June 6, 2013

Will New Southern Baptist Leadership Improve Approach to Clergy Sex Abuse?

Logo of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Logo of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't imagine most atheists follow the Southern Baptist leadership all that closely. Why would they? But 'round these parts, it pays to know what is going on with the vast Southern Baptist majority. Maybe that's why this story grabbed my attention.

According to Religion News Service, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is "the public policy arm for the Southern Baptist Convention." Since 1988, Richard Land has led the ERLC and has been responsible for their efforts to "rally social conservatives in the nation's culture wars." Yes, so we have Land to thank for all the damage that has brought.

The ERLC now has new leadership in the form of Russell Moore, a native of Mississippi.
“I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Southern Baptists as ERLC president,” said Moore in a statement. “I pray for God’s grace to lead the ERLC to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the gospel in the world.”
One of the big differences between Land and Moore appears to be Moore's interest in computers, the Internet, and social media to spread his message. Another seems to be that Moore speaks of "convictional kindness" while Land sought to create "green berets and paratroopers of God's army." It will be interesting to see if these differences translate into meaningful differences in policy.

But most interesting of all, to me at least, is whether Moore will differ from his predecessor in his willingness to acknowledge and confront the problem of clergy abuse by Southern Baptist pastors. As Stop Baptist Predators recently asked:
“Convictional kindness.” What do you think that means with respect to the denomination’s do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse? Will there be any change?
It seems like this could be a real opportunity for Southern Baptists to stop ignoring clergy abuse and adopt some of the measures used by other Protestant denominations to protect children from abusive clergy. With Moore's apparent media-savvy nature, he should at least be in a position to recognize the value of finally addressing the problem.

Of course, I'm not sure it is realistic to expect that Moore could implement such sweeping changes even if he wanted to. Nor is it sufficiently clear yet whether he might want to. Of Moore, Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler said:
He will be an outstanding president who will make Southern Baptists proud and who will make the enemies of Christ tremble.
Are you trembling yet?

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