This Associated Baptist Press story is an opinion piece by Baptist General Convention of Texas, "Theologian-In-Residence" Jim Denison. It conflates the Penn State sex abuse scandal and the Herman Cain sexual harrassment stories and offers what he says God feels and what scripture says about the scandals.
Read it and wonder if Dr. Theolog-in-Residence was out to lunch when he wrote the piece.
Not surprisingly, Christa Brown has noted some difficulties, some inconsistencies in attempting to handle clergy child sex abuse though any theology of Matthew 18.
She writes, angrily I would surmise:
Denison’s statement reveals a dangerous ignorance about the dynamics of child sex abuse.
It is the sort of ignorance that Baptist clergy abuse survivors have encountered in case after case, as church and denominational leaders have blinded themselves to abuse reports, seeing only the facts that suit them, minimizing the reality of clergy child molestations, and citing Matthew 18 as support for their own keep-it-quiet do-nothingness.
Take any of the sad scenarios that are recent and apply the Denison test.
Should the ten year old boy have gone back to his adult rapist and attempted some reconciliation? Such is absurd.
Should Brown herself, as a child, gone back to her abuser, waved her Bible and attempted to reconcile? Absurd.
Denison, and others, take this passage in Matthew 18 and seem to make it an absolute prerequisite. Yet, we live in a society of civil laws. When a law is broken, particularly one that involves children and abuse, the moral and legal obligation is, first, to report the crime.
Suppose the child went to his rapist who apologized, asked for personal forgiveness, and offered assurances of no further such behavior. Is that sufficient to satisfy God? The parties can now go merrily on their way and the way of the pedophile is almost invariably to merrily molest other children. After Matthew 18 is there no criminal penalty need be applied here? Absurd.
Some Southern Baptists have turned Matthew 18 into a formulaic protocol to absolve criminals of heinous crimes and deprive their victims of justice. Matthew 18 has been made into the magic wand that spiritual leaders must simply wave to make ugly situations go away and things to go back to the status quo ante, victims usually be damned (in a real but non-theological sense and pardon my language).
Among Christians, some offenses may indeed be resolved by adults having adult, Christian conversations. But we aren't in a theocracy. We live as Christians in a country of laws. While there are times we may have options in conflict resolution, sexual abuse of children by adults is not one of those.
It's tough to argue with Christa Brown when she describes this sort of response to sex abuse of children as "ignorance."
Surely in a reflective moment Denison would rethink this and do better.