The Lord has charged believers: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them as shameful,” as they “become visible” in the light of the Lord (Ephesians 5:11, 12). God sometimes uses groups or individuals of the world to bring to light serious issues. The “Houston Chronicle” recently released a report concerning the issue of sexual abuse in some Southern Baptist churches. Tragically, the newspaper cited some church ministers and laity as offenders and also criticized how denomination leaders addressed the issue. In an extensive investigation, they cited hundreds of victims over a period of years.
As the apostle Paul wrote, “The days are evil,” so we must “not be foolish but understand what the will of God is” (Ephesians 5:16, 17). Moral decay and sexual perversion seems to be increasing in recent decades. We are certainly angered and grieved over such horrendous sins and crimes and sense the need to be like Jesus, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). Grace ministry involves repentance and not rationalization.
We must pray for all victims of any form of sexual abuse and encourage the sharing of instances of attack and/or seduction, so that those in the Body of Christ can minister convicting confrontation and healing restoration (Galatians 6:1). We take strong action, as the apostle Paul wrote, in dealing with “evil persons among us” (1 Corinthians 5:13). Church discipline and adherence to our church Constitution will entail best practices and policies which reflect a heartfelt desire to please the Lord, expose the offenders and show loving concern for the hurting.
For some time, our church has followed a strict policy of background checks and fingerprinting of all staff and volunteers, as well as enforcing strict guidelines concerning workers with preschoolers, children and students. We strive for careful supervision and accountability. Our policy is that staff and volunteers must report instances of abuse immediately to the civil authorities. We rarely ordain individuals to the Gospel ministry, but when we do, it is by strict screening and interviewing.
We continue to take seriously legitimate concerns raised by any in our church family about those who would make immoral advances to them in any form. We seek to have an appropriate, same-gender person present if allegations are shared with one of our church pastors, then attempt truth-seeking investigation and biblical confrontation with the offender.
We pray that our church will have such an atmosphere of oversight and holiness that potential predators who think our church is a “soft target” will flee from us before acting out or repent of their intentions and seek counsel.
We support the Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Advisory Group which was appointed and funded a year ago by our Convention and which is now currently studying every aspect of sexual abuse. They are seeking to develop a practical manual of best policies and practices for all SBC churches to utilize and to biblically address the concerns which have been raised.
Comprehensive “Statement of Principles” documents clarifying our denominational stance have been ratified by all six SBC seminaries, all forty-one State Conventions and SBC Associational Leaders, collectively committing to address abuse at every organizational level.
We must, as a church, be willing to speak truth into this moral crisis and explain to any who are outside of our fellowship that we take seriously the degradation of sin, the consequences of any iniquity, the hope of forgiveness, the offer of transformation in Christ and the humility to squarely face our challenges. The light of truth exposes and expels.
Our reputation before the world is only as good as our witness to them, and our witness is only as good as our integrity before the Lord and concern for others under our care (Hebrews 13:18). While we are shocked, saddened and angered over any instances of sexual abuse and cover up, we are grateful for God’s innumerable displays of mercy in our midst, for countless Christians who live above reproach and for discerning churches which have been for years seeking to protect the sheep from the wolves.