"I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

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"I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:15 am

Quotation above from the pastor of FBC Waco, referring to the convicted murderer, Matt Baker, who was serving in his church, presumbly under his direct supervision when the following happened:

As for FBC-Waco, in that same article, Texas Monthly reports that "the recreation minister" at FBC-Waco received a report from a female custodian that Matt Baker had grabbed her in a bathroom, and that "around the same time, the senior pastor received a report that Matt had cornered a teenage girl" in a storage room.

It's obvious from the article that both the former recreation minister and the former pastor actually spoke with journalist Scott Hollandsworth. In fact, in connection with the specific inquiry of why "First Baptist officials" said nothing when other churches called interested in hiring Matt, the pastor was quoted as saying, "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career."


Assuming that the custodian was an adult and the girl a minor, was the pastor's action/inaction appropriate?

What should pastors do in such situations?
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:08 am

With the custodian, it's sexual harrassment in the workplace. With a teen, grounds for immediate dismissal even if there was no criminal conduct. His career needed to be stopped. I think the ministers acted inappropriately.
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A lesser question

Postby Stephen Fox » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:22 am

What constitutes ground for starting a new thread? The board seems to be losing its way in that regard.

edited by wm with this reply: Stephen, I lifted a separate, more specific question that I thought relevant. If you want to contribute, contribute. If you want to complain, send me a PM.
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:44 am

William Thornton wrote:Quotation above from the pastor of FBC Waco, referring to the convicted murderer, Matt Baker, who was serving in his church, presumbly under his direct supervision when the following happened:

As for FBC-Waco, in that same article, Texas Monthly reports that "the recreation minister" at FBC-Waco received a report from a female custodian that Matt Baker had grabbed her in a bathroom, and that "around the same time, the senior pastor received a report that Matt had cornered a teenage girl" in a storage room.

It's obvious from the article that both the former recreation minister and the former pastor actually spoke with journalist Scott Hollandsworth. In fact, in connection with the specific inquiry of why "First Baptist officials" said nothing when other churches called interested in hiring Matt, the pastor was quoted as saying, "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career."


Assuming that the custodian was an adult and the girl a minor, was the pastor's action/inaction appropriate?

What should pastors do in such situations?


Ed: The custodian being an adult does not change the fact that if true she had been sexually assaulted. A church should have a personnel committee. and the pastor should report this to them and they should investigate the charge and make the determination as to the validity. If They determined it valid, Matt should have been be fired. And when an inquiry about him comes in. The answer should refer to his overall performance in the job and include a statement that he was fired based on an internal investigation of sexual assault.
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sun Jan 24, 2010 3:54 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:Odd, I have wanted to have been known as the pastor who fired this guy. Protecting the members of your congregation is a sacred duty.


Ed: Tim while I do not disagree agree with you point about wanting "to be known as the pastor who fired this guy" and the "Protecting the members of your congregation is a sacred duty". But what was it you found odd?
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:46 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:Odd, I have wanted to have been known as the pastor who fired this guy. Protecting the members of your congregation is a sacred duty.


One of your best, Timothy. I have no spurs but here you go...

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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:32 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
Ed Pettibone wrote:
Timothy Bonney wrote:Odd, I have wanted to have been known as the pastor who fired this guy. Protecting the members of your congregation is a sacred duty.


Ed: Tim while I do not disagree agree with you point about wanting "to be known as the pastor who fired this guy" and the "Protecting the members of your congregation is a sacred duty". But what was it you found odd?


The sentiment of the pastor at his church. I realize none of us want to look like the bad guy. But when you have women being assaulting in your church you also don't want to be known as the pastor who let someone get away with this.


Ed Thanks Tim, due to the placement of your post after mine I thought that you had found something "odd" about my post offering how I think the situation should have been handled ?
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:23 pm

Just to add, the quote being discussed in this thread has been shortened. Here's the quote in its original context:

All I can say is that he was very young, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt....If those stories weren’t true, I didn’t want to be known as the man who ruined his career.



Diana Garland, who most Baptists known for her ousting by Mohler at Southern, has an op-ed on clergy sex abuse in today's Waco Tribune. Garland is currently the Dean of Social Work at Baylor and the wife of David Garland, Interim President of Baylor University and Dean of Truett Seminary.

Here it is below:
The murder trial of former pastor Matt Baker in Waco last week was mesmerizing for many reasons. It involved sex, lies, premeditated murder, pornography and a clergy member. It should have been a work of fiction; it should never have happened in real life.

Even as we grieve for the victim’s parents and her two daughters, we must not overlook that, initially, there was another victim. Long before she engaged in a sexual relationship with Matt Baker, Vanessa Bulls, in the midst of divorce, was just a young woman attending a church seeking comfort and guidance in her life. The pastor of the church she chose to visit offered to counsel her.

We cannot and should not dismiss the chain of events that followed and led, almost incomprehensibly, to the murder of a young mother whose parents and daughters now have an irreplaceable void in their lives. But if we focus on how this extramarital relationship began, we see a textbook example of clergy sexual misconduct, a felony offense in Texas according to the state penal code (Chapter 22: Assaultive Offensives). Matt Baker’s crime of sexual misconduct as a religious leader — long before he plotted to add murder —was not only immoral but criminal.

During the past four years, I have conducted research on clergy sexual misconduct in order to find approaches to prevent it. I wish that Baker’s initial offense was an isolated incident. It isn’t. Our research found that one of every 33 women in a congregation in America has experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct from her religious leader at some time in her adult life. The average American attends a congregation of 400 adults, so that’s an average of seven women per congregation. Of course, it is rare that clergy sexual misconduct involves murder, although the suicide rate among victims is high. I have conducted interviews with more than 80 people from all over the country and from more than 30 religious groups. They described how they were victimized by religious leaders, blamed themselves for being vulnerable, and remained silent, trapped in their shame.

First, let’s name what Matt Baker did accurately; it wasn’t simply an affair; it was an illegal abuse of power.

Clergy sexual misconduct with adults is a more nuanced issue than the sexual abuse of children. Sexual involvement of an adult with a child is always wrong because we know that children are not developmentally able to give consent. Because adults always have authority over children, children cannot “just say no” to adults.

When the sexual offense occurs between adults, however, we assume that if there is no physical coercion, the relationship is consensual. In fact, however, when persons in positions of power — counselors, pastors, physicians — attempt to engage in sexual relationships with those over whom they have authority, the relationship is not consensual. The feelings or willingness of the victim are irrelevant; the act is legally defined as abuse because of the authority the professional holds.

Most of the stories I heard in my interviews sound much like the story Vanessa Bulls told in court last week. Matt Baker offered her the professional service of counseling in order to pursue his own sexual agenda. The woman, caught off guard by her trust in a “man of God” and told that God wants her to be in this relationship, is victimized. In her testimony last week, Bulls said Baker was “wearing the mask of God” in order to engage her in a sexual relationship.

From the victims I have interviewed, I learned that if victims do break the silence in order to report a religious leader’s misconduct, they often are ostracized by the church and blamed for causing a good leader to fall. The stories of victims are hard to hear; members of the congregation do not want to believe that their beloved leader could do such a thing. When I talk about this research, I have often been asked, “But don’t you think women go after pastors?”

It is a good question, and a reasonable one. Yes, surely some women may be attracted to kind, thoughtful, caring religious leaders who listen to their life struggles. Perhaps some even seek a sexual relationship with a religious leader. But that is not the point, no more than it would be if a client in therapy “went after” her counselor.

Especially when religious leaders are confronted with temptation or seduction, it is the responsibility of that leader to hold the line. They must model how to care for others. They should never take advantage of another’s neediness or vulnerability. That’s why clergy sexual misconduct is illegal in Texas, and it should be illegal everywhere. The point is that clergy sexual misconduct is a breach of the community’s trust in a leader.

When a religious leader abuses the power a community gives him, it damages the whole community. It was devastating for a congregation who trusted this man to lead them and who will probably never trust another leader in quite the same way.

The larger community trusted him; when Matt Baker told the authorities that his wife committed suicide, they believed him and conducted no autopsy. Families all across our community are trying to understand how this could have happened.

As a community, we need to take seriously that we all need accountability structures and guidelines, both for ourselves and for those to whom we give power. We cannot undo what happened to Kari Baker, but we can learn from it to create guidelines and accountability structures in our congregations. As we found in the focus groups we held, it is a structure many pastors would welcome — for the safe-keeping and well-being of all involved.

Diana Garland is dean of the Baylor University School of Social Work. She was honored last year at The Orange Conference in Atlanta for her seminal work Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide (InterVarsity Press, 1999), named 2000 Book of the Year by the Academy of Parish Clergy.


I'd like to know more specifics regarding the sentence I bolded in Garland's conclusion.
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Christa Brown » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:27 am

Big Daddy Weave wrote:
I'd like to know more specifics regarding the sentence I bolded in Garland's conclusion.

I'd like to know the specifics also. We often hear academics talk about "accountability structures," but for Baptists, we seldom hear them say "how." Other professions and other major faith groups recognize that "accountability structures" require people on the outside. When there's a question of whether a cop used excessive force or shot in self-defense, it's not his buddies at the precinct house who assess and report back on what happened. It's an independent board. Yet, with Baptists, what people typically tell those who attempt to report abuse is that they must report it to the church of the accused perpetrator. It's like telling bloody sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It will never work. Basic human nature precludes this from being an effective structure for accountability.

The Waco Tribune-Herald also published its own editorial which included this statement:

"The trial's punishment phase also reminds us that no boss, no manager, no company owner should tolerate the sort of sexual advances that testimony shows Matt Baker made to women, including a young woman at Baylor University.... "


So . . . why did Baylor University tolerate it? Why hasn't Baylor University explained its failure to act or offered some expression of remorse? And what about FBC-Waco? Why did they tolerate it and let Baker move on without consequence? And where is any expression of remorse from FBC-Waco?
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby William Thornton » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:12 am

The article from which I got the quotation of the murderer's pastor/supervisor at Waco FBC did not include the fuller context. I appreciate BDW adding it...

All I can say is that he was very young, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt....If those stories weren’t true, I didn’t want to be known as the man who ruined his career.


Well, all I can say is that when this incident happened (sometime in the early 1990s?) at Waco FBC, perhaps the climate around clergy sexual abuse was far more muted. Even so, one wonders how a pastor could have had a default position of giving an accused abuser the benefit of the doubt. Isn't the wiser course to give the victim the benefit of the doubt?

I don't think that the pastor would be able to be quite so blithe today.

The long quote from Diana Garland correctly explains the inherent abuse by someone in a position of power, counselor/counselee, which I noted in the other thread. Our insurer always asks and insists on assurances from our church about pastoral counseling arrangements and policies.
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Dave Roberts » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:21 am

One of the things that keeps occurring here is the use of "accountability groups." The truth is that in Baptist life there is no requirement of accountability beyond that to the deacons, personnel committee, or pastor/church relations committee of the local church. There are no requirements for participation in peer groups of any sort in most churches. It would seem to me that one way to approach this might be to build into pastor/church covenants a requirement that ministers participate in such an accountability group that sits down together at least once each month.

I am very thankful that in my first pastorate, a local hospital chaplain invited me into such a group about 4 weeks after I arrived on the field. I was involved in a pilot project in the 1980's and 1990's to create ministerial support groups in NC. I have been involved since 2003 with CBF's Initiative for Ministerial Excellence and Peer Learning Groups. There are people who drive 50 miles one way to participate because there is nothing of a similar nature available in their local areas. Christa is on the right track about accountability groups, but despite all the emphasis given to them, they are few in number and not easily accessible to many ministers.
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:52 pm

William, Dave and anyone else,

After the database and some type of accountability structure (which Garland seems to suggest is at the local level not national), we have the issue of an Independent Review Board. Christa alludes to that here:

When there's a question of whether a cop used excessive force or shot in self-defense, it's not his buddies at the precinct house who assess and report back on what happened. It's an independent board. Yet, with Baptists, what people typically tell those who attempt to report abuse is that they must report it to the church of the accused perpetrator. It's like telling bloody sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It will never work.


Other denominations, denominations which are organized differently for sure, do have this type of investigative review board.

Would this work in Baptist Life? Is such a board even possible, compatible with local church autonomy (as local church autonomy regularly plays out...)?

I don't think so. Baptist churches are by definition independent. The BGCT doesn't control any Texas Baptist congregation. The only real power that the BGCT has over a Texas Baptist church is disaffiliation.

American Christianity is increasingly post-denominational. According to a survey just last year, "Protestants in the United States are about as loyal to their brand of toothpaste as their denomination." Many if not most Baptist churches have multiple affiliations. Some of these affiliations are with other Baptist gruops; some are with non-Baptist groups. My church here in Texas has three listed affiliations. I would say that the BGCT is our tertiary affiliation in practice. Actually, it might be numero cuatro.

So, the BGCT has the power of disaffiliation. If the situation presented itself, how many churches would subject themselves to an outside independent review board coming in? I would think that most would not participate. The BGCT could then disaffiliate of course. But I suspect that many churches would rather face disaffiliation than an outside investigation especially if the BGCT is not even their primary affiliation. Effectiveness?

I think most Baptists see a difference between cooperative educational efforts/cooperative information sharing (database) AND an outside investigative review board.

I think the indy review board is one example of how Baptists are different from some other denominations. At some point, polity does matter.

A few months back, I heard Nancy Ammerman speak about freedom and autonomy and she affirmed a comment made by a person in the audience who described a Baptist church as "a voluntary association of individuals."

And that's a common phrase - "voluntary association of individuals" that has been used for many many years to describe Baptist churches. Some see it as a positive; others see it as a huge negative. But it is a voluntary association of individuals and all of its affiliations/partnerships and other relationships are voluntary as well.

If an investigative review board can not be forced on a congregation, can that review board be effective? When faced with the idea that the church has to allow the investigation OR face disaffiliation, how many churches would go along with the denomination?
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Christa Brown » Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:59 pm

Big Daddy Weave wrote:
Baptist churches are by definition independent.

Yes, but American Baptist Churches are also independent and they nevertheless manage to accomodate a clergy review process that is set apart from the local church. My understanding is that they view their system of review as being completely compatible with local church autonomy.

A couple ministers from the Disciples of Christ have exchanged multiple emails with me, urging me to persist in trying to prod Southern Baptists toward accountability structures. I myself don't purport to know much about Disciples of Christ, but they inform me that Disciples of Christ are also congregationalist in polity. Nevertheless, about 30 years ago, they created a system for outside denominational oversight of clergy -- i.e., outside the local church. They did that in response to the Jonestown massacre in which 900 people lost their lives. It's easy in hindsight for people to view Rev. Jim Jones as a "wacko", but at the time, he was a minister in good-standing of the Christian Church -- i.e., the Disciples of Christ. It was after that when the Disciples of Christ sought to plug the safety hole in their decentralized system.

Interesting that BDW brings up Nancy Ammerman. In her 1992 book "Baptist Battles" (a book that won the "distinguished book of the year" award from the Society for the Scientfic Study of Religion), she wrote that Southern Baptists have been "among the most tightly-knit hiearchically functioning denominations in America." (Baptist Battles at p. 270) So, according to Ammerman, while Baptists may not be hierarchical in how they articulate their polity, they are actually "hierarchically functioning" in many ways.

Ammerman is also frequently quoted in public speeches as saying that Southern Baptists are "45,000 autonomous churches choosing autonomously to do exactly what Nashville tells them to do."
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Re: "I didn't want to be known as the man who ruined his career"

Postby Big Daddy Weaver » Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:29 am

My understanding of this ABC-USA review process is:

If a man or woman feels a call to the ministry, he/she gets in contact with their local church. That person gets put in contact with their ABC region. The candidate goes through a process (includes an evaluation, etc.) and then the commission recommends (or rejects) the candidate to his/her local church. If the candidate is recommended, presumably the local church then ordains the candidate and the individual is recognized as a "licensed" ABC-USA minister. Hope I got that correct.

This process clearly puts a heavy emphasis on education. In fact, as Timothy notes, a candidate probably would not be approved without an MDiv from an accredited seminary. I too value education and hope other churches value education as well. In fact, we left a SBC church when I was about 12 because the pastor was so anti-education. However, Southern Baptists have not gone the route of an educational litmus test. There are a number of well-known Southern Baptist pastors who would likely not get ABC-USA's stamp of approval. Pretty sure that both Wade Burleson and Marty Duren - two of the most well-known Baptist bloggers - do not hold seminary degrees.

I'm also unsure of how this process keeps predators out of the pulpit. It keeps uneducated people out of American Baptist pulpits. But I don't see what in this process would prevent a predator or predator-in-the-making from being licensed unless he/she had a past which was public?

What process does ABC-USA have if a pastor is accused of sexual misconduct? Will the Region send an outside group to go investigate the charges? Can the man or woman, boy or girl report accusations directly to the Association, Region or some National office? Does ABC-USA have a database and share information with other Christian groups and Baptist groups?

The only real advantage that ABC-USA has over the SBC is that they are a much much much smaller denomination and its easier to keep track of accused predators. The BGCT alone is over 2x larger than the entire ABC-USA. Smaller groups definitely have an advantage over massive denominations.

I don't know when the 45,000-quote from Ammerman was made nor could I find it onlien via Google. However, we should put Ammerman's quote in its fuller context. Baptists Battles was written in 1989 and published in 1990 during the height of the SBC Controversy. Ammerman writes:
For at least fifty years, Southern Baptists had been among the most tightly-knit, hierarchically functioning denominations in America. The Cooperative Program meant that all funds went through one channel, and SBC program loyalty meant that almost all churches shaped their identities and activities in a denominationally-prescribed manner.


Ammerman was speaking to the subject of denominational loyalty which was especially strong throughout the WWII era and into the 70s. Ammerman would note, as any good sociologist would, that the American religious landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years or more. Denominationalism has long been on the decline and many sociologists now describe the current era as post-denominational.

So yes, Southern Baptists to a certain degree were a "hierarchically functioning" denomination due to the high value on the Southern Baptist brand. And those autonomous churches were voluntarily functioning in an hierarchical manner out of their loyalty to the denomination. But again, Ammerman's commitment is about Southern Baptists' loyalty to programs/traditions/identity - all of which was voluntary.

Southern Baptists could certainly do more. If they can investigate Broadway, they can investigate a church. But keep in mind that Broadway did not have to subject themselves to that scrutiny. Their interim pastor willingly went along with that. And I think more than a few outside observers had questions about why the church subjected themselves to that mini-investigation. If Broadway's music minister (or choir director?) was not an employee of SWBTS, I wonder if they would have done what they did. Most guys in Nashville could similarly ask to meet with the leadership of a church where accusations of clergy sexual misconduct had surfaced. I just think, in this era where denominational loyalty is at an all-time low, that most churches under pressure would refuse the meeting. That doesn't sound very effective.

Now, the database is a different story in my opinion. No excuse for not having a database and by database, I mean an actual database that others can access - not some secret file in a basement somewhere.
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