Why We Still Need To Rally: Current Failures In The SBC
Updated: May 31, 2019
The For Such A Time As This Rally will be held in Birmingham, AL June 11th at 5 PM outside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center
Rally representatives, Cheryl Summers and Ashley Easter, have met repeatedly via conference call with a representative of SBC President JD Greear’s office and a representative of the SBC’s ERLC since July of 2018. We have diligently expressed our concerns and recommendations for safe practices. When we expressed to them earlier this spring that the For Such A Time As This Rally would again gather outside of the Annual Southern Baptist Convention, we gauged their reactions to be one of surprise as if a rally was no longer necessary.
While a few small positive steps have been taken by the SBC their response has largely been words without significant action.
Below is a small sampling of urgent concerns regarding the Southern Baptist Convention. For Such A Time As This will go forward with its rally on June 11 in order to draw public attention to the issue of abuse and cover ups in the Southern Baptist Convention.
SBC Concerns and Failures:
For years advocates have been calling for an abuser database but the SBC has still failed to create one. Without a denominational structure for actually tracking reports of abuse, everything else is little more than window dressing.
No independent investigation of the SBC
The SBC is in crisis and we believe a truly independent investigation of their entire denomination is necessary. The SBC has proven over decades that they are not competent to self-investigate.
President JD Greear will not meet with representatives of the For Such A Time As This Rally
The For Such A Time As This Rally spokesperson, Ashley Easter, requested a meeting with SBC President JD Greear in July of 2018. She received a reply from one of his staff and was invited to Greear’s offices for a meeting. It was strongly implied that Greear would do his best to attend the meeting. When he did not attend the meeting it was strongly implied that there would be other times he would be willing and able to meet. Despite continued requests and even a recent by chance run-in with JD Greear at a coffee shop (where Ashley introduced herself and told him she had been trying to meet with him since July of 2018 which he acknowledged) no meeting has been allowed between the SBC President and the most vocal internationally reported upon group resisting abuse and cover-ups in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Refusal to provide a resource room or table for the For Such A Time As This Rally
Since October of 2018, the For Such A Time As This Rally has diligently requested that the SBC provide a room or table at the SBC annual convention so we could provide resources, flyers with safety information, and a safe space for survivors to share their stories. After months of stringing us along and failing to answer our request, just weeks before the convention the SBC has refused.
Not allowed to use outdoor space at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center for the rally
SBC representatives have consistently and repeatedly told us they want the same safety from abuse that we want; they have thanked us for our efforts and even asked for rally details implying they might know people who would want to join us. And in promoting the SBC’s planned “sexual abuse” panel for the convention, they claim that they want the SBC to focus on “protecting and caring for victims” rather than “defending ourselves and our institutions.” But their words don’t match their deeds. Cheryl Summers traveled to Birmingham this spring where she visited the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center where the SBC Convention will be held and identified a huge public space outdoors that would be ideal to hold the rally. We requested the rally be allowed to respectfully use this space. Despite their statements of purported “caring,” SBC representatives refused access to this large public area forcing us to make plans to meet on smaller sidewalks. They also rejected even our simple request for a resource table, as noted above.
The SBC’s International Mission Board (IMB) failed to encourage abuse victims to report to the police or FBI in a leaked email
Survivor Anne Miller released an email she and other survivors received from IMB asking for survivors to make internal reports of abuse but did not encourage reporting to the police or FBI in the email. This is a stunning failure as the SBC has proved repeatedly they are not capable of handling abuse in house. Abuse survivors should always be encouraged to report abuse to the police.
Survivor Anne Miller was promised a book deal by LifeWay and then rejected last minute
LifeWay, the product selling arm of the SBC, promised to publish Anne Miller’s book for survivors of abuse but shut down the deal after they found out Miller could not support pressuring victims abused in SBC churches to go back to church even if they did not feel this was safe for their healing process. This seems to indicate the SBC is more concerned with filling pews than following best practices for trauma victims.
Jules Woodson’s problematic pastor is still on staff
Jules Woodson made international news when she went public with her story of abuse by SBC pastor Andy Savage. Since going public all pastors involved in the abuse or coverup have stepped down except SBC pastor Steve Bradley of Stonebridge Church. Jules Woodson sent him a formal letter of which he still has refused to respond to. With such a public case why would the SBC not be investigating pastor Steve Bradley’s continued church leadership?
Sovereign Grace Ministries Rejects Independent Investigation
Sovereign Grace Ministries has long been the subject of discussion due to the many serious claims of abuse and coverup. When SBC President JD Greear called for an inquiry into the infamous SBC church SGM has continued to reject independent investigations and has done so without any consequence or significant rebuke from the SBC. We do not believe the SBC is requiring them to submit to investigation to stay within the denomination.
Executive Committee’s “surprise” announcement cavalierly absolving 7 churches of abuse investigation
SBC President JD Greear called for a review of 10 SBC churches due to abuse allegations. The Executive Committee, within a matter of days, made a “surprise” announcement clearing 7 of the 10 churches without a sufficient independent investigation.
SBC survivor and longtime advocate Christa Brown continues to be mistreated by the SBC
After the For Such A Time As This Rally pressed the SBC to speak to Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators, they finally reached out to her via an ERLC lawyer. Brown explained that initiating communication via attorney was not a good strategy for making survivors feel comfortable. She was then told she would be welcome to bring anyone she wished into the meeting to make her feel comfortable. Brown responded with 12 time-slots in which she would be available to talk with them and stated that she would invite a reporter to the meeting in order to feel more comfortable and to allay her concerns about the lack of transparency in the abuse “study” that they would be discussing. Rejecting Brown’s concern for transparency, they declined to go forward with the presence of a reporter.
No independently administered “safe place” office to which SBC abuse survivors can report clergy perpetrators with a reasonable expectation of being objectively and compassionately heard.
There is a pattern of being willing to talk about abuse generally as a problem in society, but a continued refusal among many SBC leaders to specifically address failures within the SBC itself.
Hosting panels on sexual abuse or passing resolutions about addressing abuse as a larger problem in society does nothing to actually keep the vulnerable safer in SBC churches. The SBC must recognize that the biggest threat comes from within. In February 2019, the then-interim president of the SBC’s Executive Committee Augie Boto called Rodney Brown, pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Georgia to apologize to the church after Trinity was named by J.D. Greear as a church who had failed to address abuse appropriately. Trinity was named because they had a confessed pedophile serving as “worship leader.” The “SBC Explainer” on Twitter said: “Per Pastor Brown, Augie Boto expressed via email and phone his sincerest support for the church and the pastor. He apologized for what has happened *to the church*. The interim president of the [Executive Committee] apologized to the church who knowingly hired a child molester.”
JD Greear, Russell Moore, and other SBC officials knew about abuse reports in the past but didn’t act until the media pressure was on them
Perhaps most disturbingly we must remind everyone that Greear, Moore and other SBC officials have known or should have known about the reality of abuse allegations for years in the past and failed to take substantive action. In almost every instance in which something has been done, it has happened only AFTER media exposure and so gives the appearance of self-serving damage-control maneuvers as opposed to pro-active attempts to responsibly address abuse.
This is why the For Such A Time As This Rally remains necessary, we must keep the public conversation going or we fear the Southern Baptist Convention will continue with convincing words without substantial action. Our goal is not only to demand that the Southern Baptist Convention discuss abuse, but that they actually follow through with vital action. We will not stop until the vulnerable in SBC churches are safe, and unfortunately we still do not believe this is the case.