A secret scandal

Clergy misconduct is a serious offense with physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Yet many churches quietly dismiss the problem, or simply don’t address it at all.

The Southern Baptist Convention, as an institution, has taken a hands-off approach to misconduct and abuse allegations, allowing each congregation to manage the situations independently. 

As a result, there is no robust standard screening procedure for hiring and firing within the denomination. Each congregation draws up its own criteria and handles the process independently.

Any candidate can come to a church in view of a call, preach a few sample sermons, meet the deacons, kiss the babies, eat the church ladies’ fried chicken and apple pie, sign off on a few quirks of doctrine, and be welcomed into the community.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing

The trouble is that predators don’t wear red suits and have forked tails. Charlatans can look like good and ordinary people. They may have advanced seminary degrees and can even preach excellent sermons. 

When communication and accountability among churches is lacking, perpetrators may freely move from one church to another, almost ad infinitum, with ready access to more potential victims.

Bringing misdeeds to light

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle, in partnership with the San Antonio Express-News, produced a six-part series called Abuse of Faith, digging deeply into the history of the SBC’s handling of abuse allegations and clergy misconduct. It’s not a pretty picture. Reporters dug back decades and revealed that pervasive scandals and even crimes were covered up or dismissed quietly, frequently allowing predators to church-shop and freely abuse again.

Anonymity for the accused exacerbates the already malignant cancer of clergy abuse that is eating away at the church.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash