Though this step in the right direction is welcomed and affirmed it is still overshadowed by the sadness I feel over the horrifying experiences victims had to live through due to the ungodly actions of their perpetrators and in some cases the sinful inaction of their churches. We hope to see God and God’s people bring healing to all victims of sexual abuse.
Yet I do rejoice to see that meaningful, decisive, and biblical action is being taken to address the problem of evil within some of our churches. This article found yesterday posted at Christianity Today explains that SBC President, JD Greear, and the Executive Committee are working to implement a new policy which would expel any church from the Southern Baptist Convention if they have covered up or wrongfully neglected any case of sexual abuse.
I am glad to see this action for three reasons. One, it expresses a measure of justice on behalf of the victims who suffered the abuse and the coverup of it. Two, it preserves godly believing and acting among our churches. Three, it is a step of return to biblical instruction on church discipline which has long been neglected among our churches and is at least in part the cause of the current sex abuse scandal in the SBC.
Shockingly many pastors, leaders, and church members do not accept the responsibility given by Jesus to exercise church discipline, confronting sinful behavior in church members and even excommunicating them from the church when needed. In my experience as a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church for 20 years, and in other leadership roles for thirty-three years, I have seen very few churches willing to obey Jesus’ commands about church discipline or even acknowledge that those verses (Matthew 18:15-17) are in the Bible. This is nothing short of disobedience on the part of tens of thousands of churches, pastors, and hundreds of thousands of church members.
It should not surprise us to see that sinful disobedience has brought us to this point in our history of yet another hugely shameful degradation. And by that comparison I mean the sin of racism dating back to the founding of our denomination. Public confession have been made now acknowledging both these sins which are steps in the right direction. But what must follow is a return to the biblical practice of churches properly discipling, correcting, and even disciplining believers who are in rebellion against God.