After reviewing thousands of pages of legal documents over six months, the Houston Chronicle found that 380 Southern Baptist pastors and church officials were accused of a myriad of sexual assault charges including everything from groping to rape.
The Houston Chronicle published a more than 5,000-word article on Sunday – the first of three installments – detailing the acts of sexual abuse by several prominent Southern Baptist Convention pastors and leaders on more than 700 victims over 20-years.
The outlet notes that they took on this project in order to create a comprehensive list that details sexual abuse, assault and misconduct by SBC Church leaders after abuse victims demanded a list in 2007 and never got one.
According to the Houston Chronicle, since 1998, approximately 380 SBC leaders and volunteers “have faced allegations of sexual misconduct.” Of the 380 SBC leaders accused, 220 have been convicted, nearly 100 are still in prison and more than 100 are now registered sex offenders. While some leaders did serve jail time, the Houston Chronicle reports that others of them – some registered sex offenders – are still working in SBC churches today.
The Houston Chronicle focused on nine specific men in Sunday’s article. 2016 SBC President Steve Gaines is listed with three other former SBC presidents – Paige Patterson, 1998; Jerry Vines, 1988; Edwin Young, 1992 – for being accused of “mishandling allegations of abuse.”
Others accused of sexual misconduct include 2002 SBC Vice President Paul Pressler, 2006 SBC President Frank S. Page, and former Pastors Darrell Gilyard, John Forse and Chad Foster.
One example of abuse happened at Houston’s Second Baptist Church where Edwin Young has been the lead pastor since 1992. At 14-years-old, Heather Schneider admitted to her mother that she was molested in a choir room at church. According to the Houston Chronicle, the attacker pled no contest in court and the church denied responsibility, waiting five months before firing Schneider’s attacker. Gwen Casados, Schneider’s mother, told the Houston Chronicle that a day after the attack, in 1994, Schneider slit her wrists. The then teenager survived the suicide attempt but later died from a drug overdose. Casados blamed the attack for her daughter’s downward spiral saying after the abuse, “I never got her back.”
According to the Interim President of the SBC’s Executive Committee August Boto, SBC churches operate autonomously and there is no means of authority to enforce rules over all 47,000 SBC churches as a whole. Boto credits this as a reason why abuse victim Debbie Vasquez’s 2008 request for the SBC to “track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers” as well as her request for prevention policies was rejected.
Activist and victim Christa Brown told the Houston Chronicle that SBC’s lack of protective policies for sex abuse victims is dangerous. She said, “It’s a perfect profession for a con artist, because all he has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he’s been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister.”
She continued, “Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power, and it all starts in some small church.”
“It’s a porous sieve of a denomination,” she added.
-By Kayla Koslosky
(This article first appeared at christianheadlines.com and has been reproduced in full)
With more than 15 million members as of 2015, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States of America and the second-largest Christian denomination in the US after the Catholic Church. They are part of the world-wide Evangelical movement, a group of Christian fundamentalists focussed on aggressive proselytization in the 10/40 window (countries falling within latitude 10 north to 40 north of the equator – consisting of Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist population).
Since the end of the Cold War, US Government has encouraged “Christian faith-based organisations” (including evangelicals) to carry out their work around the world. US missionaries have become an arm of US foreign policy, and in 1998 the Clinton administration created a federal government commission USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) to monitor ‘religious freedom’ internationally – USCIRF has been accused to be a front for American missionaries which targets countries resisting evangelical proselytization & conversion of native people.
Evangelicals have extremely hateful stances towards non-Christians, especially those who are non-Abrahamic ‘idol-worshippers.’ For eg, the Southern Baptist Convention released a guide to Hindus in 1999 with such offensive statements as the following, “Mumbai is a city of spiritual darkness. Eight out of every 10 people are Hindu, slaves bound by fear and tradition to false gods.”
SBC also runs the International Mission Board – whose mission is to ‘penetrate’ the unevangelized world outside the US and Canada. With regards to Bharat’s booming economy, IMB wrote in 2016, “Economic growth means expanding business opportunities, which in turn means an unprecedented open door for Christian business people from around the world to literally set up shop among these peoples.“
As Linda Kay Klein, who went to an evangelical church while growing up and later wrote the book “Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free,” writes in this article, the fact that most evangelical churches are self-governing means they have lacked the kind of bureaucratic record that might prove systemic abuse the way it’s been documented in Catholic churches. Which makes the ground-breaking work by Houston Chronicle so important.
Based on her 13-year research Klein surmises that religious authoritarianism and purity culture — hallmarks of both Catholicism and evangelicalism, among other groups — can enable sexual violence. An evangelical pastor is seen as hand-selected or approved by God by his parishioners.
Abuse victims who speak out are often shamed and blamed for trying to bring down a ‘godly man’, or of turning people away from the church by casting it in a poor light. Girls are taught to accept male authority in the church and at home, and told that it is their responsiblity to not ‘tempt’ men. In a way, Klein says, the abuser don’t just groom victims, they groom entire communities, preparing them to rise up and protect them.
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