Thursday, November 10, 2011
Al Mohler Wakes Up... Finally!
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a good article about lessons Southern Baptists can learn from the firing of Penn State's Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier and the arrest of former assistant coach and perpetrator, Jerry Sandusky, as well as the indictments of the former AD, Tim Curley, and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, Gary Schultz. Heads have most certainly rolled at Penn State this week. The grand jury's findings can be read in full here.
Mohler concludes, "The detonation of the Penn State scandal must shake the entire nation into a new moral awareness. Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable."
Are you just now realizing this, Dr. Mohler? Or did the worldwide reporting of such a large scandal at a big-name university involving a legendary coach force you to no longer be able to remain silent?
Mohler continues: Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.
There's a lot of truth in that paragraph, but actually, Dr. Mohler, it's an illegal act not to report. Let's stop sugar-coating premeditated crimes by calling them "moral failures" or "sins" or merely "mistakes." (See Sammy Nuckolls.) Many times, as with the Penn State story, they're a lot more concerned with protecting "the brand" or some good old boy's job or career than they are with making a false accusation or the protection of children.
A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers.
News flash! That ship has sailed. The church and "Christian" organizations already are safe havens for abusers! It's the blatant lack of accountability, trust in "men of God" just because they say they're "called by God" and can quote scripture and toss out spiritual sound bites, and the unwillingness by church leadership to report abuse or suspicion thereof to the authorities and their congregations that have resulted in churches being safe havens for these perverts for years. (Another one from Bellevue's past has recently come to light, and a lot of people apparently knew about him. One former staffer was quoted as saying they knew this guy was a "pedophile" for years but no one was willing to contact authorities.) Will Mohler publicly (or privately) criticize church leaders who are guilty of covering for confessed child molesters? Or will he continue to speak at their churches and invite them to speak at SBTS chapel services? Mohler spoke at Bellevue as recently as June of this year.
Greg Belser, who covered for John Langworthy, spoke to SBTS students and faculty at their October 25th chapel service.
Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities. A clear lesson of the Penn State scandal is this: Internal reporting is simply not enough.
Again, it's taken the Penn State scandal to clarify this for you?
After law enforcement authorities have been notified, the church must conduct its own work of pastoral ministry, care, and church discipline. This is the church’s responsibility and charge. But these essential Christian ministries and responsibilities are not substitutes for the proper function of law enforcement authorities and the legal system. As Christians, we respect those authorities because we are commanded to do so.
Yes! Amen! GLO ree! Thank you! It's about time! But why is a man of Mohler's impressive credentials just now seeming to grasp this concept when most of the sheeple in the pews and, for that matter, "the world," haven't had to pause for one second to consider what to do in a situation like this?
The other day Mohler decided to crack open the policy handbook for the institution he's headed for almost 19 years and discovered that the seminary's policy on reporting of any sexual abuse, even that of a child, could have conceivably led to another Penn State situation. Oops! Dodged a bullet there, didn't we?
I discovered yesterday that the policy handbook of the institution I am proud to lead calls for any employee receiving a report of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, to contact his or her supervisor with that report. That changes today. The new policy statement will direct employees receiving such a report to contact law enforcement authorities without delay. Then, after acting in the interests of the child, they should contact their supervisor.
While I applaud Mohler for finally educating himself on his school's policies and changing the policy immediately... better late than never as they say, with all the publicity in recent years about the numerous cases of sexual abuse, often involving children, within Southern Baptist churches, I can only wonder why it took a story on the scale of the Penn State scandal to awaken Mohler.
Christa Brown, SNAP representatives, and others have been trying to get the attention of Southern Baptists for years only to be at best ignored and many times demonized, maybe not by Mohler himself (he seems to have remained silent) but by many of his peers. Frank Page described some who speak out against clergy sex abuse "opportunistic persons who are seeking to raise opportunities for personal gain." Did Dr. Mohler ever renounce Frank Page's statement? Paige Patterson called them evil-doers. Did Dr. Mohler call him out? All I heard was crickets.
FBC Jax Watchdog has written a good series of articles on the Penn State story:
At Least in College Football, Failing to Report a Molester Is a Crime - But How Does Joe Paterno Still Have a Job?
The Ugly Truth About Joe Paterno and the Sandusky Rape of 10 Year Old - And What We Can Learn From It
Paterno Out: A Legendary Football Coach is Held Accountable for Turning Blind Eye Toward a Pervert
Let's see what happens now.
1. Will Al Mohler have the courage to reintroduce the motion Wade Burleson proposed at the 2007 SBC?
2. Will he lead the rally to support Burleson or another messenger who proposes a similar motion in 2012?
3. Will Mohler now implement mandatory training for all seminary students in how to handle any knowledge or even suspicion of sexual abuse? (This shouldn't be "uncharted waters," but apparently it still is for many, including seasoned pastors.)
4. Will he publicly rebuke Southern Baptist "ministers" who are caught committing these crimes? Not to publicly humiliate them but to warn people about these wolves. Or will he continue merrily on with his CBMW agenda warning against the evils of women teaching men, not submitting to their husbands, and young people not getting married as soon as possible and popping out as many babies as nature allows?
5. Will he now begin to publicly rebuke Southern Baptist pastors who knowingly cover for confessed child molesters? Or will he continue to bring them in to speak in chapel services and fill the pulpits of their churches? The "elite" among the SBC seem to think they're "appointed by God." Someone needs to explain to them that while they may be called by God to preach, they are hired by people to perform a job. Otherwise they wouldn't be so concerned about their salaries (and keeping them a secret).
This 2006 BP article illustrates this point precisely. Translation: We are appointed by God, we are being "persecuted" because we are "God's men," and you are to overlook any wrongdoing by us "men of God" because we are... "appointed by God." You can't touch us. Just shut up, grab a broom, and help us sweep it all under the rug.
As David Clohessy, national director of SNAP said, "It's easy to say stuff; harder to do stuff." So will Mohler now "do stuff" or will a change to the handbook, which apparently even the president himself hadn't read until this week, be Mohler's only response? Come on, Al. Do the right thing! Don't just say stuff, DO STUFF!
November 18th update:
We're making progress...
AlbertMohler.com >> My Letter to the Southern Seminary Community: Our Duty to Report