Victims seek Baptists' help
They leaflet outside huge SBC convention
Group deplores backing of accused predators
SNAP, wants church officials to train their flocks
There’s “a right way & a wrong way” to act when ministers are accused
Holding signs and childhood photos, and handing out fliers to passers-by, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will urge Southern Baptist officials to
--let them speak to thousands of church-goers,
--stop publicly rallying around accused child molesting clergymen, and
--start educating their flocks about how to respond appropriately when child sex abuse reports are made.
Tuesday, June 11 at 11:30 am
On the sidewalk outside the George R. Brown Convention Center (where thousands of Southern Baptists are holding their annual convention), 1001 Avenida de las Americas (corner of Walker) in downtown Houston
Four members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including a Houston woman who heads the organization’s local chapter and a Maryland woman whose daughter was sexually abused by a minister
Last week, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wrote officials with the Southern Baptist Convention asking for a chance to address the annual SBC convention which began today. The victims want to discuss how church staff and members respond when allegations of clergy sex crimes and cover ups surface.
SNAP leaders say that congregants and clergy often “immediately and publicly rally for an accused child molester instead of keeping an open mind and urging anyone with information to come forward.” Then, SNAP contends, “Victims, witnesses and whistleblowers are frightened or depressed and stay silent. And as a result, all too often, those who commit and conceal child sex crimes walk free, remain hidden, and hurt others.”
The group cites three congregations at which it says church employees or board members publicly rallied or are rallying behind accused wrongdoers: Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas, Sovereign Grace Ministries in Maryland, and The Richmond Outreach Center in Virginia.
“Many Baptist pastors offer their staff and their flocks absolutely no training on how to act when church folks are accused of abuse,” said Amy Smith, Houston SNAP Director. “Even worse, many times ministers themselves take insensitive or hurtful actions, by backing the accused and intimidating the accusers.”
“Southern Baptist officials steadfastly refuse to take any real steps to protect children from child molesting clergy,” said David Clohessy, SNAP Executive Director. “So the very least they could do would be to teach people how to make it easier, not harder, for child sex abuse victims to speak up and report criminals.”
A civil lawsuit accuses Rev. C.J. Mahaney of the Sovereign Grace Ministries of refusing to report suspected child sex crimes to police. Among the prominent Protestant officials who have expressed publicly support for Mahaney are Rev. Mark Dever (senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC), Rev. Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist seminary president),and Rev. Ligon Duncan (pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi).
Church officials who SNAP considers to have acted in appropriately regarding the Prestonwood controversy include Rev. Jack Graham (past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and now head pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church) and Rev. Neal Jeffrey (associate pastor at Prestonwood).