Monday, February 11, 2019

Southern Baptists and Our Needed Transformation

The Houston Chronicle delivered a punch to the gut for anyone who claims affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In an article titled "Abuse of Faith," three investigative reporters uncovered over 700 documented cases of sexually predatory behavior by SBC pastors and leaders.

I'm a Southern Baptist pastor. Though the word "Baptist" is not in the title of the church I pastor, we affiliate with other Southern Baptist churches for the purpose of global missions, disaster relief worldwide (the SBC has the best disaster relief ministry in the world), and a host of other reasons that all revolve around evangelical cooperation and the concept "we get more done together than separate."

But this article is gut-wrenching.

I've spoken with Robert Downen and John Tedesco, two of the three investigative reporters for the Houston Chronicle, on multiple occasions during the past year. I've found them to be intelligent, thorough, and extremely fair.

Nobody can blame the media. This isn't "fake news."

It's maddingly, and sadly, all too real.

But I would like to offer some hope.

Don't give up on the SBC.

Keep staying involved. I know from experience that transformative change is slow. It requires patience. And, you can't be concerned with your personal reputation.

Think only of His Kingdom.

In 2005, the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board passed two doctrinal policies that exceeded the BFM 2000 and violated the Convention's constitution and spirit of cooperation.

In 2005, IMB leadership sought to remove me from the IMB trustee board because of my principled and respectful opposition to the board's leadership and their unwise decision to implement the new doctrinal requirements that exceeded the BFM 2000.

In 2006, the IMB leadership reversed their recommendation to remove me from the board when they realized that the entire Convention would have to vote on their recommendation and that I would be given the opportunity to speak to the Convention before the vote.

In 2007, SBC leadership rejected my proposal at the Southern Baptist Convention to implement a database to track sexual predators in the Southern Baptist Convention, a database that would be designed to prevent predators moving from one church to the next without being identified as sexual predators. After the motion was denied, I continued to write about the importance of any effort to hold accountable criminals in our midst and those who wish to cover for them.

In 2015, the (new) trustees of the SBC International Mission Board reversed the 2005 doctrinal policies.

In 2018, Southern Baptist Convention leadership received (again) my proposal to establish - or facilitate the establishment of - a database to track sexual predators in the SBC. This time, SBC leadership funded an investigation committee (a committee that is still working).

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle, in a broad, months-long investigation and report, documented at least 700 victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Southern Baptist pastors, workers, and leaders since 2007.

Moral of the Story: Transformative change in any organization takes patience, time, and a willingness to do the right thing regardless of what others say about you or threaten to do to you.

Never give up.

In 2020, the SBC may indeed realize that "hindsight is 2020."

Transformative change is coming.


Ron West said...

Wade, thank you for standing up for our missionaries during those years you served as a trustee of the IMB. Thank you for standing up for those who have been abused by sexual predators in the SBC. I have asked the question, how long will our leaders ignore this evil. I posted the following comment on my face book page under this article. I hope you will allow me to share it with your readers.

Did you know there is a picture of my wife and I in this article? If you scroll down to the end you will see a picture of the 1979 Southern Baptist Convention on mission night. It was at the Astrodome. Billy Graham was there to speak. They had all FMB missionaries in attendance walk out on the field and stand in the shape of a cross. We are in that crowd somewhere. Notice the number of people in attendance. The next time I attended an SBC convention was in 1990 in New Orleans at the Super Dome. The IMB program was on the last morning. Again the missionaries walked out on the floor of the Super Dome. There was a hand full of us. There were not enough people in attendance to have a quorum and conduct business. We were quickly recognized and rushed back out. That is the difference a decade of the Pressler-Patterson coalition made. They have had another 29 years since then to poison our convention with their politics and slanders. That is why we are losing ground on everything that Baptists have stood for over the years. Evangelism, Missions, and Biblically Based Theology. Ron West

Instugator said...


Second Paragraph, I think you meant to say "Southern" instead of "Baptist".

Otherwise, spot on.

Thank you.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Istugator.

Our church publicly goes by the name Emmanuel Enid. There is neither "Baptist" nor "Southern Baptist" in the name.

Wade Burleson said...


I saw the picture - but it was your comment that caused me to stop and think about...

Attendance over the years ... differences over the years ... and changes (for the worse) over the years ... and hopeful change for the future.

Thanks so much.

Scott Shaver said...

Nothing...absolutely nothing in this Houston Chronicle story which is new or has not been in the news or at the forefront of Southern Baptists and the worlds attention for the last several years. Only thing really "news" here is the feigned and retooled "shock" and "outrage" of JD Greear and Russell Moore. Greear,as late as 48 hours before the story ran, was still publicly posting pictures of himself with good buddy C.J. Mahaney. He conveniently removed the photos from his facebook page a few days in advance of the story line.

What a circus. "Don't do as we do, do as we say do."

Scott Shaver said...

Wade, I hope you are right about "transformative change coming". My fear: The change will apply only to the five or six autonomous baptist churches left in the country still willing to identify and participate with the SBC.

Bob Cleveland said...

I recall clearly when you presented the first motion to look into a clearing house for information relative to pedophilia and adult abuse. And the lack of interest in same, exhibited by the E.C. And that gives rise to the question: Would there have been one less incident of abuse, had they acted on it?

I dare say there would have, and therein lies the real price of disinterest and inactivity.

Scott Shaver said...

No,the real price of disinterest and selectivity is the tongue-in-cheek response of Southern Baptists who heard nothing from those now on their soapboxes about CJ Mahaney and his pals.

Scott Shaver said...

Peter Lumpkins 2014 resolution adopted by the SBC was written with this scandal in mind. If you can't get to the right place on time, just get there when you can, I guess.

Tom said...


The reformation 500 years ago happened because of the cultic practice excesses of that time.

The transformation/reformation that has/is being called for today is out of the cultic practice excesses of today.

The reformational changes that were achieved 500 years ago also had a political side/push associated with the changes that flowed out of the people's responses to the excesses that were occurring at that time.

Yes I agree that a new wave of reformation is needed today to correct the past excesses in the churches practices and their doctrinal understandings.

I also agree that it takes time for change to accumulate the right amount of momentum before the change will occur. But the question that concerns me is who will be the driving champion force that will bring in the corrective changes necessary to clean up the "church" so that it is truly reflective of the kingdom that God desires to exist on this earth?

Will we have corrective doctrinal changes or simply a rehash of the past errors of our understanding because of the sheer volume of recorded errors within reach of our reading, produced by respected "scholars" of their own understanding.

The church everywhere needs to be reformed to accurately reflect the heart of God to all the people around us. For the Church to be a blessing to all the people around them.

We the church need to burn our idols that we are presently worshipping and repent of our collective sins before God.

Perhaps then the reformational cleansing might begin.


Scott Shaver said...

With no disrespect intended for Wade's efforts, Bob Cleveland, perhaps the less-than-desirable outcome was based on the number of autonomous Baptist churches and their memberships willing to wave the universal sign of contempt at an institutional effort to impose Gulag requirements upon their respective spiritually independent fellowships.

Christiane said...

Hello Wade,
I can appreciate what you have written, this:

"Don't give up on the SBC.

Keep staying involved. I know from experience that transformative change is slow. It requires patience. And, you can't be concerned with your personal reputation.

Think only of His Kingdom."

You have the honor of having attempted to awaken the 'powers that be' to try to do what was right for the sake of vulnerable people; and had these 'powers' responded positively, the cases of torment and predation against the innocent would doubtless have been lessened.

I think STAYING and working towards better days is a difficult thing to do, but to abandon the Church is also to abandon those who are still vulnerable within it right at the time when they need advocacy and support and defense against predation. You stayed, and worked, and now you and others who worked so hard over time are seeing the fruit of your efforts. Now the light is focused on the predators and the stories of their victims is being told (so sad about the girl who committed suicide), so 'denial' and obfuscation is no longer going to be tolerated because too much is out in the light and cries out for justice and changes.

For those who stayed and worked, even at cost to themselves, I hope the SBC shows its gratitude. I hope for this because it would be a sign to others that standing up for what is right, even to the faces of the powerful, will in the long-run carry the day. The Church will survive as long as people stand up for the helpless and the vulnerable, and do not permit themselves to 'look away' or be silenced in the presence of evil.

Thank you for your witness.

Rex Ray said...

Since Jesus said, “You’ve made my Father’s house a den of thieves”, what would He say about SWBTS’s chapel that portrays life size pictures in stain glass of a pedophile (Paul Pressler) and a protector of pedophiles (Paige Patterson)?


Do you believe the BF&M 2000 adheres to the message of Christ? when it states: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leader ship of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

That would mean the wife is the church and the husband is Jesus. DUH

It also makes women second class Christians by preventing them from being pastors. I believe there’s more women pastors in Japan and China than there are men pastors. I guess they’ve read the book that Wade promotes, “Quiet Roar”.

Anyone that promotes the Koran, promotes the person behind it which was Mohammad.

The same way in promoting the BF&M 2000, it promotes the person behind it (Paige Patterson and his 15 friends.)

I believe the old conventions of Texas and Virginia are the only two states that reject the BF&M 2000, and adhere to the BE&M 1963 that treat men and women as equals.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Amen on this post Wade.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that sexual abuse, any abuse, is a power play. For me, one of the most power statements came from the psychiatrist "If someone is identified as a man of God, then there are no holds barred," he said. "Your defense system is completely paralyzed. This man is speaking with the voice of God. ... So a person who is not only an authority figure, but God's servant, is telling you this is between us, this is a special relationship, this has been sanctioned by the Lord. That allows a young victim to have almost zero defenses. Totally vulnerable."

To be honest, I fear the #metoo movement because it creating an environment where men are guilty and perhaps never proven innocent. As a woman who has struggled to find a place in the church, I am also very concerned about the dynamic that is created when only men can be leaders. I believe that creates a power imbalance where women are second class and can be used. From that faulty foundation, all sorts of abuses occur. I don't know if that makes sense to others

Scott Shaver said...

Part 2 of The Houston Chronicle story, like Part 1 rehashes old news while never mentioning the relationships between Al Mohler, Russell Mooree, 9 Marks, CJ Mahaney and SGM. The largest evangelical sexual abuse case out there.

Guess the Chronicle is incapable of doing an objective report.

Scott Shaver said...

Wade Burleson states he has talked to these reporters on multiple occassions... And still no mention, after several convictions of SGM staffers, of the harbor provided to Mahaney and his organization by the Louisville boys Moore and Mohler? Mahaney writes the forward to Russell Moore's book for cryin out loud.

Looks like the info HC is getting is highly selective.

The cover-ups continue despite the hand-wringing and sackcloth and ashes.

Scott Shaver said...

The story treats some SBC churches and pastors who did everything BY THE BOOK (letter of the law) as if they were guilty of covering up. Several have come forward stating the HC story is loaded with factual inaccuracies and chronological inconsistencies.

Picks on the little guys and small churches in the trenches and says nothing about enabling seminary presidents, ERLC agency head, or the sitting elected SBC President.

And "GOD" is behind this as primary catalyst?

I don't think so.

Scott Shaver said...

I agree. Don't abandon the church. But you can abandon a denomination which fails to hold its leaders accountable to the same standards it seeks to impose on consituent local churches.

Rex Ray said...

This link has a title of: “ 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms”

It states: “Wade Burleson, a former president of Oklahoma's Southern Baptist convention, says it has long been clear that Southern Baptist churches face a crisis. In 2007 and 2018, he asked SBC leaders to study sexual abuse in churches and bring prevention measures to a vote at the SBC's annual meeting. Leaders pushed back both times, he said. Some cited local church autonomy; others feared lawsuits if the reforms didn't prevent abuse. Burleson couldn't help but wonder if there have been "ulterior motives" at play. "There's a known problem, but it's too messy to deal with," he said in a recent interview. "It's not that we can't do it as much as we don't want to do it. ... To me, that's a problem. You must want to do it."

Greear [President of the SBC] has launched a group that is studying sexual abuse at the request of Burleson and others. Unlike in 2008, Burleson last year directed his request for a sex offender registry to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which does moral advocacy on behalf of the SBC. For the first time, the study of his proposal has been funded.

Rex Ray said...

"Patterson was ousted as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth after he said he wanted to meet alone with a female student who said she was raped so he could "break her down," according to a statement from seminary trustees."

Scott Shaver said...

So Rex: Where is the media attention to Mohler and Moore and their enabling relationships with Mahaney and SGM. Guess none of that ever happened?

Scott Shaver said...

Has Wade mentioned that aspect of the "big picture" in his discussions with the secular press?

Rex Ray said...


I’m just quoting from the link I’ve referenced.

Here’s more:

Paul Pressler:
SBC Vice President 2002.
Ex-state judge, youth leader, prominent SBC figure.
1978-79; Leaves non-SBC church amid accusation that he groped youth member.
2004; Settled assault case for $450,000.
2017: Lawsuit alleges “decades” of rapes by Pressler.
2018: Three other men alleges in lawsuit that he groped them…

Scott, do you know if the pictures of Patterson and Pressler are still in the chapel of SWBTS?

Rex Ray said...

Ron West,

The link also shows a picture of the FMB missionaries in the shape of a cross you mentioned when Billy Graham spoke at the Astrodome.

Do you know if the chapel at SWBTS still honors Patterson and Pressler?

Scott Shaver said...

All I know, Rex, is that I have never been a fan of either Patterson or Pressler. SWBTS can hang stained glass of trained monkeys for all I care and if their "trustees" approve and they can keep appropriating the funds from their sycophants to do so.

I do think Ben Cole and Wade Burleson owe Patterson an apology for their duplicity in the crusade against him while covering for Mohler and Moore and their enabling relationship with Mahaney and SGM.

You asked. I answered.

Kelly H said...

Hey Wade. Remember me?

I was the IMB missionary who went overseas in 2003 just as Benton Gray Harvey was coming back to the USA to do more damage here. He had stolen $362,499.62 while in Turkey over a period of 3 years, I know you remember. I was hired as the assistant treasurer of Central Asia.

Coming in as a CPA, I thought changes were being made and that that was a major reason for me coming on board. Instead, I was told that, "It is enough that missionaries are under the illusion that we look at their receipts" and "It is not your job to keep someone from stealing." I resigned in 2005 due to the continual push-back I got for wanting controls and for decisions to become centered around that focus for the finance office. They moved the office from a more secure financial location, England, to an illogical and more expensive location, Turkey. They sold the property they had in England and left, only to return 4 years later after reality set in. It was a huge waste of time and money, something I tried to prevent.

Our decision to leave was finalized one fateful night in Bishkek, when Ron, the admin lead for Central Asia, viciously attacked my wife verbally with comments that would put you in court today, saying that "she was too outspoken as a woman." "You speak too much for your husband."

My resignation letter said, "I fear that what I saw in Central Asia is a reflection of the organization as a whole. After returning to the USA, they wanted me to go to Richmond to address my concerns to IMB headquarters. There, I was told at headquarters that, indeed, "It was not my job to keep someone from stealing."

So my fears were justified. It was a reflection of the organization as a whole. Our story is much more involved, it went on for almost 2 years. I have watched as lies have been told, statements by the IMB afterward that were somewhere between misrepresentation to outright lies. But I was there, so I know the truth about some things that were lied about. but the more important thing is that God knows.

This, like the sex abuse stories, puts a spotlight on missed point in some Southern Baptist circles:

To hide and cover up misbehavior is to participate in the misbehavior.

Scott Shaver said...

Wow! From selective outrage and scapegoating in sexual abuse scandals to silencing the voices of dissent in financial misappropriation, status quo of denominational leaders remains constant whether an old guard or a new guard is at the helm.

Anonymous said...

"I do think Ben Cole and Wade Burleson owe Patterson an apology for their duplicity in the crusade against him while covering for Mohler and Moore and their enabling relationship with Mahaney and SGM."

What duplicity?

Anonymous said...

Scot Shaver, what duplicity?

David said...

Wade, I appreciate that you want to transform the "golden calves" of the SBC, but like others here, I confronted sin on the local associational level, State Executive Director and beyond. I think we need to stop pretending that the SBC is a place where God's glory presides. I think many don't realize that God's presence left long ago. As long as leaders have their power and a check, they could care less if the world is going to Hell. It's time to get hinest, if there is the slightest hope God will even step foot in our churches.

Anonymous said...

Scot Shaver

what duplicity?

Scott Shaver said...

I have quit responding to anonymous queries, but in your case will make an exception to spare you the embarrassment of continual repetition.

Goofle the term "duplicity" then go back and read previous comments. Cheers.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

Hey Rex Ray,
you wrote:
"Greear [President of the SBC] has launched a group that is studying sexual abuse at the request of Burleson and others. Unlike in 2008, Burleson last year directed his request for a sex offender registry to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which does moral advocacy on behalf of the SBC. For the first time, the study of his proposal has been funded."

Good News, but I think you also pointed out Wade's comment, this: " "There's a known problem, but it's too messy to deal with," he said in a recent interview. "It's not that we can't do it as much as we don't want to do it. ... To me, that's a problem. You must want to do it."

As far as those who thought 'doing nothing' would keep the SBC from lawsuits because it had done 'something' in response, but it wasn't enough;
all I can think of is the total craziness of 'doing nothing' after knowing the problem gradually got worse and worse FROM doing nothing . . . . in my own Church, the lawsuits were needed to kick tail and get people awakened to the seriousness and depth of the problem, and to BEGIN to respond to it BECAUSE it was the right thing to do, because all of the money in the world could not for one minute wipe away a moment's suffering from any of those victims, and taking responsible action positively was the direction needed, not just responding by half-way means. Painful lessons. And I know some tried to warn the SBC from my own Church's experiences, but it did not help. I guess people have to learn the hard way and that means more innocents suffer in the meantime. God have mercy!

Left you a note a while back concerning the veteran's situation. Hope you saw it. Take care.

Callie M said...

I really appreciate your optimism and hope, Wade. I guess my current concern is that the leadership seemed to talk big after last year's upheaval, but they still didn't vote for the data base. I'm glad they formed a committee, but how effective is it if the press beat them to sharing the numbers and stories openly and transparently? Current leadership was trained by Patterson, so IDK. It seems there's some unlearning and relearning that needs to happen. I'd like to see you as the SBC president, as confronting these issues has been your area of gifting for some time. Maybe in the future!

Rex Ray said...


Yes, I read the link about Richard Stabb’s problems of going or not going to an “Emergency Room” (ER) knowing the VA would not pay the bill.

One time I know the VA paid the bill for ER. I live five miles from a local VA. From time to time I have a problem with “Atrial-fibrillation”. I had taken a drug, Seldane, for an allergy problem many years ago that caused it. Once, I wore a ‘heart monitor’ that recorded 312 beats per minute for over 3 minutes. (I’m on my third pacemaker and take blood thinner.)

Last year, I was keeping an appointment at the VA when my heart began to race. They called an ambulance that took me to a local hospital. I tried to tell them it happened often and I’d be OK, but they wouldn’t listen. The hospital released me in 30 minutes, and my daughter took me to my car. The VA paid the bill.

HEY! I looked on Google to be sure I spelled ‘Seldane” right and found this:

Callie M,
I second your motion about Wade.

Alaskan in Texas said...

Could technology enable the SBC to take an historical step toward some sort of "limited and cooperative autonomy"?

Perhaps I am just rehashing old proposals that have been made and voted down.

But, can the SBC messengers give the Executive Committee new authority necessary to address the "church autonomy" roadblock?

For example, are there some unintended legal or practical consequences prohibiting messengers from authorizing the Executive Committee to create, operate, and continuously update the necessary database (it would no doubt require significant new staffing, plus start-up and maintenance costs), make access to the database by subscription only (i.e. priced on a sliding scale based on church membership size), and for the first time in history make subscription and use of the database a condition of being a "Southern Baptist" church?

I mean, if the messengers vote to be "cooperatively autonomous", to modify the doctrine of autonomy in a new and limited way, there would be no impact on any other aspect of an autonomous church's spiritual, congregational, theological, liturgical, etc etc, practices. Would there?

Wade Burleson said...


Technology is a solution.

There are answers, and some of the suggestions you offer are possible.

I personally think an independent non-profit board composed of professional experts would help us come up with answers on how cooperative churches can cooperate on a database. I'd like to see the database extend to all evangelicals, not just SBC - keeping predators from jumping denominational lines.

Wade Burleson said...

Callie M,

The Houston Chronicle only focused on those criminally convicted. Even this morning, I received an email from a woman who was sexually assaulted in the 1970s by a man still in ministry in Oklahoma. In my experience, law enforcement will not prosecute (statute of limitations), but a database would do its due diligence and after confirmation, this man would be placed in the registry (because of "witnesses" or because of "a confession" or because of other facts that turn the accusation into "credible accusation" but doesn't include criminal charges).

Wade Burleson said...


Thank you for your kind words. I need or want the Presidency of the SBC like a mouse wants to play with a cat. :)

Wade Burleson said...


I am aware that the glory of God resides in you and me and others who know Christ. However, I am committed to doing what I can to help institutional Christianity.

Wade Burleson said...


"I do think Ben Cole and Wade Burleson owe Patterson an apology for their duplicity in the crusade against him while covering for Mohler and Moore and their enabling relationship with Mahaney and SGM."

I think were you to ask Mahaney, Mohler, or anyone involved in SGM, they would not say they were friends of mine. I don't know what you mean by "duplicitous" but I'm quite confident in the consistency of purpose in everything I write.

Callie M said...


Thanks for explaining. I hope they move quickly on it. And this: " I need or want the Presidency of the SBC like a mouse wants to play with a cat. :)" Exactly why I hope you hold that office in the future.


Scott Shaver said...

They don't listen or talk or correspond to anybody but their minions or echo chambers. But do appreciate and respect your openess Wade.

No wonder the Convention has a hearing a listening and hearing problem.

As for me and my house, our lines have been drawn in the sand. Going to our graves and against the gaping mouth of Hell itself with the primacy of the LOCAL church.

At least a place where you can dialogue, disagree and look one another eyeball to eyeball.

Scott Shaver said...

Can also have a voice in whether or not to support denominational shenanigans.

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Scott.

Mutual respect.

Scott Shaver said...

And my apologies for previous tone.

Wade Burleson said...

No problem, Scott. Passion is a gift worth preserving.

Rex Ray said...


I have laughed at many comments said on your blog, but never so much as this: “I need or want the Presidency of the SBC like a mouse wants to play with a cat. :)”

I believe Saul had the same feelings about not wanting to be King of Israel in (1 Samuel 10:22 NLT) “…Saul son of Kish was chosen…But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”

I believe your desire is for the SBC to change for the good. So why not follow what Paul Pressler figured out?

RB Kuter’s comment (Wed Feb 13, 10:23:00 PM 2019) tells what it is: “The President of the Convention chooses on the Committee on Committees and other posts which is assigned to him to fill.”
I remember Criswell saying if he’d known what Pressler figured out, he could have changed the SBC when he was President.
So, old friend, I know it’d be a ‘hard row to hoe’, but I wish you’d pray about it.

Scott Shaver said...

In light of yesterday's public apology from Al Mohler and Danny Akin regarding their continuing enablement and cover for CJ Mahaney/SGM, how can Mohler, Akin, Russell Moore, and JD Greear as SBC President remain in their positions?....especially as spokesmen on the issue of sexual predation in the SBC?

Especially in light of the Peter Lumpkins 2013 resolution adopted by the SBC in 2013.