Yesterday Ronnie Floyd was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Congratulations! We should all be rooting for Dr. Floyd. I know I am. This is an important time in the life of our convention and we need strong, wise leadership coming from the Executive Committee. Let’s all commit to praying for Dr. Floyd as he assumes this important role at the EC.
Lost in the shuffle, though, were comments made by search committee chairman Steve Swofford regarding an article that appeared late last week in the Houston Chronicle. I do not know the exact context for the remarks, but I do know what was tweeted by Baptist Press. The tweet was deleted soon after it was sent, but screenshots are a wonderful thing.
Here’s the tweet:
I am told the tweet was deleted because the comments were made in executive session and therefore were not supposed to be tweeted. Executive session aside, one would assume that someone at the EC would see the problem with these comments. Even if the article was ‘pretty much all lies,’ Swofford’s comments are not a good look and reek of victim blaming.
I realize that Swofford said the article was ‘pretty much all lies.’ Still I am left wondering, which parts? We’ll assume that Swofford over-spoke. There’s no way that the article was ALL lies. Much of it recounts well-documented facts. So what are the lies?
Does Swofford contend that the primary allegation of the article–that a former youth pastor and the youth pastor’s assistant both molested prepubescent boys from FBC Rockwall in the 1990s–is false?
What about the allegation that Jason Austin was a convicted felon on parole for the 1989 molestation of a Houston boy at the time he worked for FBC Rockwall as youth pastor Billy Bob Burge’s assistant? Did Swofford and the church know about Austin’s criminal record? If not, why not? If so, why was Austin even allowed to work on church staff, much less with minors?
The article raises additional questions that demand answers. Why did Burge abruptly leave the church? At what point did Swofford find out about Burge’s alleged abuse? Was Burge employed at a church when Swofford found out about the alleged abuse? If so, did Swofford contact that church to let them know of the allegations.
My point here is not to answer these questions. I certainly do not wish to make assumptions. But the Houston Chronicle article raises serious questions that must be answered. It is not enough to say that the article was ‘pretty much all lies’ ‘from the headline to the last line.’ That is a shameful and embarrassing response.
This is an important first test for Dr. Floyd. How will he deal with this situation? Will he lead the Executive Committee to open an inquiry? Will he demand more answers from the man who served as the chairman of the committee who nominated him as president? Or will we pretend as if this never happened since Baptist Press deleted the tweet? I am hopeful that Dr. Floyd will lead Southern Baptists to respond well.
The world is watching.