There has been an open letter going around called A Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s addressed to no one in particular. It’s more like a public affirmation. If more and more people say they are against it, maybe clergy abuse will stop?
I held back addressing this issue because I’ve already written my opinions about GRACE. This article, which quotes Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators, deserves a discussion. Christa is asked her opinion of the open letter.
According to the article:
Christa Brown of the group Stop Baptist Predators, which has advocated for reforms in responding to sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, said she was grateful for Tchividjian’s efforts in circulating the statement.
“These are certainly good words; nevertheless, they are nothing more than words,” she said.
While many Baptist churches have promoted safe-environment training and background checks of church workers, Brown said such churches also need a way to confront their past. “For many faith groups, including most Baptist groups, what is actually needed is something akin to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” she said. “Those who have been victimized by clergy sex abuse are in desperate need of a safe place where they can tell their stories and be heard with respect and compassion.”
She added: “Those who have known about abusive clergy or who had reason to suspect, those who have been complicit in cover-ups, those who have engaged in intimidation tactics for the silencing of victims, and those who have followed the direction of senior pastors to keep things in the church family — all of these people — are in need of a safe place where they may now tell what they know, express their remorse, and do what is still possible for making kids safer in the future.”
The open letter begins with the statement: Recent allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up within a well known international ministry and subsequent public statements by several evangelical leaders have angered and distressed many, both inside and outside of the Church.
Boz Tchividjian, the head of GRACE and a law professor at Liberty University, is playing cute by not naming the organization. Those who follow these matters know he’s talking about Sovereign Grace Ministries. They supported C.J. Mahaney when he was accused of covering up allegations of abuse.
That’s not the only organization that has cheerleaded a scandalized leader, though!
Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church (sponsor of Liberty University), has now been quoted in the press advocating for the Richmond Outreach Center. Falwell is quoted as attributing the attacks to Satan and emphasizes ‘Our God wins!’ to the congregation at ROC. This is in response to the arrest of Pastor G on charges of molestation of minors. His view on the accusations? “And it doesn’t matter what Satan is doing, it doesn’t matter how strong he might think that he is, it doesn’t matter how much he might try to attack us.”
The Tchividjian family is quite close to the ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church according to this article from Liberty University’s own news service. Billy Graham, Boz’s grandfather, gave a commencement address to Liberty in 1997. Five of Billy Graham’s grandchildren and three great grandchildren have attended Liberty. Tullian Tchividjian also spoke at Liberty.
Pastor G, the accused ex-pastor of the ROC, is mentioned in an article on the GRACE website, but it is merely a name drop. Nothing approaching the justifiable anger against SGM! Being a little pick and choosy?
GRACE did go out of their way to answer my question regarding what Boz was doing during the Bob Gray saga (see below). One interesting point they made, that bears relevance today, is that ‘due to the fact that Mr. Tchividjian is employed by GRACE, if approached to address a matter related to Liberty University, the GRACE board would refer the matter to another organization in an abundance of caution to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.’
So, while BJU, Hyles Anderson, PBI and other fundamentalist organizations (and I’ll include the ROC since Falwell’s helping them out), are being encouraged to let GRACE investigate them, one institution stands apart that will never be a part of a GRACE inquisition: Liberty University.
I would like to see an investigation of Liberty University but who would conduct it? I got an idea! How about IHART? They were hired after GRACE was let go from any further investigation of NTM. In the end, none of these organizations have the power to arrest or, for that matter, perform the type of investigation we would expect from an objective law enforcement agency.
Christa Brown is right. Victims of religious abuse need a safe place where they will not be intimidated by evangelical bullies.