Is the Southern Baptist Convention Really Pro-Choice?

Is the Southern Baptist Convention Really Pro-Choice? February 17, 2019
Photo Credit: JR Korpa for Unsplash

I have been exploring a question:

Is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) really pro-choice?

An investigation by Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express news have found that  approximately 380  Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have faced sexual misconduct allegations.

According the report:

That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned… They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions. About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.

Did you catch it?

Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

I think these practices suggest that SBC is pro-life in their talk, but not their walk. In other words, it was acceptable to shame people who were pro-choice, until someone involved in ministry abuses a person that results in pregnancy.

Pro-life seems to be more concerned with unborn babies without regard to once they are born.

Is the SBC pro-fetus and anti-life, perhaps?

If you are only pro-life until your pastor engages in predatory behavior, then what are you? Situational-life? Conditional-Life? Predatory-Life?

The SBC’s position about the Sanctity of Life states:

“…At the moment of conception, a new being enters the universe, a human being, a being created in God’s image. This human being deserves our protection, whatever the circumstances of conception.”

The SBC can reflect pro-life beliefs by becoming proponents of the very lives seeking refuge, support, and community in churches across this country.

Here is a message of salvation:  Save your drama and shaming about unborn babies because you are ignoring the pastor who preys upon them after they are born.

Many of the victims were adolescent. However, there were victims as young as three years of age.

Why are these lives being ignored, unprotected, and preyed upon?

Politics Over Lives

The feelings of evangelicals about their political support seems to take priority over the feelings and trauma of survivors of the predatory behavior in the SBC denomination. The concerns about churches who affirm LGBTQ people seems to take greater concern, too.

The report contends,

Other leaders have acknowledged that Baptist churches are troubled by predators but that they could not interfere in local church affairs. Even so, the SBC has ended its affiliation with at least four churches in the past 10 years for affirming or endorsing homosexual behavior. The SBC governing documents ban gay or female pastors, but they do not outlaw convicted sex offenders from working in churches.

Therefore, the autonomous structure of the 47,000 churches within the  SBC does not excuse the ways these issues have been poorly addressed (a generous description of the handling of this systemic problem).

Churches have power to come together to affect change. They have organized in attempt to influence SBC decisions/direction.

If churches within the SBC can threaten to withhold support because of their disapproval in Dr. Russell Moore’s leadership of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) (for his criticism of evangelical support of Trump during the election), then they can put the same kinds of efforts into addressing the predatory behavior.

If about 100 churches can threaten to end their donations to the SBC’s Cooperative Program, which supports the ERLC, six seminaries, two missions agencies, and other programs and initiatives, arguably the churches have the capability to unite in concerted action.

Unfortunately, all of these churches did not go Bone Threats-N-Harmony against the SBC to improve the way the denomination handled reports of sexual misconduct.

 

Although survivors have pleaded with them to action, the Southern Baptist Convention has failed to respond to the problems across the congregations.

By respond, I mean systemic and institutional reform.

Over the past two decades, approximately 35 church workers, leaders, and volunteers who engaged in predatory behavior regained employment at churches.

Writing a resolution  or statement provides some support. On the other hand, if long-standing predatory behavior is ignored, they become empty words.

In order to effectively prevent and humanely resolve predatory behavior across the denomination, organizational change needs to follow without using “forgiveness” and “reconciliation” as tools to manipulate survivors and their families.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are two words often used by Christians (and non-Christians) to protect and cover abusers. They are wielded against survivors to avoid dealing with the problem.

Closing: Come Down from the Mountain

Given the devastation of lives in the name of ministry, it seems like we, the church, need to descend from our holy mountains for a come-to-Jesus meeting with ourselves.

These meetings are tough, clarifying, transformational, and most of all necessary in this age.

As a follower of the path of Christ, my beliefs have changed over the years from being pro-life to pro-choice. I used to doggedly believe that being pro-life was synonymous with pleasing God.

The pro-life path can and has easily become another way of exerting religious control. The letter of the law rules in a way that contradicts the proclaimed liberty in Christ.

This way of living can/has led to corruption, whereas Christians become heavily invested in the public performance of our religious beliefs, despite hidden predatory behavior.  If religiosity can lend toward this behavior in individuals, it can evolve into cultural norms within a local congregation to an entire denomination of thousands of churches.

As an institution, this letter of the law path has involved preserving a spotless church façade at the expense of the lives of the members. Self-veneration for fighting against pro-choice has blinded numerous Christians from recognizing this concern.

Will more eyes open in the Southern Baptist Convention to do something about it?

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  • Connie Beane

    I’m not sure what you mean by the SBC being “really pro-choice,” but pressuring someone to have an abortion is no more pro-choice than pressuring someone not to have one. This is one of the things that anti-abortionists fail to understand about their drive to enlist the power of the state (the government) to enforce their side of the choice equation. Once the power is ceded, it can be used to compel as well as prohibit the act in question.

  • @RaceandGrace

    Thank you for raising a point about the potential ramification of using “power over” to create policies.