Public databases

Because the Southern Baptist Convention and other denominations have been reluctant at an institutional level to address clergy abuse, independent survivors have created their own resources, including databases of badly-behaving Baptists, Anglicans, and Catholics.

These databases document convictions and credible allegations of misconduct, giving congregations more information if they are considering someone for employment or membership. The purpose of this information is to protect congregations and prevent future victims.

Preventing child abuse

The SBC and some other denominations have adopted programs to help prevent sexual abuse against children. These efforts are valuable and useful as far as they go, but they leave huge gaps in the system. To begin with, they are voluntary, so churches can opt in or opt out; there is no central way of tracking which congregation is complying with what, and whether predators are being accurately and consistently screened out.

These systems also do little to address other situations, such as domestic abuse, the targeting of vulnerable adults, sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, and other misconduct beyond the abuse of children. 

Mere background checks aren’t sufficient, as many perpetrators are not yet in the criminal system.

Accountability is required

The entire premise of Christianity is redemption. 

Churches dealing with abuse are often tempted to push straight through to restoration, rushing victims to forgive and move on, and letting offenders off the hook too quickly.

This emphasis on “redemption” often means bypassing crucial and lengthy phases that should be dedicated to truth-seeking, humility, repentance, accountability, healing, and rebuilding broken trust. Instead, victims are rushed to “forgive” and move on, and predators are often allowed to return to positions of authority and trust. 

True redemption is a slow process, and doesn’t automatically mean that a predator—even the rare genuinely repentant one—should be restored to the same position of trust again. Some disqualifications from ministry involvement should be permanent across the entire denomination.

A system of communication and accountability among churches will help assure compassion and support to those who are hurting, and bring justice to those who prey on the vulnerable.

See more resources here.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash