MeToo

It happens every day. Women and children, and sometimes men, are victims of physical, sexual, mental, and other types of abuse. Many are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help. Some won’t even admit to themselves what is happening. Others turn to pastors and church leaders for help. But pastors and church leaders don’t always feel equipped to help.

For those in ministry, there is increased confusion over which incidents to report, which government officials to report them to, and when it’s appropriate to break a church member’s confidence in the sometimes competing matters of compassion and compliance.

Southern Baptists were rocked last spring when the denomination came face-to-face with the #MeToo movement sweeping the country. Paige Patterson, then president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharp criticism for remarks he had made in a sermon in 2000 about his counsel to a woman regarding domestic abuse and divorce. Patterson was also alleged to have mishandled allegations of sexual assault while serving as president of another Southern Baptist seminary.

The Patterson controversy, which ended in his firing, was followed by other, unrelated allegations of sexual abuse that had gone unreported for decades. In May, Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote, “The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.”

It’s not just the denomination that’s reeling from the movement; individual churches are wrestling with the issues of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assault, and struggling to determine the legal requirements of reporting such violence. They’re also tasked with answering a different question: How do we deal faithfully with these issues, in light of the gospel?

Reporting abuse
A recent LifeWay Research study found two-thirds of pastors say domestic or sexual violence occurs in the lives of people in their church. But half say they don’t have sufficient training to address it. And about one-third of pastors who have heard of the #MeToo movement say it has caused more confusion about the issue for their church.

One helpful resource for IBSA churches is Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family

Services, led by Executive Director Denny Hydrick. BCHFS is very familiar with Illinois laws regarding reporting child abuse, and also employs counselors at its Pathways Counseling Centers around the state who work with people of all ages. The agency is equipped to help IBSA churches as they wade through the proper steps in reporting abuse and caring for the abused, no matter their age.

In recent years, sexual abuse scandals in religious communities have compelled churches and clergy members to become better equipped to report child abuse. Illinois law has a long list of mandated reporters—those people required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Members of the clergy are on the list.

The Illinois Department of Children’s and Family Services Children’s Justice Task Force directs mandated reporters to “notify authorities of suspected child maltreatment immediately when they have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused or neglected child.” Reports may be made by calling (800) 252-2873.

Domestic violence can be a more difficult topic for church leaders, because reporting isn’t generally mandated. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA), which is used to obtain orders of protection, discusses physical abuse as well as harassment, interference with personal liberty, intimidation of a dependent, willful deprivation, neglect, and exploitation.

The act doesn’t speak directly to churches or clergy, but it may offer some guidance in defining different types of domestic violence and outlining the responsibilities of law enforcement and healthcare providers.

What about events that took place in the past? In Illinois, when abuse involves what was then a minor, “you do have a duty to report that even though it is no longer occurring,” Hydrick said.

When dealing with children, attorney Richard Baker stressed that mandated reporters have a legal obligation to report abuse within 48 hours. But the standards for reporting change when dealing with adults. Baker, a partner at Mauck & Baker, LLC in Chicago, said, “The assumption is when you are an adult you have the where-with-all to report for yourself.” (Mauck & Baker specializes in religious liberty issues, and frequently represents churches in legal matters.)

The law doesn’t mandate that a pastor has to report a woman has been abused. Baker said pastors have to take into account the setting when a woman says she has been abused. “Was it confidential? Was it a group setting? Then, there isn’t such an expectation of privacy. The context is very important.”

The matter of “context” has become an issue, as some people have become concerned that public confession by an adult in a small group setting about being abused, for example, might require church leaders to notify authorities. Some church leaders in other states have suggested that is the case in their states, making sharing of personal information by group participants dicey. But, following Baker’s advice, don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Yes, it’s a gray area and laws are expanding. Baker noted new questions are being raised and precedents are being set. “[But] there are differences in religious and professional contexts,” he said.

When there are questions about what is mandated by statute, “I always go back and look it up,” he said. Licensed counselors and medical professionals have their own legal reporting standards, which are different from ministerial ethics.

Bring it to light
“We’ve heard stories in other denominations of ignoring these things or covering them up, but I think as Christians we need to be proactive in not covering them up,” Hydrick said. “I think we have to recognize sin and call it sin. We need to address sin in our own lives and churches.”

Baker argues for transparency. “Transparency in policy is a very wise thing. Everybody wants to deny and hide things under a rug, but that’s not good in the long run. We have to err on the side of love.”

This summer, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas approved a resolution “On Abuse.” Messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting will be asked to consider a similar resolution next month.

In the SBC resolution, messengers voted to “condemn all forms of abuse and repudiate with a unified voice all abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful and under the just condemnation of our Holy God.” The resolution also called on “pastors and ministry leaders to foster safe environments in which abused persons may both recognize the reprehensible nature of their abuse and reveal such abuse to pastors and ministry leaders in safety and expectation of being believed and protected.”

In short: Baptist pastors are not priests, and the pastor’s office is not a confessional, but adult victims of abuse still have the priviledge of confidentiality about what may have happened to them. In contrast, alleged perpetraitors, especially in cases involving children, do not. That’s when “mandatory reporting” applies.

SBC President J.D. Greear recently announced the formation of a Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee (see column at left). And Baptist Press reported at last month’s Southern Baptist Executive Committee meeting that Gateway and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminaries have begun partnerships with Ministry Safe, a sex abuse prevention organization, to add sexual abuse and harassment prevention training to their course offerings.

The Southern Baptist Convention provides a list of resources for sexual abuse prevention on their website, sbc.net. For more information about background checks, protecting children and vulnerable adults, creating a safe environment at church, and more, go to sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp.

Be ready

Denny Hydrick of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services suggests these four steps for churches in handling domestic and sexual violence:

1. Pastors should be aware of local resources before an issue arises. Is there a nearby domestic violence shelter, and if so, how does a person make a referral? Build relationships with local law enforcement professionals. Know other social service supports, like the local Child Advocacy Center or the State’s Attorney’s office, who may also employ a victim’s advocate.

2. Keep numbers on hand. These contacts are listed on Illinois’ Department of Human Services website:
• For suspicion of child abuse or neglect – (800)-25 ABUSE

• Imminent harm or danger of any person – 911

• Abuse of a person with mental illness or developmental disability – (800) 368-1463

• Domestic Violence Helpline – (877) 863-6338

• Elder abuse – (866) 800-1409

3. Keep an updated list of local mental health and social service professionals. BCHFS is always willing to assist pastors in handling concerns with children and families, Hydrick said. Contact BCHFS at (618) 382-4164.

4. Get assistance. Often in domestic violence situations, even the best intentions of providing for safety can lead to an increase in violence. Make sure you work with a person with experience handling domestic violence situations.

Hydrick cautioned, “Safety must always supersede an ethical dilemma that may be present. There are ways to assess safety, but that should be done by a trained professional.”

The Briefing

Imprisoned pastor freed
After two years of detention in Turkey, Andrew Brunson touched down on U.S. soil Oct. 13. Brunson was released after a 2- year incarceration stemming from disputed charges that could have led to life imprisonment. Although Turkey did not proclaim the North Carolina native innocent, a court in Aliaga released Brunson Oct. 12.

On his way home to North Carolina, Brunson stopped in Washington, D.C., where he met with President Donald Trump and prayed for him, The Christian Post reported.

Hurricane Michael hits churches ‘like a bomb’
Hurricane Michael damaged at least 50 Southern Baptist church buildings in Florida and Georgia, according to initial estimates. Despite the carnage, churches in Panama City and beyond held Sunday morning services just four days after Michael made landfall. In addition, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from nearby states set up a kitchen and began serving meals to the community over the weekend in partnership with American Red Cross.

Message author enters hospice care
Eugene Peterson, the theologian and author best known for The Message translation of the Bible, is receiving hospice care, his family shared over the weekend. Many Christian leaders responded to the announcement by remembering Peterson’s influence and asking for prayer on his behalf. “Let’s everyone of us who have benefited much from this great man’s writing all stop and pray for him right now,” Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore said on Twitter. “And then let’s thank God for the model of a long obedience in the right direction.”

Canada considers euthanizing children
Doctors from a Toronto children’s hospital recently published policies on physician-assisted suicide for children. The policy, written at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, outlines the hospital’s decisions on which children would be euthanized under Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law. The policy also reveals that in some cases, parents won’t be notified until after the child has died.

Seven traits of a healthy church leader
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, lists embracing change as one seven traits exhibited by healthy church leaders.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today

 

By Meredith Flynn

On our state’s bicentennial, the resolve of its early settlers has new meaning for Baptists.

Settlers arriving in the Illinois territory in the early 1800s didn’t know what to make of what they found. History tells us many of them moved north from areas that were heavily wooded. They trusted land that could support so many trees. The Illinois prairie offered no such reassurance.

“The prairies posed a new set of problems for farmers,” writes historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. “Below the land’s surface were tough, fibrous roots of tall prairie grasses, extending downward a foot or more. A simple wooden plow could hardly penetrate the surface.”

The pioneers made do by settling mostly in the southern part of the state, where ready access to water and trees made constructing their homes and farms more feasible. Some, though, eventually headed north, and found a way to work the hard prairie soil. It was richer than they thought, historians say. They just needed different tools. Steel, instead of wood.

Industrial pioneers John Deere and Cyrus McCormick developed tools for farming the prairie lands. And Illinois boomed. Its statehood population in 1818 was 35,000. By 1830, it had grown to 157,000, and would triple over the next decade. Still, tending the land was expensive. Families sacrificed much, Riney-Kehrberg notes, to run even a modest farm.

Two hundred years later, the challenges of tilling the soil in Illinois are different. But they still exist, especially in spiritual terms. More than 8 million people in Illinois do not know Christ. Many churches are struggling against the cultural tide to see real transformation in their communities.

Blue map copy

“I have often said that even though Illinois is the second flattest state in America, being Baptist here is an uphill climb,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Baptists have always been somewhat counter-cultural and a minority in Illinois, but that used to be because larger groups of people from different religious cultures had settled the state.

“Now it’s because the culture overall has become less and less religious, and arguably more hardened to the gospel message.”

Like Illinois’ early settlers found years ago, sometimes hard soil calls for new tools. Last year, IBSA presented four challenges to renew “pioneering spirit” among Baptists in Illinois. (Read more about the challenges at pioneeringspirit.org.)

These “new tools” are actually tried-and-true church practices: evangelism, church planting, sacrificial giving, and raising up new generations of leaders.

“The widespread and growing lostness of our state compels us to think in new ways. Maybe old ways,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Planting Team. “The pioneers of Illinois and parts west came to those territories knowing that if they didn’t bring the gospel with them, it just would not be present. We need that same kind of spirit and thinking today.”

‘Time to do something’
After the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, David Starr led his church to tackle all four of the Pioneering Spirit challenges. His congregation, Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, is employing these new tools to make a difference in Illinois, especially in places where there is no IBSA church.

Starr approached Joe Lawson, director of missions for Louisville Baptist Association, about starting an association-wide prayer emphasis for the 10 counties in Illinois without an IBSA church. Community Southern, which averages around 70 in worship attendance, was assigned Carroll County in northwest Illinois. They started praying. Then, they took action.

“There’s a time to pray, and there’s a time to do something,” Starr said. He spoke with IBSA staff in Springfield and leaders in northwest Illinois, planning a mission trip that would be focused on assessing needs in the region. In July, Starr and his wife and another couple from their church traveled more than 300 miles along a diagonal line from Clay City to Savanna, Ill.

During their trip, they met with a church planter in Galena for a Monday night Bible study. Then, they knocked on doors. Starr said the small team visited 70% of the homes in the focus area, and found 21 people or families who wanted to commit themselves to seeing a Southern Baptist church planted there.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

The team also saw physical need in Carroll County. The region has lost jobs in two big industries—railroad and lumber. There’s poverty and hunger. A woman who the team encountered ran into them later at a local store. “Don’t forget us,” she said.

Starr’s team went back home to Clay City, but they’ve continued to pray. There’s a map on the church bulletin board showing the streets they visited, and printed prayer reminders for the congregation.

Along with the challenge to go new places with the gospel, Community Southern is keeping up with the other Pioneering Spirit commitments. They increased missions giving through the Cooperative Program, are working to enlist new leaders, and celebrated one baptism on One GRAND Sunday, a statewide baptism emphasis in April.

“Here is a pastor and church that captured the pioneering spirit,” Kicklighter said. “They heard about a place where there was a compelling need, and they decided to do something about it.

“We need lots of Illinois Baptist churches with this kind of passion and willingness—a pioneering spirit.”

Starr said he’s never seen anything like it in his years of ministry. His church is investing willingly in other people and places. Like Illinois’ early settlers, they’re tilling the hard soil, and using less familiar tools to do so.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

– Meredith Flynn, with info from History.com and “The Historical Development of Agriculture in Illinois” by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Meredith Flynn

When Illinois Baptists gather Nov. 7-8, a familiar refrain will be in the air. No, not the state song, although “Illinois, Illinois” certainly fits the meeting’s theme. The 2018 IBSA Annual Meeting at First Baptist Church, Maryville, will observe our state’s bicentennial as part of a celebration of God’s work through Illinois Baptist churches across two centuries.

The meeting will also revisit the “Pioneering Spirit” emphasis, shedding light on how IBSA churches have over the past year embraced challenges to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders—all so more people in Illinois might hear and respond to the gospel.

First Baptist Church, Maryville, will host the 2018 Annual Meeting, preceded by the IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 6-7.

Along with stories of churches who have embraced the Pioneering Spirit challenges, the Annual Meeting will feature reports from ministry partners, music by worship band Sixteen Cities, and a visit from Honest Abe himself, as portrayed by veteran Lincoln interpreter Fritz Klein.

IBSA President Adron Robinson will preach the president’s message during the Wednesday afternoon session, and Tom Hufty, senior pastor of FBC Maryville, will bring the annual sermon Thursday morning.

Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference information is available at IBSAannualmeeting.org, along with historical highlights, meeting logistics, and a checklist for messengers to the Annual Meeting.

The little cabin on the prairie that served as a mini-museum of Illinois history last year will return to the Annual Meeting as a house of prayer. The log cabin will feature visual displays about Illinois’ mission field, both historic and present-day.

From the cabin just inside the front entrance of the church building, messengers and guests can tour the facility using a printed guide. At stops along the way, they will be encouraged to pray for ministries in IBSA churches, based on the activities that will happen at those locations during the annual meeting. For example, pastors’ wives will meet in the FBC chapel, so that space becomes the spot to pray for pastors’ wives and families, at any time during the three-day gathering.

“We’re asking God to stir a movement of prayer for mission and ministry, to build up strong churches across our state,” said IBSA’s Eric Reed, one of the planners of the prayer tour.

“God can move our hearts to beat in rhythm with his, for the salvation of lost people in Illinois, and strengthen his disciples to represent Jesus here, where he is so desperately needed.”

Counting to 200
When the Pioneering Spirit challenges were presented last year, the goal was for at least 200 IBSA churches to accept one or more of them. To date, 184 churches have done so.

“We knew from the outset that not every IBSA church would register a commitment to the Pioneering Spirit challenges, as much as we wish they might, because these challenges require great intentionality,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.

“That’s why the goal is 200 churches, not just to match the Illinois bicentennial, but because that will be about 20% of all IBSA churches, and we think that’s about the percentage that will really want to work these challenges.”

Adams said IBSA has continued to invite churches to consider the challenges during local associational annual meetings this fall, and will do so again at the IBSA Annual Meeting in Maryville.

“I believe we will have more than 200 church commitments by the Annual Meeting, and we are eager to work with those churches, and to see them become an inspiration to many others to bear fruit in these important areas.”

Next stop: Maryville
Messengers and visitors to the IBSA Annual Meeting can reserve tickets for onsite evening meals Tuesday and Wednesday at IBSAannualmeeting.org. The Tuesday evening meal following the Pastors’ Conference afternoon sessions will be provided by Ravanelli’s Catering and feature their famous pressure fried chicken, slow roasted beef with gravy, baked rigatoni, mash potatoes and gravy, buttered corn, salad, bread, and
dessert. Tickets are $10 per person.

The Wednesday evening meal catered by Fire-N-Smoke will feature smoked chicken topped with cranberry barbecue sauce, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, green beans, salad, bread, and dessert. Tickets are $12 per person.

Childcare will be provided by the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief Childcare team. For more information or to reserve childcare, contact Barb Troeger at (217) 391-3123 or BarbTroeger@IBSA.org.

Baptist volunteers still serving in Carolinas
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response to Hurricane Florence has resulted in 1.1 million meals served, Baptist Press reports, and more than 1,000 clean-up projects at homes damaged by wind and flooding. More than 100 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministry of Disaster Relief, the country’s third-largest relief organization.

Illinois volunteers joined the multi-state response just days after Florence made landfall in North Carolina.

Refugee cap unsettles some Christian leaders
Evangelical leaders have expressed concern over a new limit on refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. during the next fiscal year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Sept. 17 the cap will be set at 30,000, down from 45,000 during the current fiscal year and 70,000 over the last three decades.

Christian doctor awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Congolese physician Denis Mukwege was named a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to help rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mukwege founded a hospital where he has treated thousands of women harmed during war in their country.

Mohler celebrates 25 years at Southern Seminary
Celebrating his 25th anniversary as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert S. Mohler addressed what he says is the most pressing issue facing the church today. “Among the many challenges the church will face in the present and coming generations,” Mohler said in Table Talk magazine, “few will equal the challenge of maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical Christianity in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment.”

Mission offering for North America sets new record
Southern Baptists’ two major missions offerings reached record or near-record levels in 2017, according to entity leaders. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell reported last week that Southern Baptists gave $61.1 million through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering—marking the first time the offering has exceeded $60 million.

The International Mission Board also reported Southern Baptists gave $158.9 million through the 2017 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering—the second-highest Lottie Moon Offering ever received.

Research finds connection between youth church attendance and later mental health
Research by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that church attendance and certain religious practices during adolescence tend to result in better mental health in adulthood. People who attended religious services at least once a week as kids or teens were about 18% more likely to be happier in their 20s, Forbes magazine reported on the research. Weekly attendance is associated with the development of character strengths, including greater volunteering, a greater sense of mission, and more forgiveness.

Related: In September, thousands of students around the country gathered for See You at the Pole prayer meetings on their campuses.

By John Carruthers

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

Some church members looking at the calendar saw Groundhog Day coming up and asked themselves, “If a groundhog can have its own day, shouldn’t our pastors?” So they started Pastor Appreciation Day in 1992. Since then, the day has grown to an entire month of celebration—not in February, but in October.

While churches may recognize their pastors in many different ways, the thing many pastors say they would appreciate is simply to pray for them.

During the month of October, the IBSA staff will lift up nearly 1,000 pastors and congregations in prayer, both individually and as a group. Pastors are welcome to share specific prayer requests at https://bit.ly/2PBcR9U, or by calling IBSA Church Relationships Manager John Carruthers at (217) 391-3110.

Based on recent interviews with IBSA pastors, here are five ways churches can support their pastor(s) in prayer.

1. Pray for wisdom. These men are confronted everyday with many decisions and they desire clarity from the Lord. Pray for God to supply them with his wisdom.
Proverbs 3:5-6

2. Pray for protection. Temptations and attacks come from many different angles and are continuous. Pray for God to protect the pastor from the enemy. I Peter 5:8

3. Pray for his family. Isolation, attacks, and bullying are very common for a pastor’s family to deal with. Pray protection around his family to avoid the fiery snares. Proverbs 12:22

4. Pray for financial pressures. Many pastors are underpaid and some live below the poverty level. They continue to serve joyfully through financial stress. Pray for God to provide not only basic needs but additional resources to provide for times of celebration and comfort. Philippians 4:19

5. Pray for gospel opportunities. Being a pastor can open up gospel conversations, or sometimes it can shut them down. Pray for the pastor to have friendships with unbelievers, and to have opportunity to share the gospel this week. Psalm 105:1

John Carruthers is IBSA’s Church Relationships Manager

One GRAND Sunday

Last Easter, a statewide baptism emphasis resulted in more than 650 baptisms across Illinois. If you missed the first one, you can do it now. If God blessed your church on the first One GRAND Sunday, pray He will do it again. IBSA churches are invited to participate in a second “One GRAND Sunday” this November 4.

1. Set a 2019 baptismal goal. Look at your baptismal number(s) from 2017-2018 and set a goal to increase by at least one! If you had 9 or 10, set a goal to baptize 12 or one a month. Determine to become a “frequently baptizing church!”

2. Plan to baptize on One GRAND Sunday. Announce your intention to the church, that you plan to baptize at least one person on November 4 in order to be a part of seeing 1,000 people baptized across Illinois on one day! Invite the church to join you in that strategy.

3. Pray for the lost in your community. Encourage the church to begin praying daily for unsaved friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers that they will be able to reach them with the gospel and see them baptized on November 4 during One GRAND Sunday!

4. Have an evangelism training class. Train members how to share their personal testimony and the gospel message of salvation. Use “3 Circles Evangelism Training” to teach members how to have “A gospel conversation” with an unsaved person they meet.

5. Plan an outreach activity night. Church members will visit when a planned opportunity is made available. Plan to have a meal, provide childcare, make student ministry drivers available, set-up a homework room, and enlist visitation teams to prepare for November 4.

6. Use daylight savings time to promote the event. Use One GRAND Sunday as a strategy to draw a crowd on time-change Sunday encourage them to be a part of this miraculous and historic event. Pray – Plan – Promote and register to be involved at www.IBSA.org/pioneering.

For more information about One GRAND Sunday, visit www.IBSA.org/evangelism.