August 18, 2018


Evangelicals confront sex abuse problems in #MeToo era (DAVID CRARY, 8/17/18, Associated Press)

The turmoil in evangelical ranks coincides with new disclosures about abuse by Catholic clergy in the U.S., including multiple allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and a scathing grand jury report about rampant abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. However, the Catholic Church has been grappling publicly with its clergy abuse problem for more than two decades. For many American evangelicals, the #ChurchToo angst of recent weeks has been a painfully new experience.

In late July, the Southern Baptist Convention -- the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. -- announced plans to create a high-level study group to develop strategies for combatting sexual abusers and ministering to their victims. The move followed a series of revelations about sexual misconduct cases involving Southern Baptist churches and seminaries, including allegations that led to the ouster of powerful leader Paige Patterson as president of a seminary in Texas.

"Sexual assault and sexual abuse are Satanic to the core," said the Rev. Russell Moore, a high-ranking Southern Baptist Convention leader. "Churches should be the ones leading the way when it comes to protecting the vulnerable from predators."

The issues go beyond the Southern Baptists.

Last week, sexual misconduct allegations against one of the country's highest-profile evangelicals, Bill Hybels, led to wrenching changes at Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area megachurch he founded. The church's board of elders and lead pastor, before announcing plans to resign, said they would form an advisory council of Christian leaders from across the U.S. to oversee an investigation of the allegations lodged by several women against Hybels.

Hybels retired in April after some allegations were publicized, although at the time the elders belittled the women who spoke up. Announcement of the independent inquiry came a day after The New York Times quoted Hybels' former executive assistant, Pat Baranowksi, as saying the pastor repeatedly groped and harassed her in the 1980s.

The elders, in a statement , apologized to Baranowski and the other women who alleged abuse ranging from suggestive comments to unwanted kissing and hugging.

"The church should always follow in Jesus' footsteps to help the wounded find healing, and we are sorry we added to your pain," the elders said. "We are sorry that our initial statements were so insensitive, defensive, and reflexively protective of Bill."

In the Chicago case and others like it, the abuse was carried out by ministers who wield tremendous influence over their congregations, leading to situations where victims are silenced and blamed themselves for the abuse.

Posted by at August 18, 2018 8:02 AM