That Time I Talked to an SBC Executive Committee Member

Eight years ago, in the fall of 2014, I had the opportunity to correspond with a member of the SBC Executive Committee about the SBC sexual abuse offender database that didn’t exist yet.

His name was Roger Oldham, and he showed up in the 288-page investigative report issued by Guidepost Solutions on Sunday.

That fall of 2014 I was working on the book Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches with Dale Ingraham. As part of my research, I read Christa Brown’s book This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang (in one sitting, I might add).

Here is my review of her book that I posted on Amazon:

Only about 20% of this book focuses on the Baptist Preacher Predator–the youth director who molested and raped Christa and the difficulties that abuse produced in her life.

 

The other 80% focuses on the Gang–the author’s attempt to find some sort of compassion and concern, first with the local church, then the wider body, and finally the national convention of the Southern Baptists. I was amazed at Christa’s perseverance and appalled at the stone-cold stonewalling she received from the church and the denomination, again and again and again.

I’m ignorant and naïve, but I still can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to do all they can to protect the vulnerable from abuse and show compassion to those who have been abused. I cannot understand it.

I received this book at lunchtime and had finished reading it by a late suppertime. I could not put it down. It was gripping, compelling, and nauseating.

So, since her book was published in 2009 and I was reading it and working on my book in 2014, I wanted to find out what progress had been made in a matter that seemed so clear-cut. Roger Oldham of the Executive Committee was recommended to me, so I wrote to him.

After introductions, I asked:

Has the SBC made any progress in the past five years on this matter? Specifically, have they established a database? Because I’m going to put a footnote in this new book, and I want it to be accurate.

Part of my letter said this:

I can see how experiencing the treatment that Christa described at the hands of leaders of the SBC . . . would have propelled more than one person to a complete loss of faith. Though my own experience and advocacy work is primarily in the area of independent Baptist churches and Bob Jones University, I was sickened to see that the Southern Baptists appeared to be just as bad.

So my hope is that all that terrible stonewalling and lack of care is in the past, and in the past five years some massive strides have been made to love and care for abuse victims and to keep the evil abuse offenders from being able to hurt the people in the Southern Baptist churches.

Roger Oldham did reply, in fact, almost immediately, with some links to articles that didn’t answer my question. We link to the U.S. sex offender database, he said, and we passed the Resolution of 2013 that included such information as how church officials should call law enforcement when there’s abuse in the church.

A resolution is good. Just like pinwheels on the lawn in April are nice.

When he told me they couldn’t have a database because the SBC never interferes in the autonomous local church, I replied,

I wouldn’t think of a database of admitted offenders that are not in backgroundcheck.com as being any sort of operation of authority. I would see it as simply helpful information that a local church could use or not use as they see fit, sort of like the Sunday school or VBS material or the LifeWay connection to backgroundcheck.com that you currently provide.

So why did he then ask to talk on the phone? I wasn’t sure, but when we did I took very careful notes, because I know how it can be with phone calls. . . . Unless they’re recorded, one can deny having said the things one said.

As I made my non-brilliant points, he said more than once, “I’ve never thought about it that way.” I confess I was in eye-roll mode there because I knew these were only things Christa herself had discussed.

For example, I told him the database can be for offenders who for one reason or another won’t be going through the criminal justice system (statute of limitations or some other reason) but (1) have open-and-shut evidence against them (which might necessitate an investigation) or (2) have admitted their offense.

 “It’s not that unusual for offenders to admit to their crimes if they think they can get a quick forgiveness and restoration,” I observed. “And one way the SBC can show they really care about this issue beyond just making a ‘resolution’ is to say that you’re willing to name admitted offenders who have fallen through the cracks.”

Then I brought up the matter of how the SBC de-members churches who are “not in friendly cooperation.”  (In theory it could be a number of things, but in practice it was only about homosexuality and women preachers.)

“Couldn’t this also apply to an SBC church in which you become aware that a person in that church has sexually assaulted an underage person, even if that crime has never been reported?” I asked.

His replies kept on along the lines of, “You have some really great points. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’ll think about these things and get back with you.”

 But regarding that last one, I added,

“This is not a hypothetical scenario. This is what happened in Christa Brown’s situation and in the cases of several other people she has written about either in her book or on her blog or her other blog, and Bob Allen has written about too (at www.baptistnews.com).”

Then I also asked him if he had ever read Christa’s book—after all, her story created quite a furor in the SBC in the mid-2000s and surely played a major part in the resolution they passed in 2013.

He said no. Roger Oldham, who was on the Executive Committee, had never read the book that so clearly documented abuse in his own denomination.

“Will you read it?” I urged. “It’s a quick and easy read. I finished it in an afternoon.”

Yes, he would read it, he said. He’d read it in the next couple of weeks. And he’d get back with me.

To be honest with you, I rolled my eyes again.

Dale Ingraham, the primary author of Tear Down This Wall of Silence, was very optimistic back in those early days about the SBC “getting it.”

I wasn’t as optimistic. I believed there was a whole lot of institution-protecting going on.

But after the phone call, I wrote to Oldham immediately, synopsizing all we had discussed, saying, “I’ll look forward to hearing from you as to whether you think this is an accurate synopsis.”

I never heard from him again.

So had he said conciliatory things to me on the phone because he knew I was writing a book? Did he purposely intend to never follow up?

That was certainly the sense I got.

At that time, I made the footnote in the book. I went on with working to expose the abuse in the Bob Jones University world.

And here we are, eight years later. The report has come out, and there is Roger Oldham’s name.

Internal communication indicated that he saw Christa Brown, the brave author of This Little Light, as a hindrance to be removed.

And I find, contrary to the ignorance and naivete he so unconvincingly tried to exhibit to me over the phone (combined with flattery about my “great points”), Roger Oldham was keeping his own database of sexual abuse offenders in the Southern Baptist world.

In fact, he had been keeping an informal database since 2009, the very year Christa’s book was published. By the time we talked, he had around 200 on his list.

Yet, the Guidepost Solutions report states, he “never took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.”

There is more, so much more in the 288 pages.  These are issues that have been flying right in their faces for decades. But no, the “institution” was more important than the cause of Christ. The “powerful” were more important than the powerless.

Many people have their stories. Mine is a small one.

But I add it to the chorus of those who say, “I bear witness too.”

*****

An earlier version of this story, not naming Roger Oldham, was published in 2018.

Southern Baptists and a Culture that Breeds a Generation of Abusers

This week the 288-page report about abuse in the Southern Baptist Church (SBC) came out. To some, it was utterly shocking.

To others it was, “It’s about time.”

I guess it depends on which side of the road you were standing on. What you had seen, heard, experienced. Who you had talked to. Who you had listened to. Who you had revered and who you had dismissed.

So I join my voice with others: It’s about time. Continue reading “Southern Baptists and a Culture that Breeds a Generation of Abusers”

The Problems with Jay Adams’ Nouthetic Counseling Works-Sanctification Doctrine

Before 2008 I was vaguely aware of Jay Adams’ nouthetic counseling. But in 2008 I read his little booklet Godliness Through Discipline, and I was incensed.

At that time my understanding about abuse and abuse enablers was microscopic, but I had been studying the Scriptures, and I knew this teaching was wrong and would lead people away from Jesus instead of toward Him.

(Only later did I understand the dynamics of how this wrong teaching could lead to abuse enabling and blaming and shaming of victims.)

So I wrote a passionate refutation of the booklet. But I didn’t know what to do with that refutation. I didn’t have any place to publish it. I didn’t even have a blog yet. And when I did start my blog the following year, it was a devotional blog, and this passionate critique didn’t quite fit there.

Finally, in 2013, I realized I could post it as a book review on Amazon. (It is by far the book’s longest review.) In 2014 when I and some friends started the BJUGrace blog, I posted it there in 3 parts.

Since Here’s the Joy took a turn to speak out for the oppressed in 2016 or so, I’ve written to refute Jay Adams Nouthetic Counseling (often called “Biblical counseling”) many times. Many others are also speaking out about it, for which I’m very thankful. Mostly the conversation centers around the abysmal and utterly destructive counseling that is given to abuse victims and abusers about repentance, forgiveness, bitterness, etc, which certainly does merit much discussion.

But the Jay Adams presentation of sanctification merits discussion as well. It is also destructive in its way.

Here is my 2008 critique in its entirety (with only a few small edits), for anyone who wants to better understand what Jay Adams teaches about sanctification and why I believe his teachings are deeply detrimental to our Christian lives.

Because this critique is from 2008, it doesn’t mention abuse and trauma. Perhaps in the comments we can discuss how it applies to the current discussion.

Here is my review of Godliness Through Discipline. Continue reading “The Problems with Jay Adams’ Nouthetic Counseling Works-Sanctification Doctrine”

Did Peter Deny Jesus Out of Fear? I Don’t Think So

Without a doubt, the nadir of Peter’s life, the absolute bottom, was his denial, his disowning, of his Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. I can imagine him looking back on that terrible time with sadness, perhaps even at the end of his life.

I’ve always heard that Peter’s three denials of Jesus, there around the fire with servants and street people, happened because he feared for his life. He certainly had reason to—the Lord had just been arrested and was on His way to be killed if no miracle intervened, and it would only make sense that His disciples would be arrested too.

But a conversation with my husband a few weeks ago led me to begin rethinking this motivation of fear for Peter’s denial.

Continue reading “Did Peter Deny Jesus Out of Fear? I Don’t Think So”

“(Don’t) Save the Body”: A Response to John MacArthur’s Head of Counseling

I enjoy irony when it’s in the context of literature.

When it’s in the context of a Bible teacher who seems to be completely oblivious about the contradictions of his statements, it makes me feel like I need to practice my breathing techniques.

Apparently, according to professor John Street, head of counseling at John MacArthur’s Masters College and Seminary, counselors who do not follow the Jay-Adams style of nouthetic counseling (now labelled “Biblical counseling”) want only to “save the body” of an abused wife. Here is the quote:

We don’t agree [with Minirth-Meier, the “integrationist” counselors] that the primary goal of the counselor in working in an abuse situation is to make personal escape and protection the essential object of their counsel.

Continue reading ““(Don’t) Save the Body”: A Response to John MacArthur’s Head of Counseling”

The Parable of Wavering and Confident

In working on my book Untwisting Scriptures #4, which addresses sin-leveling (treating all sins as equal) among other things, I came across a parable I had written for this book years ago. Ultimately I’ve decided not to use it in the book, but I would love to have your thoughtful input about it here. What answers would you give?

***

Two men, Wavering and Confident, walked together up a road, the High Way to God, which was bounded on both sides by a fence. The fence was low and easy to step over, but the signs along the way very clearly proclaimed “No trespassing.” On the other side of the fences lay the life they had left, full of interesting-looking and sometimes beautiful fruit with the peculiar quality of making a person sick sooner or later. Continue reading “The Parable of Wavering and Confident”

Why “Metanoia” Is So Much Greater Than “Repentance”—And Why That’s Important

Long ago Martin Luther read the Latin translation of the Greek New Testament called the Vulgate. He saw that John that Baptist and Jesus called out to their hearers, “Do penance! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Really? he thought. Did they really call for their hearers to do acts of self-mortification, contrition, confession to a priest, and other acts involved in trying to achieve absolution for sin?

But Luther found that the meaning of the original Greek word metanoia didn’t involve doing any acts of piety. Rather, he found, it meant “change your mind.”

Unfortunately, at least in English versions, the Latin Vulgate has exerted far more influence than it should have. The original Greek word got translated “penitence” or “repentance,” which some would argue wasn’t as far off from “penance” as it needed to be.

What does the “change of mind” mean? And why would I agree with some great thinkers that repentance is not an acceptable translation?

And why do I believe this truth is vitally important for all of us? Continue reading “Why “Metanoia” Is So Much Greater Than “Repentance”—And Why That’s Important”

“Jesus Didn’t Have Boundaries, So I Shouldn’t Either”

The Called to Peace Ministries Women’s Retreat will be happening April 7-10 in the Asheville, NC, area. Joy Forrest, the founder and director, has said that the response in recent years has been so overwhelmingly positive that she and her team have decided to do it every year. Attendees have found it refreshing, joyful, and thoroughly Christian.

I’ll be doing a breakout session on principles for Untwisting Scriptures. I would love to see some of my Here’s the Joy subscribers there.

Early Bird registration ends on February 6th, so don’t delay! You can go here to register. And scholarships are available, so don’t let lack of funds keep you away.

***

Christmas of 2007 my husband gave me the book Boundaries. I had never heard of it.

A couple of weeks later we had a long car drive to a wedding, and I read that book all the way there. I was crying. Suddenly I back-hand slapped my husband on the arm and said, “Why didn’t you give me this book a long time ago?” Continue reading ““Jesus Didn’t Have Boundaries, So I Shouldn’t Either””

The Shame of the Bleeding Woman (guest post by Helena Knowlton)

Helena Knowlton writes at Confusion to Clarity, and within that website she offers a course and community called Arise. When this course opened last month I signed up, especially because Helena focuses on how the body can heal from the trauma that has affected it, and I continue to want to learn more about that.

I highly recommend Arise for Christian women survivors of abuse who would like to experience a guided healing journey for your heart, mind, spirit, and especially for your traumatized brain and body.

Besides the actual teaching course, Arise has so much more available. I’ve hardly scratched the surface.

When I listened to a certain lesson inside the course, I immediately asked Helena if I could make a guest blog post out of it, and she graciously agreed. Continue reading “The Shame of the Bleeding Woman (guest post by Helena Knowlton)”