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Wolves and lambs

Predatory scandals unfold in a church and a state

Wolves and lambs

SBC headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

As Southern Baptists headed to church on Sunday, Feb. 10, the Houston Chronicle published a major investigation into devastating patterns of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist congregations.

The findings: Since 1998, some 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced sexual misconduct allegations involving more than 700 victims. More than 200 offenders have been convicted or have taken plea deals. Nearly 100 remain in prison. Others have returned to Southern Baptist pulpits.

In one case, a married pastor admitted to impregnating a teenage girl in his congregation years earlier. He was never convicted of a crime, and the newspaper said he remained listed as a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as late as 2016.

Some SBC leaders cited the denomination’s structure as an obstacle to confronting churches: While local congregations affiliate with the SBC, they remain autonomous. But the article pointed out that SBC policy can affect local churches: Over the last decade, the SBC has ended its affiliation with at least four churches for endorsing homosexuality.

The most basic next steps (among many others) seem obvious: If a church knowingly employs a sexual abuser, the SBC should eject that church from the denomination, warn the congregation, and help victims. As WORLD went to press, the discussion about the scandal was intensifying, but the Biblical principle is simple: Protect the lambs, not the wolves.

Jeffrey McWhorter/AP

Claire Summers (right) gets a high five from Casey Carter, a Southern Baptist Convention messenger from Kansas City, as she protests outside the convention’s meeting in Dallas in 2018. (Jeffrey McWhorter/AP)

In Virginia, another kind of lamb faced danger: A proposed bill would allow abortions of babies up until the point of birth. Kathy Tran, a Virginia state delegate, reluctantly confirmed the law’s provisions would apply even if a mother was actively in labor.

Two days later the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, elaborated: He said doctors would deliver the baby, and “the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the family and mother desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

A discussion about killing a child? Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., noted: “In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’”

That reality barely had time to register before another controversy eclipsed it. A photo surfaced of the governor’s personal page in his 1984 medical school yearbook that included a deeply racist picture of two men at a party: One person wore blackface. The other dressed as a KKK member.

Steve Helber/AP

Northam (center) walks with Herring (left) and Fairfax (right) at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (Steve Helber/AP)

Northam apologized for appearing in the photo, but soon proclaimed he wasn’t in the picture after all. He said he would have remembered since he once darkened his face to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

Calls for Northam’s resignation buzzed, but his potential successors imploded: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring—second in line to replace Northam—announced he had once worn brown makeup to dress up like a rapper at a college party in the 1980s.

But the Virginia firestorm gained potentially criminal proportions when Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax faced accusations of sexual assault by two women. Fairfax admitted to encounters, but said they were consensual. Most of Virginia’s Democratic delegates said he should resign, and some raised the possibility of impeachment.

Democrats on the national level were slower to comment on Fairfax—even some who called on then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to be removed from consideration from the high court over accusations of sexual assault.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a Democratic presidential candidate and fierce Kavanaugh critic during his hearing, initially said the accusations against Fairfax should be investigated. Later, she called for his removal.

State politics do loom large in the fast-approaching presidential contest, but candidates for the Democratic nomination preferred to keep it national: Four of them endorsed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal—a massively unviable plan that includes replacing air travel with train travel, retrofitting every building and home in the United States, and throwing in universal medical care and free college education.

Democratic candidates might be going far and wide with early promises, but they’re also pushing far left just months after Democrats running as moderates snagged victories in several key midterm races.

President Donald Trump pushed south to El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 11 for a rally staged in an arena 1,000 feet from the southern border. Across the street, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate but is contemplating a presidential run, held his own rally. O’Rourke argued against a border wall. Trump vowed to build it, regardless of whether he gets the funding he wants from Congress.

But the biggest headlines went to the scandals, which hit conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, and were a reminder of the Apostle Paul’s teaching that there is none righteous: “No, not one.” But it’s also a reminder of how extreme fallenness calls for extreme redemption—and that’s available to anyone who calls on Christ for mercy.

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is national editor of WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked for the Charlotte World. Jamie has covered politics, disasters, religion, and more for WORLD. She resides in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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  • Janet B
    Posted: Fri, 02/15/2019 06:03 pm

    Sacrificing our children to the god Convenience.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 02/15/2019 07:23 pm

    This is sickening!  How could churches let this happen?  Where is the accountability?