On June 15, 2021, I raised my ballot along with 15,000 other messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention commissioning the Executive Committee to conduct a complete, thorough, independent investigation into sexual abuse allegations. Due to the issue’s complexity, the issued charge included waiving attorney-client privilege, which would provide the ideal scenario to discover the unadulterated truth – no matter how messy it might prove to be. There was no denying the unified expectation in the room at what many of us felt to be a holy moment. It was a reckoning for us to do what was right in light of all that had been done wrong.
Over three months later, concerned messengers like myself are astoundingly bewildered at the blatant refusal to do the straightforward job assigned to the Executive Committee. It has never happened in the history of our convention before. In recent days, the work of the Sexual Abuse Task Force has laid out a plan that members of the Executive Committee have apparently rejected due to consultation from lawyers warning of the dangers of going forward with the aforementioned direction.
Let me be clear: I am not concerned about the danger that might come, but I am undone by the danger that has been.
We have people in our churches who have been sexually abused by spiritual authority figures and had tracks covered by certain powers that be who have been trying to avoid widescale disaster. Well, a disaster has already come upon us. As if the unthinkable horrors of sexual abuse within churches are not evil enough, our unwillingness to allow justice to sort through the rubble informs battered individuals that their healing isn’t worth our collective trouble.
I understand you are concerned about the financial ramifications, the tarnished reputations, and the threatened legacies, but each of those is taking significant hits by the hour. For those refusing the will of the messengers for transparency or, even worse, the expectation of Jesus Christ to lead with integrity, you still have time to make this right. You don’t have much time left, but there still remains a window of opportunity. If you commit to doing what is right regardless of the fallout, what is left of your reputation among those who love you and pray for you may be somewhat redeemable. If you fail to comply, you leave impassioned ministers of the gospel with very few options.
Uncomplicating the Matter
I know that the situation is complicated. I am confident you are privy to information that we are not, but what we do know is enough. The true complex nature of the matter is that people have been hurt, and we must do all we can to help mend them. The Great Commission beckons us to make disciples, which includes showing those around us that biblical behaviors should accompany biblical beliefs. We can have the best mission agencies in the world, but if we are proselytizing people to follow cowardly hypocrites, we make them twice as much a child of hell as ourselves (Matt. 23:15).
We must not sacrifice our integrity on the altar of expediency.
We are aware that there are certain unknowns regarding the outcome of such an investigation, but what we do know for certain is that we must get this right in order to display the love of Jesus to victims of sexual abuse. We don’t know what we might lose if we go forward, but we do know what we will gain if we do – re-earning the trust and assisting with the healing of these dear victims. And that price tag is far more worth it to me than any veiled threat of Cooperative Program loss. If that piggy bank is your greatest concern, guarantee that your refusal will see to it that it shrivels up and dies or that you will not be the ones guarding it anymore. I know the veiled threats about personal or corporate liability, but you need to know that those messengers desiring to do the right thing in June will do the right thing to support anyone who chooses integrity.
I am a committed Southern Baptist/Great Commission Baptist. In the last 24 hours, I have shepherded a local Baptist church, encouraged IMB missionaries, assisted NAMB church planters, instructed students at a Baptist university, consulted with national SBC leaders, conversed with SCBC pastors, and met with GBA associational partnerships. I am committed. I am just like thousands of other local pastors who believe that even among our disagreements, the magnitude of what we can accomplish together is worth the fight, but we are also at a place that we are unwilling to allow this continued course of action to transpire without a fight.
As a simple local church pastor, I cannot and will not look at people in my congregation who have been abused and tell them I allowed this debacle to continue under my watch. It is so serious of an issue with potential Great Commission fallouts that I cannot wait until Anaheim either.
With continual conversations with like-minded brothers and sisters, I will do everything within my power to lead my church and others to consider how to reallocate funds away from the Executive Committee and around the Cooperative Program, while continuing to fund the worthwhile aligned endeavors that have unified Southern Baptists.
I will not give up on our trusted local leadership or our missional or educational entities that work to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, but I will not fund any group that defies the orders of the people who placed them trustingly into these leadership positions.
SCBC Response from Fellow Pastors
Following the Trend
For anyone who thinks such a move goes against the work of the Cooperative Program, my response is that I am simply doing what the Executive Committee is asking me to do. Through their actions, they are saying that they have the right to do whatever they see as advantageous and disregard the will of those aligning together that makes our convention even possible. They have asked me, and the church that I represent, to step aside, and I will do so eagerly if the situation does not revert course within the next week. This course of action is not pulling support due to discrepancy in how an entity fulfills its job, this is about leadership refusing to do what it has been called to do.
In our hubris, we somehow believe that God needs the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC could implode tomorrow, and the Kingdom of God would march on with or without any individual or institution. Jesus doesn’t need us. In fact, if Scriptures would teach us anything, we should recognize that God isn’t afraid to let his reputation or his people’s reputation go tarnished for the sake of decontaminating the remnant. He has an endgame in mind of a holy people, and he has a history of doing whatever it takes to work toward that end.
Whether it’s the hidden sin of Achan endangering all within his proximity of unwilling confession (Josh. 7:12), the prideful arrogance of David devastating the security of the people of God (2 Sam. 24:17), the humiliating defeat by God’s enemies when Jeremiah’s warnings were ignored (Jer. 52:27), Hezekiah’s appealing to an ungodly source of assistance while neglecting the opportunity to seek God’s power (Isa. 30:2), or allowing deceitful donors to die in the midst of a church to serve as a wakeup call (Acts 5:11), we must come to grips with an important truth – God will allow his people to experience deep humiliation for the purpose of greater refinement.
If our denomination tries to cover up, hunker down, or bolt things down to the floor, it just makes a bigger mess when Jesus comes to flip those tables over. Consider ourselves warned.
For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and brought to light.
Jesus (Luke 8:17)
It is time to repent.
For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?1 Peter 4:17