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HomeReligiousThese Southern Baptist sex-abuse battles aren't nearly Southern Baptists — GetReligion

These Southern Baptist sex-abuse battles aren’t nearly Southern Baptists — GetReligion

The Southern Baptist Conference’s ongoing fights about how one can deal with sexual-abuse claims towards ministers and different church personnel and volunteers is an ideal instance of the type of story that drives newspaper editors loopy.

It’s huge and sophisticated and it looks like one thing loopy or necessary (or each) occurs each different day. However it additionally looks like it’s not possible to yank a giant, dramatic headline out of this sprawling, sophisticated story.

The story by no means appears to finish and the quantity of background materials wanted — in story after story after story — makes it not possible to cowl these things in tidy 500-word tales. But when a newsroom skips a number of of the key developments, that makes it even tougher to get again within the recreation and clarify to readers what is occurring. Oh, and did I point out that newsroom managers just about need to assign a reporter to this story full-time or close to full-time? That’s costly this present day. Clearly, this reporter has to have religion-beat expertise and communicate fluent Southern Baptist.

On the similar time, in my expertise, there’ll virtually at all times be one or two editors who say (or suppose) one thing like this: “I do know the SBC is large and there are billions of {dollars} concerned and we now have plenty of Southern Baptist church buildings (and possibly a school) in our information territory, however … I don’t ‘get’ why this story actually issues to common readers. I imply, it’s not about sports activities or politics or one thing necessary (to me).”

As a Charlotte editor as soon as advised me, after I was poised to interrupt a national-level SBC story within the early Nineteen Eighties: No one reads these things however fanatics and each time you write about it we get too many letters to the editor.

This brings us to this week’s “Crossroads” podcast, which focuses on why the SBC’s struggles with sexual-abuse are necessary, and NOT simply to Southern Baptists (click on right here to tune that in). The bottom line is to establish main tales LINKED to sexual-abuse scandals that contain moral, ethical, authorized and theological points that may be seen in non secular teams of every kind (and lots of secular nonprofits and organizations as nicely). For example this, let me inform you a narrative about an necessary evangelical counseling pioneer — the late Dr. Louis McBurney, founding father of the Marble Retreat Middle in Colorado.

McBurney was a Mayo Clinic stage physician and counselor who labored with “crashed” clergy and their spouses, making an attempt to save lots of marriages. Anxiousness, stress and workaholism (and loopy church members) had been huge points. As one pastor put it: “There’s nothing mistaken with my church that would not be solved by a number of well-placed funerals.” See this 2009 “On Faith” tribute to McBurney: “Reminiscence everlasting: Healer for the healers.”

The underside line: The overwhelming majority of the instances he dealt with additionally concerned sexual affairs and associated points, since that was what “crashed” the system in most church buildings. Let me stress that sexual-abuse was not concerned in all and even most of those instances. However, to say the least, there have been instances — particularly these involving youth ministers — during which every kind of strains had been being blurred.

Most of the issues concerned a pattern — “pastoral counseling” — that, beginning within the Seventies or thereabouts, started to form the lives of pastors in each possible non secular custom. The entire concept was that pastors might — typically with little or no formal coaching — function “counselors” for troubled members of their flocks. This usually left male clergy one-on-one with girls who wanted assist dealing with a wedding or household disaster. Many pastors, to be blunt, weren’t educated to deal with this. In that 2009 column I put it this manner:

Ministers might spend as much as half their workplace hours counseling, which could be dangerous since most ministers are males and most lively church members are girls. If a lady bares her soul, and her pastor responds by sharing his personal private ache, the end result could be “as damaging and decisive as reaching for a zipper,” McBurney mentioned.

You possibly can think about many different variations on that scene, together with pastors serving to cover abuse in households and failing to assist girls get the skilled, and even authorized, assist that they wanted.

Abuse? Hiding abuse? In lots of instances, sure.

The “pastoral counseling” puzzle is a narrative — a giant story in church buildings, synagogues and different non secular establishments from coast to coast.



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