Ever since the so-called Conservative Resurgence turned the Southern Baptist Convention into a decadent cult, they’ve been on a downward spiral of scandal after scandal after cover-up after cover-up. The annual meeting this year — beginning today in Birmingham, Alabama — might finally be the start of a reckoning.
First and foremost there is the problem of clergy sex abuse, with victims ranging from troubled women to teenagers to wide-eyed children. For decades, the Convention has refused to acknowledge the problem; what is more, that refusal has been abetted by a supine membership that was happy to ignore the problem when it didn’t affirmatively drive-off the victims. But countless news stories, including a special investigative series published several months back, has forced the issue. President J.D. Greear appointed a study group last year, and that group released a report a few days ago.
The report is a step in the right direction, but falls woefully short by failing to recognize that sex abuse in the church environment is uniquely abusive and more widespread than in other sectors of society; this is because the abuse inheres in the degradation of Christian thought and its hostility to sex. The report makes much of the fact that abuse occurs in other environments — the Boy Scouts, and schools, for instance — but doesn’t acknowledge that abusers are not protected in those environments, and victims are not re-victimized, but both are the norm in churches.
So I’m not optimistic about this initiative; ‘insiders’ simply cannot view themselves from the outside, can’t grasp that orthodox Christian teaching itself is a large part of the problem.
A second confrontation is going to occur over the status of women, or complementarianism, which says that men and women have complementary, cosmically ordained roles; most importantly, men preach and women keep their mouths shut. This is so fundamental to Baptist identity that I strongly doubt that there will be any change. What will happen is that more and more women will refuse to be associated with the denomination and the downward spiral will accelerate. Should be good for some fireworks, though.
The irony is that men and women really are different in ways more important than plumbing, because the natural selection of evolution operated to favor a division of labor and corresponding characteristics. The difficulty here is that Baptists generally see everything in strictly binary terms and are not subtle enough to grasp that reality apportions traits with a rheostat. Most women probably don’t have any business preaching and leading, and don’t want to; they want to stay home with the children and bake cookies and darn socks, and that’s what they ought to do. But some women certainly are capable of preaching and leading and managing a modern church business, and the opportunity to do that should not be foreclosed by genetics and the mulishness of fools who think everything is all settled because the Bible says so.
WHEN should you leave a church or a denomination?
A thread on whether to shake the dust of your feet, or whether to stay, when a church is devaluing women and not doing enough to take sex abuse seriously.#SBC19
— SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) June 10, 2019
I’m guessing #SBC19 will produce nothing but hard feelings.