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Rally raises awareness of abuse/encourages churches to respond
About 50 protesters participated in a "For Such a Time as This Rally" the afternoon of June 12 outside of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas. The rally called for Southern Baptist clergy to receive training on how to treat women with respect, how to handle allegations of abuse, and how to minister to victims of abuse. Photo by Marc Ira Hooks

Rally raises awareness of abuse/encourages churches to respond

Jun 15, 2018

Margaret Colson
Arkansas Baptist News

DALLAS — In a united effort to discuss and respond to the “epidemic of abuse within Protestant Christianity’s largest denomination,” dozens of men, women and children gathered at the “For Such a Time as This” rally in the noonday heat outside the Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting June 12.

As participants held placards, distributed resources and listened to speakers, they hoped to raise awareness regarding the prevalence of abuse within churches and other religious settings as well as offer guidance on proper response to such abuse.

A woman in the crowd, herself “a victim of church abuse” said the church kept “telling me to stay in an abusive marriage.” Now her advice to other abuse victims is simple: “Tell, keep telling and keep going to someone who will listen.” The message resonated with her teen daughter, who joined in the rally, saying, “I’m here for my mom. I’d really love to stand by her and support her.”

Rally speaker Wade Burleson, pastor, Emmanuel Enid Church, Enid, Okla., said he hoped the rally would “raise awareness that there is an issue of abuse in Southern Baptist churches. It’s not that we don’t have good people, good pastors. I think it’s a misunderstanding of how to handle abuse.” Abuse, he said, “can be properly, morally, ethically, legally handled.”

He advises fellow ministers to “pay attention if anyone ever comes to you, alleging sexual or physical abuse. Don’t hide it; don’t cover it. Make it known to authorities; help the victim and deal with perpetrators. It’s pretty clear.”

Burleson presented a motion June 12 during the annual meeting, calling for an online resource to protect churches from sexual predators. The motion was referred to Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for further consideration.

One of the men in the crowd, Geoff Davidson, alumnus of Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas, said, “As a man who believes in Christ, I think it’s so important to let our sisters in Christ know that we see them, we listen to them, we value them as image-bearers of God. When the image of God is hurt by other people, it’s the job of those around them to stand up for them and to be there for them and to do everything we can to make sure those sorts of things don’t happen again.

“l love what Brother Russell Moore (ERLC president) said … that Jesus doesn’t need us to hide anything, to look out for His reputation. Jesus is still Jesus. God is still God. He’s still on the throne, and our attempting to cover things up isn’t going to help Him in any way; it’s not going to help the mission in any way. In fact, it’s going to ultimately hurt it.”

One event organizer, Cheryl Summers, emphasized in a pre-rally press release, that the event “is not anti-Southern Baptist or anti-Christian. We are advocating for a reform of culture and for training of pastors and church leaders. We follow Christ’s example who treated women with dignity and honor as equal, valuable members of His Church when the culture of His day did not.”

In addition to Burleson, other speakers during the rally included Carolyn Deevers, advocate for abuse survivors; Mary DeMuth, author, speaker and victim advocate; Ashley Easter, founder, The Courage Conference; Christy Sim, author; and Gricel Medina, pastor.

Margaret Colson is copy editor for the Arkansas Baptist News.

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