This morning, I was reviewing a sermon I was going to preach as a guest speaker, and I saw The Houston Chronicle‘s article on the years of sexual abuse that has gone on in Southern Baptist churches over the past two decades. The article reported about 700 cases of sexual assault, many of which did not result in prison time in the perpetrator and even resulted in his moving on to a new church at a new position. This follows an article I read a few months ago detailing sexual misconduct that had gone in the unaffiliated fundamental Baptist churches. It is sad, infuriating, but unfortunately not terribly surprising. This is not because there is a “rape culture” in the SBC, as if Southern Baptists condone or excuse rape, but it’s because of both bad theology and ignorance of the law and the nature of sexual assault. These errors can lead to serious practical blunders that hurt people physically and spiritually, and they can also (deservedly) get churches or church leaders, however well-meaning they are, in a host of trouble. It is horrifying and inexcusable that this happens, and churches need to be more educated and equipped on this.
There are two major mistakes in theology that seem to contribute to this problem for Baptists (why stuff happens in the Catholic Church is a post for another day). One is a misunderstanding of local church autonomy, and the other is a naive and simpleminded view of grace. Both of these together often make Baptist churches or other churches like them (such as independent Bible churches) preferred targets of sexual predators.