Southern Baptist Convention Needs Leadership Willing to Tackle Cases of Clergy Sex Abuse

Al Mohler wants to lead the Southern Baptist Convention, but when it comes to dealing with clergy sex abuse, he has not shown leadership. To the contrary, he has long dragged his heels and has found himself forced to acknowledge a problem only because of courageous survivors, determined attorneys and tenacious journalists. 

For example, it was only after massive media exposure that Mohler finally admitted to "serious errors" in his support for C.J. Mahaney, a pastor at the heart of claims about a longstanding cover-up of abuse reports involving 13 alleged perpetrators. 

That is not leadership; that is belated bare-bones acknowledgment of a problem.

And now, though Mohler has learned to say nice-sounding words, they are words that we as survivors have all heard before. So words are not nearly enough nor are they evidence of leadership. The time for meaningful action is overdue.

Mohler is right, of course, that the SBC "can - and should - do more to track predators who've worked in affiliated churches." But absent a concrete plan, Mohler's words remain as just words. 

SNAP remains wary of seeing too much praise and hope heaped onto any single individual who might lead this denomination, which is the country's second-largest faith group.

No matter how well-intentioned an individual may be, the core of the problem rests not in the particular faces that lead the SBC but rather in the SBC system itself. It is a system that fosters a climate for rampant abuse and cover-ups because it lacks effective structures for clergy accountability and for information-sharing about accused clergy predators.

Decades of entrenched institutional patterns will not be changed by simply repopulating the same dysfunctional structures with new faces. Instead, here is a look at what meaningful change in the SBC might actually look like. 

CONTACT: Christa Brown, SNAP Board Member (christa.brown@prodigy.net), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(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)


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