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer and abuse survivor who’s spoken at SBC events, indicates she’s pleased “to finally see a process beginning.” But she adds that the Credentials Committee must be more transparent and offer specifics about standards for congregational disfellowship.
“Abusers and enablers flourish by keeping survivors and their families isolated from each other, and establishing a pattern of abuse or mishandling is often critical evidence,” Denhollander says. “However, survivors and witnesses cannot speak up if they are not made aware of an ongoing review.”
Bureaucracy Could Get “Orwellian,” Blogger Warns
Preventing sexual abuse and cover-up is “a noble quest,” writes Ray Fava at NOQReport.com. But claims of racism and violations of the SBC’s “friendly cooperation” clause, he says, could lead to an “Orwellian slippery slope.”
Regarding racism and identity politics, Fava points to the recent controversy at First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida, where a pastoral election was reportedly “compromised.” Racism accusations could be made against churches “for denying theologically questionable pastors who so happen to be black,” he writes.
Regarding “cooperation” of SBC churches, Fava says “doctrinal enforcement” could lead to another Conservative Resurgence—or could “hasten the destruction” of the denomination. Because “bureaucracies exist to perpetuate their own existence,” he writes, watchdogs must ensure that SBC leaders are concerned with more than just upholding the body’s reputation.
Another scenario Fava poses is that the Credentials Committee might first disfellowship abusive congregations “so that they can build a credible reputation from which to oust mere dissidents.”
Tackling a Weighty Task
In February, the Houston Chronicle’s “Abuse of Faith” series uncovered more than 700 cases of sexual abuse by SBC church leaders and volunteers. SBC President J.D. Greear has called for reforms, better safety policies, and victim support. The denomination also launched a “Caring Well” initiative, with conferences and training curriculum.
Credentials chair Bramlett says her committee “feels the importance and the weight of the responsibility of our task” and recognizes that these issues “impact people’s lives.” Committee members, she says, are praying for one another and “for those who have been impacted by sexual abuse in a church setting.” In turn, she requests prayers for the committee “to be fully guided by the Holy Spirit’s leadership each step of the way.”