I am deeply grieved by what I am reading online about the crisis at my alma mater, Southwestern Seminary. It is devastating to me learning of the women who have been hurt through this crisis. I have been a Southern Baptist (SBC) my whole life, all 44 years. Born and raised in a Southern Baptist church (baptized at age 7). I attended a Southern Baptist university for 4 years (BS degree), attended a Southern Baptist seminary 4 years (earned Master of Divinity degree in 2001), full-time pastored Southern Baptist churches for 5 years, bivocational preacher for scores of Southern Baptist churches for the past 12 years and currently a nonprofit executive. No one asked me but this is what I would do if asked to help the Southern Baptist Convention survive for another generation.
These 6 steps are my suggestions for how we can learn and grow as a convention.
- Pray, fast, weep and humble ourselves before God and plead for His mercy.
- In light of the rape reporting crisis with Paige Patterson and Southeastern Seminary (link to Washington Post article), proactively open the doors and have each of the 6 SBC seminaries audited regarding their past handling of rape and sexual assault by an independent organization like GRACE, led by Billy Graham’s grandson Boz Tchividjian. Boz Tchividjian is a law professor and the executive director of the nonprofit GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. Let the chips fall where they may and be very public in the results while still protecting the identity of victims. We must ask again and again where have our schools failed, how can the victims be supported and how do we move forward?
- Immediately, make training mandatory (if it is not already) for students in our seminaries preparing for the pastorate to recognize and respond to abuse, using highly skilled practitioners. Make public the steps being taken in this area.
- The fourth step from recovery programs is perform “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” SBC needs to do this, fully listen to our sisters in Christ (start with the courageous names on this list https://swbtsletter.com) and fully examine why the convention has not shown utmost respect to women.
- We must go above and beyond the #MeToo movement and lead the way in protecting women, bringing justice to the oppressed and healing to victims of sexual assault. God demands we bring hope and healing to the broken. Micah 6:8–“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus was revolutionary in how He treated women and the respect and love He gave them. We should be like Him.
- Russell Moore says it well, “There would be no Southern Baptist Convention without Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. We desperately need a resurgence of women’s voices and women’s leadership and women’s empowerment, again. It is way past time.”