Editor’s note: Due to the sensitive information shared in this column, the name of the writer is being withheld at the discretion of the editor.
The Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) report was released two weeks ago. There’s been a lot of reaction to its findings and opinions are widely varied. To some degree the survivors are still lost in the sea of rhetoric. Every one of them is a person with a story.
I have my own.
I have been a member of our denomination since I came to faith 31 years ago. I have been fortunate, unlike many women in our convention, to be championed and encouraged in ministry. I attended one of our Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and have worked for an SBC entity or organization for more than 13 years.
I skimmed the SATF report, but I did not read it in its entirety. I probably won’t.
What I read stirred up memories and pain from my own experiences. I have had so many thoughts and feelings as I have tried to understand what appears to be an extensive cover up of abuse, ongoing silencing of victims and a disregard for vulnerable people.
People. Not impersonal commodities to be discussed in a faceless bulk, but individual people. Sisters in Christ.
For far too long, men in leadership within our convention have made decisions in secret, kept silent or silenced others. Noticeably lacking from the SATF report is even a hint of compassion toward abuse victims.
I cannot understand why these men of God did not heed the wisdom of Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.”
As an overseas missionary, I was groped or grabbed by more men than I care to remember from the country where I served. I was in other potentially dangerous situations that, by God’s grace, I escaped without physical harm.
On more than one occasion when I shared these experiences with coworkers, I was met with responses like, “Are you sure?” or “Maybe you misunderstood,” or “Could you be overreacting?”
Thankfully, there were other coworkers and leadership who loved, encouraged and cared for me well. I did, however, learn who not to share my experiences with, so as not to endure more embarrassment when I was doubted or dismissed.
I share this because I know what it is to be questioned when I chose to be vulnerable about a situation that was frightening and hard. I know the shame and embarrassment that comes when trusted men doubted and dismissed me. I grieve to know other women might not have had caring, godly men to hear them and support them.
I have tried to wrap my mind around how supposed men of God could dismiss or malign so many women and ignored countless victimized innocent children. I wish the words of Micah had resounded in their ears in the moment they decided to dismiss, ignore or shame vulnerable and hurting victims: “Mankind, he has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
To them: Why didn’t you act? God has not required you to protect institutions or maintain your circles of power.
The last few days I have thought a lot about Jesus and what we know of His earthly life. I have reread accounts of Jesus’ encounters with different women. And I have looked at the groups of men with whom He most often interacted.
Jesus welcomed the formerly demon possessed Mary Magdalene to walk with His followers during His ministry. Jesus stood in the gap for the adulterous woman and rebuked her accusers; the religious elite.
Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman when her community had ostracized her. Jesus accepted the tearful anointing of the sinful woman and admonished the self-righteous Pharisee.
On the other hand, it was the religious elite who shamed hurting people. The religious elite ignored the weak and vulnerable. The religious elite shook with rage at the thought of losing their power. The religious elite held secret meetings to preserve their establishment. And ultimately it was the religious elite who plotted to murder Jesus.
To the godly men who have reflected Jesus to me, championed me, encouraged me and heard me, thank you and may others follow your example. Sadly, as I look at some leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention, I do not see a reflection of my Lord.
Brothers, I beg you, walk humbly with our God. Purpose from this point forward to act justly. Love mercy and listen to the voices you have ignored and silenced for so long, They are people, with a story.
And they deserve to be heard. B&R