Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse
in Southern Baptist Convention
June 14, 2006
Statement by David Clohessy, SNAP
and Miguel Prats, SNAP Coordinator for Texas
Today in North Carolina, Southern Baptists are gathering many thousands
of delegates for the denominations annual meeting. Southern Baptists
are the largest Protestant denomination in the country, with over 100,000
clergy. Yet, even though their own Southern Baptist scholars report that
clergy sex abuse is as prevalent among Protestants as among Catholics,
Southern Baptists have "no national policies" and abuse is "routinely
covered up." (Trull & Carter, Ministerial Ethics at p. 162, 2004)
SNAP calls upon Southern Baptists to implement policies for the protection
of kids against clergy predators. The safety of kids depends on it because
ministers who prey on the young are hiding among Southern Baptists just
as they are among Catholics.
In fact, exactly twenty years ago, when Southern Baptists gathered over
50,000 delegates in Atlanta, the minister in charge of child care arrangements
was a minister about whom a Dallas church recently issued a stark apology
for the "very serious sexual abuse" that he inflicted on a young
church girl named Christa Brown. Another Southern Baptist minister has
made a sworn statement showing his long-standing knowledge of that abuse,
and yet the man was allowed to move on to other churches and was ultimately
put in charge of child care and teen babysitters at the 1986 annual meeting.
His name was even placed in the secret file of "known offenders"
that is kept at the Baptist General Convention of Texas. But even with
his name in that file in Texas, and even though the victim notified 18
Southern Baptist leaders in 4 different states, the man was still able
to continue in ministry at a prominent church in Florida. Finally, Ms.
Brown gave up on Southern Baptist leaders and filed a lawsuit. Only then,
when a Florida reporter wrote about Ms. Browns lawsuit, was the
man finally made to resign.
When 18 denominational leaders can be informed of a substantiated report
involving a ministers sexual abuse of a minor...and the man remains
in ministry...Southern Baptist parents should have cause for concern.
How many kids have to be hurt before this denomination even begins to
make some united and effective effort at removing abusive clergy from
the ranks? Surely congregational autonomy cannot relieve moral obligation.
SNAP calls upon the Southern Baptist Convention to take action for the
protection of kids. As a bare beginning, Southern Baptists need a centralized
location for receiving reports of clergy abuse, a means for tracking reported
abusers across state lines, implementation of a nationwide "zero
tolerance" policy, an objective review board to consider reports
of clergy abuse, and a procedure for notifying the people in the pews
when a report has been made about a minister who worked in their congregation.
Until such procedures for accountability are in place, how can anyone
possibly know one way or the other about ANY Southern Baptist minister
as to whether he might be someone that a prior victim tried desperately
to report only to meet with the sort of stonewalling and intimidation
tactics that Ms. Brown met with?
SNAP is the largest support network in the country for survivors of clergy
abuse. SNAP was founded by survivors of abuse committed by Catholic priests,
but lately SNAP has been receiving more frequent calls from survivors
of abuse committed by Southern Baptist clergy. All victims of clergy abuse
can find a starting place for support and information at www.snapnetwork.org.
SNAP works to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
For more information:
See Dallas Morning News 4/28/06 op-ed, "No more church secrets about
sex abuse," with links to 10/22/05 Orlando Sentinel article by Mark
Pinsky and 3/3/06 Baptist Standard article:
David Clohessy, 314-566-9790, [email protected]
Miguel Prats, 713-305-0159, [email protected]
of those Abused by Priests