Delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this summer voted overwhelmingly to create a task force to oversee an independent investigation into the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse.
The resolution calls for the newly elected SBC president, Alabama pastor Ed Litton, to appoint the task force, which will head up a review of allegations that the denomination’s Executive Committee mishandled abuse cases, intimidated victims and advocates and resisted reforms.
And from the floor of the Convention, something happened I never believed would have. Someone, other than his victims, was finally willing to publicly name the person that molested and raped myself and many other little boys.
Pastor Troy Bush said this:
“What we did not know then, we know now. And what we know should be important to Southern Baptists, especially Georgia Baptists.
We didn’t know Franklin “Frankie” Andrew Wiley, a student minister who served our church family, Rehoboth Baptist Church, Tucker, GA, in the early 1980s had molested 5 of our boys. We also didn’t know he sexually abused other boys at other Georgia Baptist churches before and after his time at Rehoboth.
We now know the names of each boy he assaulted in our church family. We know he assaulted 10 boys at 4 different Georgia Baptist churches. We know he assaulted an eleventh boy not in one of the churches. And we have credible-but-unconfirmed reports of 2 other boys at a Georgia Baptist church. We know that 3 weeks ago he served with the worship team of another Georgia Baptist church in a Sunday morning worship service.”
Sounds like positive steps, right?
It got me thinking about how long a-day coming this has been. For at least 40 years Wiley has been doing this to little boys. 15 years ago, I went to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) and told them. I was told by Kenneth Keene to be quiet and that they’d pray for me. This summer it was finally, publicly acknowledged from the floor of the Annual Meeting. And so, we waited to see what actions would be taken.
Since the time of the annual meeting, the following has transpired with the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF).
- They’ve been mired in who will pay for the investigation.
- The organization that has been mentioned to do the investigation, Guidepost Solutions LLC, seems to be more well known for defending predators than protecting victims.
- The supposed “broad” investigation will NOT cover individual church cases, only the Executive Committee.
- The SATF has formally requested “the Executive Committee to vote to waive attorney-client privilege”. Don’t hold your breath on this one. It’s going to be CYA in the SBC as per usual.
- We are told by the SATF, “We will be able to obtain expert recommendations for the Messengers to consider acting on, to help provide care for survivors of sexual abuse and respond appropriately to, allegations of abuse or mishandling abuse in the SBC. This, in turn, has a direct impact on abuse prevention.”
Really? You think so? This quote, much like the itinerary outlined by Guidepost, has a lot of great sounding words. But words are just that, words. Static, and exactly like the SBC has been toward victims of abuse…nonoperational.
How are victims supposed to trust this investigation with Guidepost Solutions reputation? How exactly are they going to accomplish this without a way to pay for it? Without being able to investigate ALL cases and without being able to waive attorney-client privilege so that truth is revealed? It’s beginning to appear, once again, that the Southern Baptist Convention put on a “dog and pony show” for the media, gullible members, and victims desperate for any measure of justice.
More words and still no substantive action.
The actions of the SBC towards victims of sexual abuse, historically and consistently, have been at best apathetic or at worst, vitriolic. It is actions that reveal the heart. James told us, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
“Whoever sees their brother or sister in need and closes their heart against him or her, how does the love of God abide in them? Let us not love with word or tongue, but with deed and truth.” (1 John 3)
Where is Jesus in your actions, SBC?
“I’m sorry” means nothing. We must SEE repentance. You must ACT restoratively.
What we know is this: Any words spoken, no matter how true, are not real unless they are incarnated.
A criticism we hear as advocates is, “why do you bring up the past”, or “it seems like you only live in the past, only bring up the failures of the past.”
Well folks, let me quote a wise saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” And I believe Winston Churchill selected the appropriate word when he said “condemned”. Especially when you consider what Jesus said about those who cause children to stumble. Jesus condemned them in totality.
That is why we “keep bringing it up”.
We expose the past to help those living with the pain in the present. We help those with pain in the present with the goal of preventing it in the future.
If you can’t understand that, or refuse to learn this, then do us all a favor and stop acting as though you care.
Because the only people we can really work with, the only people who can truly serve the vulnerable, are those who will admit, lament and repent.
Those who will sacrifice for and serve those in pain. Those who will work their tails off to not let this happen again, no matter who commits these crimes.
A few days ago I learned that the person who molested and raped me and countless other little boys all across the state of Georgia has been welcomed back into a church that we thought had learned its lesson.
Guess what? The joke’s on us!
This church, which initially and with arrogance, stood beside him and said he was repentant. They said they believed in him. They then went on to say, we’re sorry we were wrong, and asked him to resign once the Southern Baptist Convention hinted at disfellowship. (Which in realty meant less funds from the national convention treasury). Once everything had died down in the press (and the predator had been run off from TWO other churches) he slithered his way back to his “home church” where deacons and members posted publicly to him, “It’s so good to see you back”, “your church loves you” and “welcome home love you”.
As you’ve already learned, this person is an admitted child molester. He has shown no repentance or remorse. And yet this church and these people welcome him with open arms and once again place their children in harm’s way. All I could think of when hearing this was the story of the “Scorpion and the Frog.”
A scorpion wants to cross a river but cannot swim, so it asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid that the scorpion might sting it, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The frog lets the scorpion climb on its back and begins to swim. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”
When this sexual predator harms another child, and they always do, please don’t be surprised. He’s a scorpion, it’s in his nature.
So people wonder why I talk about sexual abuse all the time?
Whether I wanted it or not it has become my role, as Finley Peter Dunne once said, to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The answer to why we do this is simple and heartbreaking, “because the people that should, won’t.”
I guess the real questions are these: Will the SBC take actual steps to protect children? Will the SBC help those already harmed find a path toward healing that is victim focused, not institution centered? And will the SBC take the necessary steps to prevent the predators in their midst from molesting and raping others?
SBC Executive Committee and Sexual Abuse Task Force…what will be your answers?
When will all this rhetoric about facing sexual abuse within the SBC become reality? We’re still waiting…
Dave Pittman is the Director of Together We Heal and part of the Safeguarding Initiative Team at GRACE. He teaches churches, schools, and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior, and how to properly respond to those who’ve been victimized.