I’ve been in New Orleans all day on personal business, and haven’t been able to approve comments. Will get to that now. But first, you’ve got to read this address that Albert Mohler, the theologically conservative head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered today, amid the denomination’s crisis. It’s a stunner. Here’s the title: “The Wrath of God Poured Out: The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Excerpts:
Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries.
We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of it’s moral authority. When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible — even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. I did not see this coming.
I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.
We cannot blame a requirement of priestly celibacy. We cannot even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as a result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence. Sadly, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.
Is the problem theological? Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?
This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all. As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.
The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ. This moment has come to me, and I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the Gospel, as a seminary and college president, and as a public leader. I pray that I will lead rightly.
In Romans 1:18 we are told: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.
This is a breathtaking act of leadership, and I applaud it strongly. I wish it were not unusual, but as we have seen so many times, in so many American churches caught up in scandal, the leadership class has a habit of evading responsibility. As Mohler said, the Southern Baptist Convention has behaved not so differently from the US Catholic Church.
(Think of it: if a US Catholic cardinal had given a speech like this in 2002, at the big bishops’ meeting in Dallas that addressed the sex abuse scandal, how might things have been different — and better — for the Catholic Church?)
Ed Stetzer, a Southern Baptist who directs the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, and who three weeks ago wrote a controversial article critical of prominent SBC leader Paige Patterson, writes to praise the decision of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees to oust Patterson from the presidency. Excerpt:
Dr. Patterson should not (and must not) preach the SBC annual meeting sermon, and I will speak up again if he does. But as it relates to Southwestern Seminary, I won’t have more comment than what I wrote today.
I did not write what I wrote three weeks ago to be in the media. I wrote it because someone needed say what so many were saying behind the scenes—for years.
For our convention as a whole there is much work to do, and much damage to repair, reaching far beyond this situation. But, given where we are now, that needs to be done without Paige Patterson.
Hard times require honest conversations. It is time for all of us to step up, women and men. No individual is greater than our mission, and that mission needs some honest conversations before everyone is told to just “move on.”
It’s time for a new day, but you don’t get there without dealing with yesterday.
Amen. As someone who watched closely what happened in the Catholic Church — which was then my church — in its sex abuse scandal days, and who grieved and raged over it as it dragged on for years, and ultimately lost my Catholic faith over it all, I cannot say strongly enough how fortunate you Southern Baptists are to have leaders like Al Mohler and Ed Stetzer taking strong, uncompromising, unambiguous stands in the public square.