Evaluations and Recommendations on Systemic Sexual Abuse in the SBC

SUMMARY: This page compiles two series of threads with concept frameworks and other resources for evaluating systemic sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention; and to gain understanding of abuse survivors, advocates, and activists from their inside perspective.

The first thread includes links to descriptions and indicators dealing with systems and systemic abuse; attitudes and actions for constructively transforming corrupted systems; types of abusers, enablers, and pawns typically found in toxic systems; preliminary thoughts on the range of responsibility for abuse, from direct culpability to indirect complicity; sexual abuse research notes; and specific kinds of actions to “clean house” of past and present abuse issues, and implement future preventives.

The second thread focuses on descriptions for criteria to evaluate how “safe” institutions are in embracing abuse survivors/advocates; and whether people being given roles of leadership or platforms for influence are qualified, UNqualified, or DISqualified. Both the SBC as a system and the wider collective of abuse survivor communities are in need of such discernment indicators because specific people and situations arise around these issues constantly.

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Evaluations and Recommendations on Systemic Sexual Abuse in the SBC

SOURCE NOTES: This thread was original posted as a Twitter Moment on June 8, 2019, entitled, Evaluations and Recommendations on Systemic Sexual Abuse in the SBC.

THREAD: Resources for Evaluating the SBC (or other kinds of churches, ministries, or denominational entities), and my recommendations to take responsibility, dismantle systemic abuse, and make substantive institutional steps toward repair of past damage and prevention of future abuse.

As a futurist, two main concerns I have are to: (1) equip individuals and groups to discern and decide their most preferable pathway forward and (2) give constructive reasoning and resources for having hope. This section offers resources based on my 45 years of studying systems and abuse issues.

I’ve been building this Twitter Moment base of details and issues so I can write a documented, well-reasoned assessment of how individual SBC entities are doing in repairing past damages and preventing future abuse, and how the SBC is doing overall on dismantling its *systemic* issues.

In this section, I list SBC-specific posts I’ve written in 2018 and in 2019 so far. My tentative plan is to post later an “issues report card” for the SBC as a whole and its various individual entities, and also offer a series of recommendations on vetting, certifying, partnering, etc.

RESOURCES FOR EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS. The 7 articles linked to on this index post serve as a tutorial on my overall perspective about systems, systemic abuse, and transforming corrupted systems. It also includes a series of “Essentials” concept frameworks.

RESOURCES FOR EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse,” by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; 2014-2018). Covers core issues of individual and institutional culpability, complicity, responsibility, and repair. Includes a 5-step action plan.

RESOURCES FOR EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities,” by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; 2018-2019). This extensive series documents my research findings and analysis about Christian wings in the wider #MeToo  movement.

RESOURCES FOR EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes. Research methods and resources for abuse survivors, advocates, activists, and church leaders to deal with toxic individuals and institutions. Items range from popular-level to technical.

EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.What Will It Take for the SBC to ‘Clean House’? Four Suggestions from a Futurist,” by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; June 7, 2018).

ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION RESOURCES for @HoustonChron Houston Chronicle’s “Abuse of Faith” in the SBC–Article #1, by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; February 10, 2019). Draws from a reservoir of research and resources by abuse survivors, advocates, and activists.

EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.What Do Abuse Survivors Want? Some FAQs and Observations for Leaders of the SBC,” by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; February 12, 2019). Many abuse survivors and SBCers are voicing questions and concerns about systemic abuse, especially in light of the @HoustonChron series on “Abuse of Faith” in SBC. I compiled this basic information and constructive study sources for dealing with systemic abuse, enablement and concealment.

EVALUATIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS.The SBC and Polity—and Authority, Civic Responsibility, Systems Connectivity, and Toxicity,” by Brad Sargent (futuristguy; February 14, 2019). How autonomy affects needed reforms on abuse survivors and predatory ministers.

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Indicators for “Safe” Institutions and “Qualified” Spokespeople

SOURCE NOTES: This was originally posted as a Twitter thread on January 24, 2020. There is some duplication of sources mentioned in the above thread, but I have left them in since the overall emphasis in this thread is different. I’ve edited the tweets slightly for clarity.

THREAD: INDICATORS FOR “SAFE” INSTITUTIONS AND “QUALIFIED” SPOKESPEOPLE. I’m copying series of tweets I posted that link to concept frameworks I’ve been developing to help abuse survivors/advocates evaluate institutions and individuals we potentially work with–and vice versa. /1

With new survivors/advocates active in Xn #MeToo, I also believe we need clear criteria for reverse issue–how to vet church, non-profit, denomination for our potential involvement with them. What indicators can distinguish whether their platforming us is really to protect them? /2

I tracked down posts from late 2018 onward where I laid out initial frameworks for vetting.

INSTITUTIONAL CREDIBILITY. Cultural Geography, Part 2, Section on “Five Absolute Minimum Actions to Show “Good Faith” Efforts on Behalf of Abuse/Violence Victims, Advocates, and Activists.” /3

In that same article, the section on “Questionable Influences: Evaluating Factors that Impact Systemic Abuse. This series of questions includes many for evaluating the level of safety and sustainability of institutions, and some on vetting people given roles of public influence. /4

Cultural Geography, Part 8, has information on theological and methodological differences among members of abuse survivor/advocate communities, plus overviews of who is a “litmus-test” advocate that untrustworthy institutions reject and “barometer” advocates they endorse. (Image below shows my descriptions of those terms.) /5

What Makes a Ministry “Safe”? gives indicators for discerning how “safe” Christian institution is. Includes ways to figure out whether someone is qualified, UNqualified, or DISqualified from leader roles. We can apply framework to survivors/advocates gaining public platform. (Image below from Chapter 10 in my Futuristguy’s Field Guide #1 overviews these concepts.) /6

After I posted the initial series of tweets, a reader asked an important question that is directly relevant to issues abuse survivor communities have with the Southern Baptist institutional systems and churches:

What do you think it will take for (an organization) to truly listen to the victims they refused to help? Class action? It’s baffling.

I posted something in June, still refining concept framework for that. But the first draft turned out to be an alliterated list: survivor’s story, shock, surprise, or suffering. Different people will gravitate to different “S” impetus for a paradigm shift.

What tends to motivates change of mind about a manipulator and those challenging him/her? Seems it requires one or more “S” factors: survivor’s story (engages our empathy), shock (horrific details), surprise (unexpected acts/facts), or suffering (you or friend experiences abuse).

From what I’ve observed since starting research writing focus on spiritual abuse and various abuse survivor communities, that’s what I believe grabs an *individual’s* mind, heart, conscience, and/or imagination.

Some factors appeal more to those who prefer objective/factual information, some to those who process better with subjective/emotional information. Regardless, false frameworks need to be countered and emotional bonding glue needs to be dissolved. Proposed formal study could do both.

An institution cannot be genuinely moved unless its people are–see attached quote–although it can fake it for a while with “image repair” persona. (For details, see the insightful work of Wade Mullen @wademullen and Julia Dahl @jdahlmd.)

So when a congregation or corporation needs to undergo a paradigm shift on abuse, the spark for full institutional change might come from its leaders who are accountable for its direction, or start with loyal opposition insiders who keep pushing for change. (Description of loyal opposition below comes from the Pyramid of Abuse and Culpability/Complicity.)

And/or it might be lit by abuse survivors, advocates, and activists outside the system who faithfully and fairly (i.e., with survivor stories, trauma-informed resources, documentation and system analysis, etc.) call out, push back, and pull forward. And yes, that may include lawsuits.

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