Rally Speaker Remarks: Cheryl Summers
Cheryl Summers is the founder of For Such A Time As This Rally. Cheryl is a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor. She has spent most of her life as a Southern Baptist, and while she continues to be a person of deep faith, she left the Southern Baptist Convention five years ago due to concerns about abuse of all types within the denomination. Here are her remarks delivered at the 2019 For Such A Time As This Rally.
It seems like the Southern Baptists may have finally realized that the issue of abuse must be addressed, right? That’s what we’re hearing about what is taking place at the annual meeting. So, why are we out here today? Is this even necessary?
I want to read you a few lines from an SBC annual meeting resolution:
“RESOLVED, That we renounce individuals, churches, or other religious bodies that cover up, ignore, or otherwise contribute to or condone the abuse of children; and be it
“RESOLVED, That we … intercede on behalf of victimized children, asking God to … stop the cycle of abuse from repeating itself in another generation.”
(Full text of the resolution - including the reference to Lifeway training curriculum similar to the new Church Cares curriculum can be read at: http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/search/resolution.asp?ID=1173)
Sounds like those words were probably written recently, right? They weren’t.
These words are part of a resolution on abuse passed at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in San Antonio, TX.
Twelve years have gone by. The words of this resolution sound exactly like something we might hear today.
For children born in 2007, an ENTIRE CHILDHOOD has passed by without the SBC taking action. Children born in 2007 turn 12 years old this year.
Most victims of child sexual abuse fall between the ages of 12 and 17. (Source: www.rainn.org)
Resolutions and good intentions are not enough. Time’s up! Action must occur, and it must occur now.
Southern Baptists – Let’s get a little crazy and not take ANOTHER 12 years to do something!
I want to remind you about the 3 goals of the rally:
A clergy database must be established documenting confessed, convicted or credibly accused abusers.
Mandatory training to recognize and address abuse must be established.
Women must be treated with honor and dignity. Sadly, the low-view of women has contributed to an abuser-empowering church culture. We are going to hear a lot about sexual abuse at the annual meeting, but the silent scourge of domestic abuse is alive and well in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Author Gary Thomas recently said, “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”
One year ago, we held the first For Such A Time As This Rally in Dallas.
One year ago, there was no Sexual Abuse Study Group within the SBC. It exists today.
One year ago, training about abuse in the church did not exist for Southern Baptist churches. This week, the new Church Cares training protocol will be unveiled.
One year ago, Paige Patterson, the poster child for mishandling abuse disclosures, was scheduled to give the keynote address at the Annual Meeting. That never happened because people stood up and spoke up.
What we are doing matters! It’s making a difference. Keep standing up! Keep speaking up!
We will continue to speak for those who imagine that they are the only ones living a private nightmare.
We will continue to speak because there are well-meaning pastors who just don't know what they don't know and do tremendous damage to abuse survivors.
Scripture tells us that Nehemiah's heart broke over the disrepair of the walls around Jerusalem and the lack of protection for God's people. And so he took action. He started rebuilding the walls of protection.
There were those who tried to stop him. Sometimes church leaders worked with him. Other times, they secretly provided his enemies shelter.
It sounds a lot like our work, doesn’t it? We see some progress, but there’s a lot more work to be done. Action is needed.
We will continue to press for the protection of God’s people – for protection of the vulnerable. In Nehemiah 6:9, Nehemiah said - "They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So… I continued the work with even greater determination."
Discouragement and fatigue are not on the agenda.
Don’t stop the work. Press on! We do not have another 12 years to waste.
LET’S CONTINUE THE WORK WITH EVEN GREATER DETERMINATION!