In the News
Thanks to the joint efforts of activist Christa Brown and SNAP, there was a lot in the news about the problems of clergy sexual abuse, especially of minors, in the days surrounding the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. At the convention, a motion was passed to look into developing a database of clergy who have been convicted, have confessed, or have been "credibly accused" of abuse.
To find out more, start with this set of articles from Associated Baptist Press
also from The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY
also from The Houston Chronicle
Just as I've repeatedly indicated, I do not consider this dramatic action to be more than a news item to watch with interest. With this denomination's move further and further away from the mainstream of theological thought and closer and closer toward a right-winged political agenda, even with the President of the United States lending his presence at this year's Convention, I will be very surprised to see any action that would do anything to jeopardize the continuance of male power and privilege that is embodied in Southern Baptist ministers now, just as much as it has been historically.
What is needed most, as I was quoted by Greg Warner as saying, is "a change of heart". That would mean a heart that does a confession and total about-face. From where I currently stand, that appears to be likely only in fantasy.
I fear that anyone hoping to see it or to see a positive outcome from this feasibility study is headed for a great fall. Certainly, I hope that I am wrong in my prediction.
Some of the most encouraging news I've received, however, came just as I was preparing to post this page. According to Julie Walters, Communications Specialist for the WMU (Woman's Missionary Union) the organization is "hosting a national WMU event October 17-20 in Little Rock, Arkansas, at Immanuel Baptist Church. During the meeting, Diana Garland, dean of the School of Social Work at Baylor University, will lead a workshop on ministering to the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Garland is the author of When Wolves Wear Shepherds' Clothing: Helping Women Survive Clergy Sexual Abuse. We hope to see this conference well attended as more people become aware of the problem and learn what they can do to help, while others who have been victimized may be encouraged as they seek healing." I hope so, too!
Historically, this group has worked hard for the betterment of women's lives. This has been one of many important focuses in its varied projects, as it has attempted to carry out what it envisions as the Mission of Jesus Christ. It has been bolder than any other organization in speaking out for the oppressed. Yet it has insisted on standing with autonomy since the beginning of the organization, deciding how much it will collaborate with the Convention leadership without being dependent upon them for funding. This is the very organization responsible for the largest non-Catholic mission program in the world. Without these women pushing toward lofty goals and standards, so many things would have been neglected.
The WMU has resisted coming under the control of the Convention, too. So this is the group where I have held the greatest hope for anything significant being done in the way of advocacy for victims and survivors.
Back in 1995-1996, in the pre-WEB days, when my writing was appearing in several "alternative" Baptist publications, I was more prone to fantasy. Every week, as I sorted through new snail mail generated from some of those hard-copy articles, I fully expected to find something from a Baptist woman other than thank-you notes from survivors. I fully expected someone to ask: "What can we do?"
How puzzling was the silence! The only words of encouragement from WMU leadership until this week came in a single e-mail in 2002, written in reply to a recent request, worded basically the same as in 1995. The respondent assured me that she knew there was a great need. She promised to get back, but never did. So my hope soon faded, but never died.
Now, in 2007, I will watch again with great interest and renewed hope, gladly posting positive developments as they come from this conference or the larger organization. I believe they have what it takes to make all of the difference, once again taking the risk of going against the grain and stepping up to the plate.
Meanwhile, I intend to continue offering survivors and advocates a place of solace and comfort, a place of resources for all who have ears to hear.
Dee Ann Miller