The post above, from the blog Stop Baptist Predators by Christa Brown, makes an interesting point. The SBC executive committee is investigating Broadway Baptist Church of Ft. Worth to see if its policy on homosexuality is consistent with an SBC bylaw that declares churches to “not be in friendly cooperation” with the convention if they approve, affirm or endorse homosexual behavior. It is apparently known that Broadway has five gay members, of whom two serve on some sort of church committee. The church insists that it does not endorse or approve homosexuality, and that it desires to remain in friendly cooperation with the SBC.
But, Christa Brown points out that no such action has been forthcoming from the executive committee regarding churches where known child molesters and abusers either serve on staff or as pastor, and she cites several examples, including Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, where current pastor Steve Gaines apparently allowed an abuser to remain on staff for some time after his abuse was disclosed, and a church in Sanger, Texas where an abuser continues to serve as pastor.
Neither the SBC nor the state convention, and for that matter the local association, has the authority or the power to tell a church who can serve as its pastor, or who it can hire on its staff. And as a supporter of and believer in local church autonomy, I completely support that position. The only thing a Baptist convention body can do, in cases where there is evidence that a church has done something that is either too far outside the bounds of acceptable conduct to be considered “in friendly cooperation,” or that it is no longer doctrinally or theologically compatible with the standards laid down by the churches themselves, is to sever ties. So Christa has a point here. If Broadway is under investigation, then why are these other churches, especially those where the abusers continue to serve, not under investigation also? All it would require, apparently, is a motion from the floor of a convention.
The other question that is raised here is one of practicality. The members of a local church do have the authority to determine who pastors their church and who works for them on staff. So why are some of these guys still there? I’ve discovered, in the past few weeks, during the process of hiring a director for a day care center, that anyone whose signature goes on a piece of documentation related to the care of children must go through an FBI fingerprint background check. If that’s what the law requires, why don’t local churches require it?