The Spokesman-Review (Spokane) : 2019-02-11
7 : 7 : 7
THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW MONDAY NEWS 7 FEBRUARY 11, 2019 NATION Sexual abuse report roils Southern Baptists Church leader calls for ‘pervasive change’ defenseless, all under the guise of faith.
“Nothing is worse than the use of the name of Jesus to prey on the vulnerable, or to use the name of Jesus to cover up such crimes,” Moore wrote in a lengthy post on his website. He added: “Church life has fueled the undue shame of the survivors of such abuse.”
He called on churches to immediately report possible instances of sexual abuse of children and adults.
“In all of this, the church should deal openly with what has happened in the church while caring for all those who were harmed,” he wrote. “No one who has committed such offenses should ever be in the ministry arena where such could even conceivably happen again.”
In Texas, where the newspapers said many of the abuses happened and where the Southern Baptist Convention has some of its most prominent congregations and pastors, church leaders expressed similar feelings of alarm.
“May there be peace upon the victims & may we do our part to make necessary changes as a convention,” Michael Criner, a senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Bellville, Texas, wrote on Twitter. Criner said he has attended and ministered at Southern Baptist Convention churches his entire life.
Megan Lively, who accused a prominent Southern Baptist leader of encouraging her to not report to authorities that she had been raped, said that although she knew there were others with similar stories, she was shocked by the number of victims revealed by the newspapers’ investigation.
“I can’t put into words the utter despair I felt earlier and continue to feel now,” Lively said in an email to the Washington Post.
Lively told The Post last year that she was raped in 2003 when she was pursuing a master of divinity degree in women’s studies at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The seminary’s president at that time, Paige Patterson, urged Lively to not report the alleged abuse to police and to forgive her assailant, she said.
Lively said there won’t be an “overnight fix” for the problems of sexual abuse, but she’s confident in the current Southern Baptist Convention leadership.
“They fought for me and loved me, many times behind the scenes with no public recognition in an effort to keep me safe and keep my story private. ... They are working hard to make sure past mistakes are not repeated,” Lively said.
“SBC leaders must be willing to listen to the hard stories, difficult requests, and advise survivors ... in order to change the culture,” she added.
Victims, she said, should seek professional help and find someone with similar experiences. For Lively, that person was Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault.
“In the worst times I shared my heart with her and she made me feel like I was completely normal to react the way I did,” Lively said. “Survivors need fellow survivors to walk with them. During the good and the bad.”
Denhollander also tweeted about the report Sunday.
“The worst part is that we have known for years. I have known most of this for years, and spoken out about it. No one wanted to listen. It did not matter enough to investigate and act,” Denhollander said. “Grief and repentance and silence to learn is the only proper response.” By Kristine Phillips and Amy B Wang WASHINGTON POST “20 years, 700 victims” So reads part of the headline of a sweeping investigation that has found years of sexual abuse perpetrated by hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders against an even larger number of victims.
The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported that nearly 400 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past two decades. As many as 700 victims – some as young as 3 – were sexually abused, some raped and molested repeatedly, according to the report.
But instead of ensuring that sexual predators were kept at bay, the Southern Baptist Convention resisted policy changes, the newspapers found. Victims accused church leaders of mishandling their complaints, even hiding them from the public. While the majority of abusers have been convicted of sex crimes and are registered sex offenders, the investigation found that at least 36 pastors, employees and volunteers who showed predatory behavior still worked at churches.
The revelations, published Sunday, have not only led to a chorus of condemnation and calls for restructuring but have also pushed church leaders to grapple with the troubling history – and future – of the largest Protestant denomination in the country.
“We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them,” J.D. Greear, PAUL MOSELEY/ STAR-TELEGRAM VIA AP A series of sexual misconduct cases within the Southwestern Baptist Church has prompted its socially conservative, all-male leadership to seek forgiveness for the ill-treatment of women. Former Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, seen here in October 2010, was the central figure in the most prominent of the troubling #MeToo cases. who was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention last summer, said on Twitter. “Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary.”
The Southern Baptist Convention, a fellowship of more than 47,000 Baptist churches and 15 million members across the United States and its territories, is the country’s second-largest faith group after the Catholic Church.
Greear, who was not available for comment Sunday afternoon, addressed the investigation in forceful terms, saying in a lengthy Twitter thread that he was “broken” over what it had revealed and that it was a “heinous error” to apply Baptist doctrine in a manner that enabled abuse.
“The abuses described in this (Houston Chronicle) article are pure evil,” Greear wrote. “I join with countless others who are currently ‘ weeping with those who weep.’ ”
Greear called for “pervasive change” within the denomination, including taking steps to prevent abuse, fully cooperating with legal authorities when people reported abusive behavior and helping survivors recover. He did not go into detail about what those steps would be, except to say that “change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem.”
Greear also admitted that the church had failed to listen to abuse victims, although it is unclear whether he was indicating that he had known about allegations within the Southern Baptist Convention. He added: “We – leaders in the SBC – should have listened to the warnings of those who tried to call attention to this. I am committed to doing everything possible to ensure we never make these mistakes again.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the revelations are “alarming and scandalous” and paint a stark portrait of the depravity of those who used their positions of power to prey on the Tabloid CEO’s lawyer denies Enquirer was trying to extort Amazon’s Bezos ABC’s “This Week” whether he was concerned the Bezos matter could jeopardize the noncooperation agreement, Abramowitz said: “Absolutely not.”
Abramowitz defended the tabloid’s handling of the situation as part of a standard legal negotiation.
“I think both Bezos and AMI had interests in resolving their interests,” Abramowitz said. “It’s absolutely not a crime to ask somebody to simply tell the truth. Tell the truth that this was not politically motivated, and we will print no more stories.”
After Bezos on Thursday posted the exchanges with AMI in an extraordinary blog post on Medium.com, several celebrities and journalists posted on social media that they too had been threatened by AMI.
Ronan Farrow said he and “and at least one other prominent journalist” involved in reporting on the tabloid had “fielded similar ‘ stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI” and actor Terry Crews alleged the company tried to “silence him” by “fabricating stories of me with prostitutes.”
Abramowitz said he didn’t know of any AMI employees blackmailing celebrities or journalists or “committing any crime at all.” By Michael Balsamo ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — The National Enquirer committed neither extortion nor blackmail by threatening to publish intimate photos of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, an attorney for the head of the tabloid’s parent company said Sunday.
Elkan Abromowitz, an attorney for American Media Inc. chief executive David Pecker, said on Sunday a “reliable source” well-known to Bezos and his mistress provided the story about the billionaire’s extramarital affair.
Bezos has said AMI threatened to publish the explicit photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the Enquirer obtained his private exchanges with his mistress, former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, and publicly declare that the Enquirer’s coverage of him was not politically motivated. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.
Federal prosecutors are looking into whether the Enquirer violated a cooperation and nonprosecution agreement that recently spared the gossip sheet from charges for paying hush money to a Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Trump, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press on Friday. The people weren’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
But asked during an interview with Pecker ASSOCIATED PRESS A new barrier is shown being built along the Texas-Mexico border near downtown El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 22. Such barriers have been a part of El Paso for decades. El Paso bristles at claim that wall made city safe into the United States in the 1970s, prompting Congress to approved chain-link fencing here and in San Diego dubbed the “Tortilla Curtain.” More barriers were added in the 1990s and 2006.
Public reaction to the security measures initially was positive in some quarters because it helped reduce vagrancy and petty crime. But many residents now complain that Trump’s demands have gone too far, making their home sound like a war zone and offending both them and people from Mexico.
“The border is fluid culturally, economically,” said Cesar Blanco, a Democratic lawmaker who lives a stone’s throw from the wall. “We are a binational community.”
Many Republicans, though, insist the low crime rate here is not a coincidence.
“There are regular shoot-outs near the border, dangerous narcotics trafficked,” said recently elected Republican congressman Chip Roy, who represents a district between Austin and San Antonio. “The good news is that we can stop this,” Roy said in a post-State of the Union fundraising email championing a Trump-backed wall.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that El Paso’s annual number of reported violent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that corresponded to similar declines in violent crime nationwide and included times when the city’s crime rates actually increased year-overyear, despite new fencing and walls.
Mickie Subia’s home is steps from the barrier, providing glimpses of Mexico through fencing and metal slats. She said the wall doesn’t make her feel safer.
“We don’t have a problem with Border Patrol,” Subia said. “We don’t have a problem with anyone coming from over there, either.”
Dee Margo, El Paso’s mayor and a former Republican state lawmaker, tweeted after the State of the Union that his city was “NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the U.S.,” adding that border walls are only partly the reason.
“I’m really glad President Trump is coming here,” he said in a subsequent interview. “I just hope we get chance to show him what it’s really like on the border.” By Will Weissert ASSOCIATED PRESS EL PASO, Texas – People walking over the Paso del Norte Bridge linking this West Texas border city to Mexico can watch President Donald Trump’s border wall getting bigger in real time.
Workers in fluorescent smocks can be seen digging trenches, pouring concrete and erecting rust-colored slabs of 18-foot-high metal to replace layers of barbed wire-topped fencing along the mud-colored Rio Grande, which is usually little more than a trickle.
Most of the more than 70,000 people who legally cross four city bridges daily – to shop, go to school and work – pay the construction in the heart of downtown no mind.
In his State of the Union address, the president said a “powerful barrier” had cut crime rates in El Paso. He’s holding a rally here today to show why he’s demanding more than 100 miles of new walls, costing $5.7 billion, along the 1,900-mile border, despite opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.
But many in this city of dusty desert winds and blistering salsa, bristle at the prospect of their home becoming a border wall poster child.
Trump said barriers turned El Paso from one of the nation’s most dangerous cities to one of its safest, but that’s not true. El Paso, population around 800,000, had a murder rate less than half the national average in 2005, a year before the most recent expansion of its border fence. That’s despite being just across the border from drug violenceplagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Many residents say El Paso embodies a cross-border spirit that transcends walls rather than proving more are needed.
“The richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor, we all have different reasons for wanting to cross, and people cross every day,” said El Paso City Council member Peter Svarzbein.
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