Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fastest route for SBC clergy to go to jail...

...might be the route taken by Tim Dillmuth, 34, a pastor at Valley Christian Church in Conway, N.H.

According to this Associated Baptist Press story, Dillmuth's crime was failing to report suspected child abuse. In New Hampshire ministers are required to report such things and Dillmuth, along with two of the church's elders, were found guilty, a misdemeanor. Sentencing is later. Jail may not be the sentence.

The pastor received the report of abuse from the victim's parents, confirmed it by speaking with the child, urged the parents to report the crime, yet did not do so himself and even told others in the church to "keep your mouth shut" about it. The pastor, several elders, and eventually others in the church knew about the abuse but police did not until a church member, with agreement by the pastor, reported it months later.

The defense presented at trial, and rejected, was that the pastor and elders acted in good faith in urging the parents to report the crime.

One wonders why any clergy, especially in New England where news about the Catholic child abuse scandals is so widespread, would not understand that child abuse in the church must be reported and cannot be handled 'in house'. It is sad that the young minister had to learn this the hard way. Reports listed the minister as an associate or youth pastor. Where was the pastor? Perhaps they didn't have one at the time.

I understand the difficulty involved when parents come to you as a minister to report suspected abuse of their child but who want to avoid the embarrassment; hence, the request to keep it quiet. Sample child protection policies for churches are virtually ubiquitous in SBC life. They all include reporting to authorities accusations of abuse.

ABP has a long history of articles on abuse and most involve SBC churches. Obviously, they think the issue is important in churches and among their readers. Baptist Press, however, is unlikely to report this or other cases like it. While I understand that our denominational news service likes good news and generally eschews stuff like this, it is likely that such news would be profitable in protecting children and educating ministers and others in SBC churches.

Predictably, the first I read of this was at Stop Baptist Predators:
Pastor told member to "keep his mouth shut". Member didn't keep his mouth shut. Pastor may go to jail.

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