What Russell Moore calls an “apocalypse” in this article in Christianity Today carries lessons for every Christian leader. Concern for the church’s image should never result in a “coverup,” even in the name of evangelism! This is in direct defiance of the solemn apostolic admonition given to us in 1 Timothy 5:17-21.
When a congregation or body develops what anthropologists call a “shame/honor” culture, steps taken to “protect” its reputation can lead to dishonoring, disregarding, disparaging, or even destroying victims of abuse within its ranks, instead of caring for them with the lovingkindness of Jesus.
It can also result in extreme disparities and distortions in its overall ethics and emphases, as Moore graphically describes:
“Who cannot now see the rot in a culture that mobilizes to exile churches that call a woman on staff a ‘pastor’ or that invite a woman to speak from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, but dismisses rape and molestation as ‘distractions’ and efforts to address them as violations of cherished church autonomy? In sectors of today’s SBC, women wearing leggings is a social media crisis; dealing with rape in the church is a distraction.”Russell Moore
Those of us who are outside the SBC must take care lest we decry what is happening “there,” without remaining vigilant against it happening “here.” We must never let the depth of our friendships or the duration of our relationships keep us from doing what the Apostle Paul commanded with the full force of Holy Spirit inspiration,
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. […] Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”1 Timothy 5:17-21 NIV
May God help us all, and may God help those good people within the Southern Baptist Convention whose hearts are broken by what is happening, and who are tasked with righting these wrongs.