Archives For Abuse

B21 panel

Trillia Newbell, left, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church near Dallas, were part of the B21 panel discussion,. BP photo

The church’s handling of abuse and the #MeToo moment were major topics prior to the SBC’s Annual Meeting and at two panel discussions adjacent to the convention itself. Within the official meeting, actions were limited to passage of two resolutions on the role of women in ministry and an apology to abuse victims, some explanation in reports from seminary presidents, and a motion from the floor asking if a woman could be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

All this comes on the 100th anniversary of women first being elected as voting messengers to the annual convention, and more important, following weeks of controvery surrounding the handling of abuse cases on two SBC seminary campuses, and remarks about women by former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. Also former President of Southeastern Seminary where some of the allegations arose, Patterson was first removed from the SWBTS presidency by the full board of trustees, which promoted him to president emeritus with salary and benefits. A week later, as more allegtions emerged, the seminary trustees executive committee fired Patterson from that role and withdrew the offer of housing on the Southwestern campus.

Against this backdrop, messengers arrived in Dallas to find the topics of women and abuse allegtions handled mostly in ancillary panel discussions.

“You need to be trained in this like you’ve never been trained in this,” Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas cautioned ministry leaders at a luncheon sponsored by B21. “Most of these men who’ve done this are narcissists and are going to come off as great guys,” he warned. He warned that pastors should make what is meant by submission clear in their sermons. “Every time you talk about submission you need to add the caveat about spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, because these guys are using this.”

In the B21 panel discussion and another by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the debate assumed a theological position of complementarianism, meaning men and women serve complementary roles in marriage and leadership.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, “If you want to be a patriarchal abuser, complementarianism is an idiology you can grasp onto… Let’s just own this.” Mohler condemned “the distortion of complementarianism to justify predatory and abusive behavior (as) heresy and sin.” He also stressed that complementarianism doesn’t mean every woman is supposed to be submissive to every man.

metoo-panel

A panel discussed preventing and dealing with sexual abuse in the church June 11 at the Cooperative Program stage in Dallas. BP photo

At the same session, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in metro Atlanta said, “I don’t know of anything that Scripture prohibits within our denomination that a woman can’t do,” he said. “A woman can be president of the Southern Baptist Convention…. I don’t know of any position a woman cannot hold biblically. Outside the position of elder, I don’t know of any position of authority a woman cannot hold in the church.”

Merritt noted, “I think sometimes we complementarians go into a Pharisee mode of going beyond what the Scriptures teach, and I think it’s a good wake-up moment for us today.”

Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin told B21 attendees his school did something historic by electing a woman to chair the trustees. “Becky Gardner is one of the most godly, competent women that I’ve ever met. There’s no sense in which you can make a biblical argument about it. She’s not serving as an elder, a pastor, or an overseer. She’s serving as an administrator.” Gardner is the wife of Joe Gardner, an IBSA zone consultant and director of missions at Metro Peoria Association.

But there’s much the local church can do.

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, said to be careful when using spiritual language such as grace and mercy. “In almost every abuser in a church context I’ve ever seen…[he] wants to identify himself as King David and says we need to forgive this, and move on, ‘I need to continue on the same place where I was before.’”

Moore said the church needs to be bold and say, “That is not what grace is as defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot use the grace of God in order to harm and to destroy Jesus’ flock.”

Several of the panelists noted that some churches fear public reports of abuse can ruin their witness in the community. “This is not a public relations issue to be managed,” stated Moore.

“Jesus does not need you to rescue his reputation by covering up sin.”

Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse attorney with Ministry Safe, said background checks are not enough. She recommended adding to the background checks “training, screening, and appropriate policies that address grooming behaviors.”

Some of the most poignant advice come from ERLC Outreach Director Trilla Newbell, herself a survivor of sexual abuse. She appeared as a panelist at both events. Newbell advised pastors and churches to think ahead about how to handle such incidents. “It is incredibly important that we have (reporting) procedures already developed so that women in your midst, and men, know that they are already safe,” said Newbell, “so that they know you have already been thinking of this. So that they know that they will be loved.”

The Briefing

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a June statement from Paige Patterson’s attorney, Shelby Sharpe. His statement is available in full at Baptist Press.

Southwestern trustees issue unanimous decision to terminate president emeritus
The executive committee of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously resolved to terminate former president Paige Patterson May 30, following weeks of controversy and a previous decision to remove him from office and name him president emeritus.

According to a statement from the trustees, the decision was based on “new information…regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.”

Patterson was named president emeritus of Southwestern May 23 after trustees deliberated for 13 hours in a meeting to address Patterson’s comments on women and domestic abuse. The day of the meeting, the Washington Post published a report claiming Patterson in 2003 told a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was president at the time, not to report an alleged rape to the police. The student, Megan Lively, later identified herself on Twitter.

Trustees reported after their May meeting that Patterson had complied with reporting laws regarding abuse and assault, but later indicated their findings dealt with a 2015 rape reported at Southwestern. While it was reported to the authorities, trustee chair Kevin Ueckert said following the decision to terminate Patterson, the former president sent an email to the chief of campus security that discussed meeting with the student alone so he could “break her down” and “that he preferred no officials be present.”

“The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email,” Ueckert said, “is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS.”

On Monday, June 4, Patterson’s lawyer, Shelby Sharpe, issued a media release defending Patterson against alleged “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation.” Among Sharpe’s claims, “No reasonable reading of” correspondence from Patterson’s personal archives suggested Megan Lively “reported a rape to Dr. Patterson” in 2003 when he was Southeastern’s president “and certainly not that he ignored” such a report, “as is alleged.”

Sharpe also said “Dr. Patterson explained the full context” of a 2015 email concerning a rape allegation by a female student at the Fort Worth seminary, including his alleged statement that he wanted to meet with the accuser alone to “break her down.” Patterson’s explanation was “to the apparent satisfaction of the full board, as evidenced by the fact that the full trustee board voted to name Dr. Patterson ‘president emeritus’ instead of terminating him.”

Patterson is still slated to preach at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas this month, a role he was elected to at last year’s annual meeting. SBC President Steve Gaines said in May that in order for Patterson not to preach, messengers in Dallas would have to vote to remove him, or Patterson would have to step down.

In other Southwestern news, Nathan Montgomery, the seminary student and dining hall employee who lost his job after retweeting an article calling for Patterson’s retirement, has been reinstated as an employee.

Church apologizes for treatment of abuse victim
Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., issued a detailed statement of apology and repentance to the Washington Post regarding how church leaders reacted to former member Rachael Denhollander, who was the first woman to publicly call attention to Larry Nasser’s horrific abuse of gymnasts. Immanuel’s statement reads in part, “…we had failed to serve the church we love, and we had failed to care adequately for the Denhollanders in a time of deep need.”

Baker wins high court case
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 4 in favor of Jack Philips, the Colorado baker penalized by his state for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The 7-2 decision is a win “not only for those of us who are Christians who hold to a pro-marriage, pro-family viewpoint,” said Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, “but also for all Americans for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.”

American Bible Society adopts employee doctrinal statement
Even 200-year-old organizations aren’t too old to tweak their employee policies, leaders at the Philadelphia-based American Bible Society have decided. Effective next year, ABS will adopt an “affirmation of biblical community” and ask employees “to uphold basic Christian beliefs and the authority of Scripture, as well as committing to activities such as church involvement and refraining from sex outside of traditional marriage,” Christianity Today reports.

-Baptist Press, Immanuelky.org, The Christian Post, Christianity Today

 

 

The Briefing

Seminary president sorry for comments ‘hurtful to women’
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued an apology May 10 for comments he made in sermon illustrations about domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women. After the comments from 2000 and 2014 resurfaced online last month, more than 3,000 people signed an open letter from Southern Baptist women calling on Southwestern’s trustees “to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence.” Another letter in support of Patterson has garnered more than 500 signatures.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines addressed the Patterson controversy in a statement to Baptist Press, expressing his disagreement with the comments and noting, “The church especially is no place for misogyny or disrespect for anyone.”

The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will meet May 22 at Patterson’s request.

Sermon stirs up Old Testament debate
North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley’s encouragement to Christians to “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament revved up debate online about its place in the life of modern Christians. Theologian David Prince countered Stanley’s view, writing “Any attempt to sever Jesus from the entirety of Scripture amounts to fashioning a Jesus for your own purposes, one that changes with the times.”

High court ruling permits sports betting in all states
In a 6-3 ruling May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prevented state authorization of sports gambling. The decision — which reversed opinions by lower courts — means all 50 states may legalize and operate betting on professional and college sports.

Willow Creek elders apologize
The elders of Willow Creek Community Church have walked back their initial defense of former pastor Bill Hybels, saying they owe apologies to women who accused Hybels of misconduct. “The tone of our first response had too much emphasis on defending Bill and cast some of the women in an unfair and negative light,” said outgoing elder board chair Pam Orr. “We are sorry.”

Hybels stepped down from his role at Willow Creek in April.

Americans suffering from ‘loneliness epidemic’
A new survey by healthcare company Cigna found nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone or left out. One possible solution: more frequent in-person interactions.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), The Christian Post, Chicago Tribune, Cigna

 

By Eric Reed

5-07-18 IB cover lgAfter our last issue of the Illinois Baptist went to press, we remembered what we left out of the article, “Why this one matters.” Our collection of items to look for at the Southern Baptist Convention in June should have included the forthcoming report on evangelism in the SBC by Steve Gaines’ blue ribbon committee. The panel, which includes Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of FBC O’Fallon, is scheduled to present its study on the declining rate of baptisms in SBC churches and several key proposals to turn that around.

The report, by seminary presidents, SBC entity heads, and megachurch pastors, was to be Gaines’ parting word to the convention as he concludes two years as president. It is a very important word at crucial moment in the life of our denomination. We meant to say that in our May 7 issue previewing the Dallas convention.

We didn’t.

We forgot.

Gaines’ important prescription for recapturing the SBC’s evangelistic fervor got muscled out by breaking news about abuse of women and the argument over inappropriate statements by statesman Paige Patterson two decades ago.

The same appears likely to happen again at the convention in June.

Any one of these stories could be the headline coming out of Dallas:

“SBC shifts generation and theology in top leadership vote.”

“Proceedings slowed as messengers argue diversity among nominees.”

“Messengers debate ERLC leadership and another round of resolutions repudiating racism.”

“SBC speaks on abuse, women, and their place in the denomination.”

“Patterson announces retirement, takes final lap before exiting SBC stage.” Or, “Patterson unseated as convention’s keynote; denied final sermon after controversial comments.” (A special called Board of Trustees meeting May 25 at Southwestern Seminary may determine if either of last two headlines proves true.)

But the headline will likely not be: “SBC adopts new plan for evangelism to turn decline in baptism and refocus churches on leading the lost to faith.”

Why?

Because the overwrought news cycle of the current era has overtaken the SBC too. If only we could come out of Dallas writing stories about a fresh wind of God’s Spirit and our renewed commitment to share the gospel. If only we could file reports of our people falling on their faces in repentance for failing to share salvation with lost people, then hitting the streets to tell the good news.

Yes, all these news stories are very important. As a people, we must deal faithfully with women and our treatment of them in the church as well as the larger culture. But while we are doing that, we must remember what brought us together as a denomination in the first place. The world needs Jesus. And all today’s headlines are evidence of that great need.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Paige Patterson clarifies comments on abuse and divorce
Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson’s spoke out to address his position on domestic violence after old comments he made regarding counseling women in abusive marriages circulated on social media over the weekend. Patterson said he has advised and helped women to leave abusive husbands, but stood by his commitment to never recommend divorce: “How could I as a minister of the gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.”

200 evangelical leaders tell Congress to pass prison reform
Well-known evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, and nearly 200 others are calling on members of Congress to pass bipartisan re-entry reform legislation that aims to provide federal prisoners with the training and rehabilitation they need to be successful once they are released back into society. The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders voicing support for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act of 2017, also known as H.R. 3356.

GuideStone, ERLC defend ministerial housing allowance
GuideStone Financial Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed April 26 that asks the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse a lower court decision invalidating the exemption. It will decide on a section of a 1954 law that permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance.

Pew: 25% of survey’s Christians don’t buy biblical God
A fourth of self-identified Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals. “In total, three-quarters of U.S. Christians believe that God possesses all three of these attributes — that the deity is loving, omniscient, and omnipotent,” the study found.

Butterfield: Christian hospitality’s radically different from ‘Southern hospitality’
In Rosaria Butterfield’s newest book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World,” she articulates a gospel-minded hospitality that’s focused not on teacups and doilies, but on missional evangelism. It has nothing to do with entertainment—and everything to do with addressing the crisis of unbelief. Interviewer Lindsey Carlson spoke with Butterfield about opening hearts and front doors to our neighbors.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today

Silent no more, abuse victims speak out

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein was only the first of countless celebrity men disgraced by allegations of sexual harassment and assault in 2017. And as the names added up—each seemingly more famous and more familiar and more unlikely than the last—so did the names and faces of their victims.

On social media, #metoo became a rallying cry for women who have been abused or oppressed or pushed aside or used by men in power. When Time named their most influential people of 2017, “the silence breakers” topped the list.

And lest those outside of Hollywood or Washington fall prey to a cavalier “who’s next” attitude, another hashtag soon appeared on Twitter: #churchtoo, used to denote people who have been abused by religious leaders, or those whose church has failed to support them when they reported an abusive situation.

In January, an associate pastor at non-denominational Highpoint Church in Memphis admitted an instance of sexual misconduct 20 years ago after the victim, then a high school student, shared her #metoo story. When the pastor, Andy Savage, spoke to his church the Sunday after the story broke, he received a standing ovation. His accuser, Jules Woodson, told The New York Times the ovation was “disgusting.”

“It doesn’t matter if I was his only victim,” Woodson said. “What matters is that this was a big problem and continues to go on.”

Late last year, more than 140 evangelical women signed on to a statement decrying abuse with the hashtag #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. “This moment in history is ours to steward,” reads the statement. “We are calling churches, particularly those in our stream of the Christian faith—evangelical churches—to end the silence and stop all participation in violence against women.”

As churches and their leaders move into a 2018 still reeling from scandal, the most pressing challenge may well be discerning how the Bible should inform and instruct Christians living in a #metoo culture. And answering this question: When a few women are silence breakers on behalf of a great many, what does that say about what the church is saying to and about women?

“The contributions of women in the advancement of the kingdom are essential and indispensable,” author and teacher Jen Wilkin said at a conference recently. “If we have crafted a vision for the church in which women are extra, in which women are nice but not necessary, we have a crafted a vision for the church that is foreign to the Scriptures.”