I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad about this business in the Scene about the way the Southern Baptist Church is handling molestations of members by church officials. I’ve been discussing the larger issue over at Tiny Cat Pants but it was only after R(eading)T(he)F(word of your choice)A(rticle) that I got my knickers in a knot over the article itself.
I’m a Mennonite who is a member of a Southern Baptist Church because there is only one Mennonite fellowship in town that only meets on Sunday nights. I wanted a Sunday morning home and found myself at First Baptist Church Nashville. I’m not the most “plugged in” (i hate that phrase) person there, so I have no idea about all the behind-the-scenes gossippy type stuff. I prefer it that way. I do imagine that at some point there may have been a youth leader or a music minister or a guy who ran the soundboard or something who did something abusive to another person. I only imagine this because it’s a big church that’s been around for more than a hundred years and the odds of that happening are pretty large.
Humans have crises, and there are few as vile as a person in full-time church work who abuses the sanctity of trust their position affords them.
However, every church of which I have been a member has subscribed to the Matthew 18 principle of dealing with these things. Based on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18:15-17 we have a proscribed method for dealing with any sin or conflict within The Body.
Step I: The wounded person confronts the wounder and attempts to make peace. In cases of molestation or other ongoing abuse this step is often foregone because it is believed that the accused’s pattern of behaviour doesn’t indicate a willingness for the behaviour to end.
Step II: The wounded person takes up the matter with a small council of trusted people. This is usually a combination of trusted friends and the deacons or elders of the church. The deacons/elders work out a plan for confrontation, punishment and reconciliation. If the activity is openly illegal–like molestation or embezzlement–part of the reconciliation plan is to involve the legal authorities.
Step III: If the reconciliation plan doesn’t succeed, the matter is to be brought before the church. Frankly, I’ve only ever once been in a church where the reconciliation plan failed and Step III was necessary.
Step IV: If nothing else works you are to “treat the offender as a tax collector or publican”. This means that you end fellowship with them but still show them the love of Christ in the way you would any non-Christian fellow man.
Do you notice anything about those steps? Anything at all?
At no point does the Biblical solution for this issue involve the local alternative weekly.
The plan involves legal consequences, counselling for both the offender and the molested, and escalation if all else fails. So I’m very sorry if the writer of the Scene piece feels left out by the SBC, but folks, I have to say right now.
Churches are not public entities. They are private entities entitled to privacy.
I know this sounds like I just love covering up for kiddie rapers, shorteyes, sleazy pastors and blackguards who profane the name of Christ.
Not at all. I just need to make perfectly clear that although a church is a large presence in a community it is NOT the same as the government. Remember that whole Seperation clause thing? Yeah.