Group asks Baptists to form board to track clergy linked to abuse
SNAP sends second letter to convention
By ANITA WADHWANI - The Tennessean
September 27, 2006
A group hoping to stem sexual abuse by clergy members has asked
the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention to create an independent
review board to evaluate abuse allegations within the denomination
and establish a "zero tolerance policy" for abusers.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and
other clergy, or SNAP founded by those who say they were
sexually abused by Catholic clergy said no one has any way
of knowing how prevalent sexual abuse of minors is by Southern Baptist
clergy. No one is tracking it or preventing those accused of abuse
from moving from one church to another, the group said.
Victim Christa Brown, 53, won an apology in January from a Texas
Baptist church after she said she was sexually abused at age 16
by a youth minister more than 30 years ago and confided it at the
time to another church leader. The youth minister was asked to leave
the church, but no action was taken against him. Brown also filed
a lawsuit that was settled out of court.
"What I went through as a kid was a living, breathing nightmare,"
said Brown, who now lives in Austin, Texas. "As a mom, what
terrifies me the most is that there are 100,000 Southern Baptist
ministers in this country and there are predators among them. And
there is no one in this denomination that is taking action to rid
this 16 million-member denomination of these predators."
She stood outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters yesterday
and said she wanted the leaders of the nation's largest Protestant
denomination to take steps to track abuse claims and prevent offenders
from moving on to other churches after being credibly accused of
abuse as she said her abuser did.
Responding last month to a letter from the group, Southern Baptist
President Frank Page said: "your letter was a very disturbing
and frightening example of what happens when those in spiritual
places of authority misuse that authority and power in a most egregious
However, he noted that the structure of the Southern Baptist Convention
gives individual churches full autonomy, giving the denomination
no authority over individual church entities.
In response, SNAP delivered another letter to Page and other denominational
leaders yesterday, asking that the denomination establish an independent
review board to receive and investigate reports of clergy abuse.
It also wants the denomination to establish a toll-free hot line
for victims to call, educate churches about sexual abuse and institute
a "zero tolerance" policy for Southern Baptist churches
that hire a deacon or minister for whom there has been a "credible
report of having sexually abused a minor."
The letter asks the convention to ratify the recommendations at
the denomination's national meeting next year.
Convention officials said they have in the past and will continue
to encourage churches to be vigilant in performing background checks
before hiring, provide support when victimizations occur and fully
support criminal prosecution when warranted.