Here in my own city, a Southern Baptist Convention church has hired a convicted pedophile. Not as the janitor. Not as the maintenance man, or even as an adult bible study teacher. As the preacher. He is a confessed, serial adulter in multiple churches, and then he was convicted of having sex with a minor in his church, and sending lewd text messages to others.
So how does the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC), under the leadership of John Sullivan, respond to this? How does John Sullivan and the staff at the FBC respond to the knowledge that women and children are at risk at a church who is Southern Baptist and a member of the Florida Baptist Convention who has hired this man? Below is their official statement, with my commentary.
"A hallmark of Southern Baptist life is the autonomy of the local church. Southern Baptists do not have a hierarchal (sic) system and do not appoint pastors to serve in local churches. The local congregation determines who will serve its church."
OK, this is already known. Obviously no agency appoints pastors to Southern Baptist churches, the congregations pick their pastors. However it is true that if a church selects a female pastor according to their interpretation of scripture, there is a "system" by which that church can be removed from the SBC."The Florida Baptist Convention has taken a proactive stance to encourage all churches to run background checks on employees and volunteers—as we do with every volunteer who works with children and teens in Convention-sponsored events and programs"
How ironic that this is brought up in the context of the Gilyard saga. Had Shiloh Baptist done a background check on Gilyard he would have come out clean back in 1993 - he had no criminal record. But he was KNOWN to be a serial adulter by Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, and had confessed to having sex with women he had counseled in his churches prior to coming to Shiloh, yet a background check would never have revealed that when Shiloh hired him in the early 1990s. Of course now if we run a background check, he is a convicted sex offender."Christ Tabernacle Baptist Church (sic) in Jacksonville has been affiliated with the Florida Baptist Convention since 1998. During that time, the congregation has not demonstrated cooperation as defined by our Bylaw 2, which includes participating in the Cooperative Program giving and providing statistical information. They have given nothing in the past six years."
Christa Brown and others have called for the Southern Baptist Convention to establish a database to track ministers who have been convicted of crimes, or credibly accused of serious misconduct. The SBC heavies have opposed such a system, and the Gilyard disaster is example #1 of why such a system is required. The FBC statement above painfully points this out.
OK, that is interesting. Glad to know that in addition to hiring a pedophile and kicking the kids out of the church, they also are guilty of the terrible offense of not giving any money to the Cooperative Program. Who really cares that they have given no money to SBC missions, if they are putting a pedophile in the pulpit?"Under Bylaw 2, the Convention affirms the role of the local association as the theological guardian of theology, faith, practice and polity. We affirm the leaders of the Jacksonville Baptist Association in that role."
OK, so they were saying that they would rather have the local association handle this matter. So John Sullivan passes the buck to Rick Wheeler and David Tarkington. Now in the next paragraph, the Florida Baptist Convention does say what is important to them, what DOES cause them to jump to action."Our staff has attempted to contact church leaders of Christ Tabernacle Baptist church even before the appointment of Darrell Gilyard as a preacher to discuss their financial situation. Since the current situation developed, we have made additional attempts to contact church leaders. Yesterday we were able to contact the chairman of the deacons and express our concern about the on-going relationship with the congregation."
Interesting. They just said in the previous paragraph that the matter of one of their own churches hiring a pedophile needs to be handled by the JBA. But by golly, the Florida Baptist Convention wants everyone to know that what is important to them, where they WILL jump to take action is when your church stops giving money to the Cooperative Program.So the matter is put to rest now. We now know: the Florida Baptist Convention will pass the handling of serious matters such as pedophile preachers at churches down to the local associations that really have very few resources as compared to the state association. But when it comes to collecting money from the churches, the Florida Baptist Convention will get involved.
Their statement above does specify the CTMBC offense of not giving money to the Cooperative Program, but doesn't detail the offense of greater importance: putting women and children at risk by hiring a pedophile preacher.
Finally, I do commend Rick Wheeler and David Tarkington for taking the ball from the Florida Baptist Convention and getting Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to agree to remove their membership from the JBA.
And thank you Rick and David, for getting CTMBC removed from the JBA church website so no one is directed to that church from your database.
Sadly, CTMBC is still as of this morning, showing up on the Florida Baptist Convention Church website.
John Sullivan, can you at least get CTMBC removed from your church database?
At least until they begin contributing money again to the Cooperative Program.