Hundreds of SBC Churches Served with Subpoenas, SNAP Applauds the Move
Hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention churches have been subpoenaed in a new lawsuit, a good step forward that will lead to more openness and transparency about how cases of sexual violence are treated by church leaders. We applaud this move and look forward to the results.
According to Capstone News, these subpoenas were served as part of a lawsuit against a former youth group leader named Jeffrey Dale Clark who has been accused of sexual abuse by at least eight people. This lawsuit points to the continued institutional failure of SBC leaders in dealing with abusers like Dale, and we hope will force those leaders to reckon with their inaction in the past and make them be more proactive in the future about dealing with abusive church staffers.
For too long, the SBC has hidden behind claims of individual parish autonomy when it comes to investigating and dealing with cases of sexual and domestic violence. However, the convention always seems to find the necessary authority when it comes to removing women and LGBT pastors. Hopefully this move will be a step forward in exposing the SBC’s hypocrisy and will force church leaders to deal with pastors who use their positions to abuse children and the vulnerable.
Of particular interest is the fact that, in a separate case, the SBC's North American Mission Board has specifically argued that it possesses the power to interfere with lower levels of SBC-affiliated entities, thus contradicting the SBC's autonomy-based "we're powerless" argument. In other words, the SBC's NAMB is effectively making the same argument that has long been made by survivors, which is that the SBC could and should act at the national level to protect against church-hopping clergy predators in SBC churches.
Over the past year, SBC leaders have talked publicly about the need to do better in confronting cases of abuse. Too often, however, these public pronouncements have been empty words and have not been backed up by action. We call on SBC President J.D. Greear to take immediate action on pastors, youth leaders, and other church staff who have been accused of abuse. Rather than claim his hands are tied, he should be immediately removing these individuals from their positions, turning over information to law enforcement, and doing outreach to victims and witnesses in the communities in which each accused abuser served. He has a chance to do that now, and we hope he will tell his churches to avoid fighting these subpoenas in court and instead turning over information that can help protect the vulnerable and prevent future cases of abuse.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)