Southern Religion

Nondenominational & SBC sex predators

GetReligion’s tmatt has an interesting post on the Washington Post story about the Baylor University study which found pervasive sexual abuse of women by clergy.

She also correctly observes that the problem is larger than references to denominational policies and practices imply:

Meanwhile, the nation is filling up with totally independent, nondenominational churches with few if any ties — especially legal ties — to anyone or anything. Is anyone keeping track of the clergy who serve these churches? Is anyone accountable for them? We are dealing with a form of church government and tradition called the “free church” and, truth is, the clergy in these churches are very, very free indeed.

Toward the end, she gets around to the Southern Baptist Convention when she says:

The SBC, however, resembles the Roman Catholic Church in contrast with the totally disorganized, non-structured reality that is the post-denominational world. Trust me: There is another story here. Is that buried somewhere in the Baylor research?

Well-earned credit is given Stop Baptist Predators for coverage of the issue.

Thus far no Southern Baptist pastor has cranked up the nerve to make the standard argument that tmatt is wrong — the SBC is somehow helpless to deal with predatory pastors. You see, SBC churches are autonomous, and that somehow produces hands-off approach.

That argument is contradicted by the SBC’s hands-on approach when the issue is fellowship with “unrepentant” homosexuals, calling women pastors, providing pensions, health benefits to pastors, etc … .

Not to unjustly single out the SBC. It is the largest non-Catholic denomination in the U.S. and earned its reputation for refusing to safeguard Southern Baptist parishioners against sexual abuse.

For example, the SBC won special Time Magazine attention last year for refusing to take effective action to safeguard Southern Baptist children against sexual predators.

Which brings us to a key unanswered question: Whether nondenominational sex abuse by clergy is a larger problem than clerical sex abuse fostered by SBC inaction.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wrong issue, FBC Jax

Seriously? The First Amendment means the church is above the law?

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville attorneys argue that a fraud, misrepresentation and defamation suit by the formerly anonymous author of FBC Jax Watchdog should be dismissed because ruling “require excessive entanglement [by the courts] in church policies, practices and beliefs.”

That’s the wrong issue.

The core issue is abuse of power to unmask the until-then anonymous author of the blog FBC Jax Watchdog, and subsequent events and statements. The suit by blogger Tom Rich appears to make no allegations with regard to protected “church policies, practices and beliefs.”

Under the circumstances, the “excessive entanglement” argument seems to imply that freedom of religion is somehow attended by a right to immunity by churches from the legal consequences of their actions.

Bad argument/bad idea.

The most important general public issue is the failure of law enforcement officials to meet or attempt to meet readily available ethical and legal standards for unmasking an anonymous blogger.

Anonymity “is sometimes required if one is to both make responsible contributions to public discourse, and also put bread on the family table.” As a result, protecting blogger anonymity is a part of “protecting the discourse itself,” which is at the core of our democracy. Protection of that overarching public interest in anonymity of expression has required a great many legal battles to prevent unmaskings whose palpable goal was to suppress free expression. Not all bloggers survive unscathed.

The general public interest in the protection of anonymous expression should have been addressed in court with regard to FBC Jax Watchdog, not circumvented by way of a criminal investigation which was officially closed without charges or meaningful official report. There is we feel a general public interest in seeing the debate joined in open court not, not dismissed on the basis of the FBC Jacksonville freedom of religion pretext.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Churches, SBC, WWW | , , , | Comments Off on Wrong issue, FBC Jax

‘Subtle racism’ deters black Catholic leadership

Bishop J. Terry Steib

Bishop J. Terry Steib

Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo greeted the remarks more favorably than many did former President Jimmy Carter’s declaration that President Barack Obama is besieged by racism. Note that other Catholic disagreement we found was civil in this important, widely overlooked moment in our long national debate over “racism” and its effects.

Black Catholic Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis reflected Saturday on the “subtle racism” which had resulted in “a relative dearth of black Catholic leadership” in 1984, when Black Catholic bishops issued their own pastoral letter: What We Have Seen and Heard [.pdf].

Keynote speaker at a symposium marking the silver jubilee of the landmark 1984 letter, he also said that despite a quarter of a century’s progress, that same racism recently caused a furor in Catholic circles over Notre Dame University’s award of an honorary degree to President Barack Obama. He told the audience at Philadelphia’s St. Raymond Church that other presidents have had disagreements with the positions of the Catholic Church in in war policies and capital punishment and the like, but have received honorary degrees without similar objection. That racism, he said, is doing the church ongoing harm.

Lou Baldwin of the Catholic Standard Times wrote:

It is the subtle racism that still exists which contributes to the lack of priestly vocations among young black men because “it leads to a mistrust of the Church among young black men and women,” he said. “Let’s acknowledge that.”
On the other hand, the African-American community “has contributed to some of the difficulties they are facing,” Bishop Steib said, quoting Obama on the collapse of the two-parent family in the black community and the failure of many black men to live up to responsibilities to their children.

The pastoral letter being celebrated dealt less with the effects of Catholic racism than with the special gifts, culture, and values shared African American Catholics bring to their church and their path in the faith.

Yet there was no possibility of omitting racism from the discussion while also being honest for racism an overarching characteristic of American life, not of denomination.

Speaking into the gale of uproar of Obama’s school speech black Southern Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic did not flinch from it either. Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press summarized McKissic’s view:

“Whenever a black man ascends to prominence and power, the political establishment tries to demonize that person,” McKissic said. He quoted the late Jerry Falwell, who in 1961 questioned “left-wing associations” of Martin Luther King. “They were accusing him of being a communist and a socialist like they accuse Barack Obama of being a communist and socialist.” … McKissic said many white preachers want God to judge America for abortion and gay marriage. McKissic said he feels strongly on both of those issues but believes that racism is also a sin, and God must judge America for that sin as well.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Cultural, Obama | , , , | 2 Comments

A prayer unanswered

The Washington Post’s “On Faith” panel of 19 writers discusse the “State of our Disunion” while lamenting how Rick Warren’s Inauguration Day prayer is far from being answered.

Warren prayed that Americans would “have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.”

Instead, note the Post’s Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham, “clarity, responsibility, humility and civility seem to have given way to self-righteousness, anger, resentment, and what columnist Kathleen Parker calls ‘a political era of uninhibited belligerence’ that is finding expression in sermons, at town hall meetings, on radio talk shows, even on the floor of Congress — especially when we differ.”

Susan Jacoby, whose entry has attracted about 400 comments, discusses how faith and hatred often co-exist. She says:

What we are seeing is the rage of a minority–we don’t know exactly how large, but we do know that it is almost entirely white and concentrated in the South and Southwest–at an African-American president who is considered not only wrong in his policies but illegitimate as the leader of our nation.

Jacoby also tells of a college student afraid to tell her parents she supports Obama for fear they’ll no longer pay her tuition and writes:

Many Americans spent a good deal of time last November patting themselves on the back for having elected an African-American president. What we are seeing now is the bitterness of an unreconciled minority that will never accept the legitimacy of that election.

Would it be that she were wrong but the full sweep of post-Civil War Southern history says she isn’t.

Still, we long for the day when Warren’s prayer is answered.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on A prayer unanswered