I am still in shock. As I have read and reflected on the findings of the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force Report, I find a myriad of emotions swirling inside me. Anger, disappointment, grief, relief, appreciation, and hope have each crept their way to the surface.
As I have read a variety of responses (see links to responses and summaries below*) from different perspectives on this current SBC issue, a few important themes keep coming up. Repentance. Silence. Lament. Righteous anger. Decisive action. Follow through.
I don’t believe I’ll add anything new to the discussion, but I do know that this unveiling must change us. The SBC must become different. The local church must become different. I must as well.
For me personally, the fact that the SBC Executive Committee had maintained a “list” of offenders and allegations but stonewalled developing an accessible database to protect future victims and churches was most difficult to absorb. In deed, I’m still not over my vitriol about that troubling revelation. The right actions were not done decades ago. More victims and more predators and more allegations mounted. And as they did, more liability mounted as well. A wake of broken lives – unnecessary broken lives – followed from a series of deliberate choices to hide rather than uncover.
May I say to victims of sexual misconduct, assault, and abuse, I am sorry for what has happened to you. If you were victimized at the hands of a ministry leader, I am sorry for those wrongs you have endured. If you were hurt by an SBC pastor or ministry leader, I am sorry, and we have failed you.
Yet in the swirl of emotions of anger and grief, I am also growing in hope for the SBC. Key leaders, victims of sexual abuse, and abuse advocates did not back down. They fought tirelessly, selflessly, relentlessly to see the SBC do the right thing. They worked to see us pull back the curtain and unveil the hideous coverups. They deserve our appreciation and admiration. Truly, there are too many to name, but a few have made an unforgettable impact on me. Lawyer and advocate Rachel Denhollander, abuse survivor Jennifer Lyell, pastor and former SBC President J.D. Greear, and former ERLC President Russell Moore among many others continued to fight for the truth, and now we owe them all our gratitude for their fortitude.
It’s in their work I have seen hope sneak out from behind the curtain as well. It’s hard to do the right thing. It’s especially hard to do the right thing after doing the wrong things for so long. The SBC has just begun to act rightly on this issue. We have many more steps to take, and I pray as we do we will continue to stumble forward. But my hope rises because the SBC is doing the right thing now when the cost is so high. We have taken the first, hardest step. I believe the next right steps should be easier.
As an NC Baptist, I am already grateful that our Board of Directors, EDT Todd Unzicker, and convention leaders have been working proactively to prevent any of these same failures at the state level. As a pastor, I am already grateful that my church staff has reengaged conversations and next steps to protect our children and students. As a Christian, I am continually grateful that the Word is always true:
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.Luke 8:16-17
Thank God that He is unveiling what’s been damaging the SBC. Through His unveiling, may He forgive us, heal us, and transform us.
*SATF Report Responses and Helpful Summaries:
Russell Moore, “This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse.”
Albert Mohler, “The Reckoning of the Lord.”
Liam Adams, “‘Ignored, disbelieved’: Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse report details cover up, decades of inaction.”
Brandon Porter, “Baptist Press Apologizes to Survivors, Commits to Serve.”
Kate Shellnut, “Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse, Despite Secret List of Pastors.”