[The headline is not a direct quote, lest anyone not read what is written beside the headline.]
There are more than an dozen articles on this site that deal with our practice of local church autonomy. May I link just one of these by a distinguished member of the SBCV team: Autonomy is a reality, not an excuse. In that article are some quotes that might summarize the attitude of many in regard to this principle and practice that individual churches make their own decisions,
Stop making autonomy an excuse for doing nothing about clergy sex abuse…
The SBC needs to deal with the issue and not hide behind autonomy…
Autonomy is a bogus excuse, a smoke screen…
It my observation that, generally, SBC pastors and others are less likely and less vocal about noting and explaining local church autonomy. I have no data, just anecdotes and I may be off target with this observation.
On the subject of autonomy and Baptist polity, read the Baptist Press article on a civil case in South Carolina with allegations that involve a former youth pastor of a church affiliated with the South Carolina and Southern Baptist Conventions. The state paper in SC, The Baptist Courier, did the reporting on this.
Note that the former youth pastor is being sued, the church is being sued, the state convention is being sued, and the Southern Baptist Convention is being sued.
Legal layman here but I think I understand that lawyers sue everyone.
Here is the statement of the SBC Executive Committee counsel
In a statement to Baptist Press, Gene Besen, counsel to the SBC Executive Committee, called individual acts of abuse “heinous and intolerable,” adding: “[W]hile the Southern Baptist Convention is committed to vanquishing all incidents of abuse, the SBC cannot be liable for the conduct of an individual it was never even aware of who was employed by a church it cannot control.”
“Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous,” Besen wrote. “The SBC plays no role in selecting, appointing, promoting, moving, or terminating pastors.”
These are straightforward statements on the realities regarding polity in SBC life: “never even aware of…employed by a church it cannot control.”
The EC (nor any state convention or entity) doesn’t ordain, hire, supervise, discipline, transfer, nor fire any local church pastors. The local church does that and always has. I assume that the South Carolina Baptist Convention lawyer would make the same kind of statement. Plug in the usual exceptions for connections through funding and training for NAMB planters and the like, a small fraction of the 150,000 or so clergy actively serving in SBC local churches.
This is the reality on the ground.
We now have the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force working on behalf of the SBC. Messengers voted that this be done. The ARITF was specifically instructed by messengers to do their work …in accordance to “best practices in keeping with Southern Baptist church polity”. I have no evidence that the ARITF is doing anything contrary to this and presume that the TF members are all highly knowledgeable about our polity.
I hope that the product of the TF is such that abuse is less likely to happen in any individual, autonomous SBC affiliated church.