Framework for Analyzing SBC Systemic Abuse: Past, Present, and Future

SUMMARY: This page contains three sections. The first overviews a five-part framework from an institutional point of view, that focuses on a full timeline from past to future:

  1. Identify past abuse.
  2. Hold accountable all who are culpable or complict.
  3. Repair corroded system infrastructures.
  4. Reconcile with abuse survivors.
  5. Document the full trajectory so past problems don’t get repeated.

The second section offers short responses to seven key questions, from the point of view of individuals who are abuse survivors/advocates, and what it is they want from institutions that need to address systemic abuse.

The third section translates those wants into five absolute minimum actions to show good faith by the institution in addressing the needs of abuse survivor communities.

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SOURCE NOTES: This material was originally posted on June 8, 2019, as the last third of a Twitter Moment entitled, Evaluations and Recommendations on Systemic Sexual Abuse in the SBC. I described it there as, “A series of threads with concept frameworks and other resources for evaluating systemic sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, along with issues of accountability, adaptations for the SBC polity of autonomy, and more.”

I have edited the content slightly for this reposting, to spell out abbreviations, fill in a few words that were left out to keep tweets within the maximum number of characters allowed, and format titles. I have left tweet numbers for easier reference.

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THREAD: FRAMEWORK I USE FOR ANALYZING SBC’S PAST STATUS, COURSE CORRECTIONS, FUTURE POSSIBILITIES. This thread overviews key aspects of the concept framework I used to develop checklist for evaluating SBC overall on their dealing with severe issues of systemic sexual abuse. /1

The framework I use for analyzing systems has 7 interconnected parts: people, principles, practices, partnerships, processes, products, and impacts. An institution’s reputation for transparency, trustworthiness, safety, & sustainability should be based on that set as a whole. /2

A thorough, independent investigation into systemic abuse needs to address all of these elements, if those accountable for the system truly want to deal with the damage: harm to people, and corrosion of the system. These actions contribute to clearing their reputation. /3

#1. IDENTIFY past damages: destructive impacts to specific individuals inside & outside the institution, and to institutional parts. This is not about expanding abstract, general knowledge on abuse, but about pinpointing specifics in order to take concrete repair actions. /4

#2. CALL TO ACCOUNT the people culpable for these actions. Correct and/or retrain personnel where possible, remove them where necessary. Restoration to a job or role of influence should never be assumed by or guaranteed to those who were responsible for corrupting the system. /5

#3. REHABILITATE institutional system to correct its infrastructure–strategies & structures; processes and procedures. If the whole is too far corroded to be restored, it should be dismantled. *Perhaps* some fragments can be salvaged, but this should not be assumed or promised. /6

#4. RECONCILE with survivors. Listen to them, relate with them, come to understand what abuse did to them. Then work to repair the damages done and support them in recovery processes. NOTE: This will not be effective if institutional sides of the problem have not been addressed. /7

That’s because abuse survivors typically want changes made so what happened to them does NOT happen from now on to others. To them, institutional interventions that prevent future abuse & more victims constitutes a just solution. Expect push-back at least until that gets done. /8

#5. DOCUMENT THE TRAJECTORY. Document transparently: 1) What happened–institution’s starting point on systemic abuse. 2) Specific steps being taken–course corrections that change trajectory. 3) Envision what a safer future will look like–revised goals, going forward. /9

This can be done through a combination of means. For example: * Post independent investigation findings. * Revise your governing documents & refile them with appropriate officials in the state where you’re incorporated. * Post public statements that state corrective actions. /10

For background, read Case Study #2 in this page on System Solution Frameworks. This was a centralized denominational system, but principles are applicable–though SBC needs to adapt implementation practices for their distinctive autonomy-plus-cooperative-ministry organizational system form. /11

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What Do Abuse Survivors Want?

Some FAQs and Observations for Leaders of the SBC

SOURCE NOTES: The following material is copied from a section in my blog post on What Do Abuse Survivors Want? Some FAQs and Observations for Leaders of the SBC (February 12, 2019).

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#1 What do abuse survivors/advocates want?

From what I’ve seen, we have two overarching values: (1) justice for abuse victims. (2) protection for those who are vulnerable. We’ll often see these values embodied within specific goals, recommendations, actions, and resistance.

#2 What methods/means for justice DO seem to have strongest support in survivor communities?

Restorative justice with truth-finding before relational reconciliation attempts. Independent investigation where the accused org is not in control of hiring, process, findings, report.

#3 What methods/means DON’T seem to have broad support except maybe in subgroup of survivors?

Arbitration, conciliation, mediation with binding conditions of non-disclosure and forfeiture of rights to future civil action. Internal/partial investigation run for benefit of hiring org.

#4 What are some observed differences on methodologies for reconciliation?

Survivors/advocates typically advocate for #2, restorative justice process and independent investigation.

Accused organizations typically advocate for #3, conciliation with NDAs and blocking future civil action rights, and internal investigation.

#5 Why do abuse survivors/advocates talk about *systems* and *toxicity* so much?

If we don’t deal with SYSTEMS, then we only address SYMPTOMS, and that leaves harmful SOURCES intact. These sources pump poison (TOXINS) into our system, and end up damaging even more people.

#6 What systemic elements in the Southern Baptist Convention are survivors pinpointing as needing change?

In a medical metaphor, a local church with an infection agent (abuser) refuses to deal with the illness or be vaccinated, but send the pathogen to infect some other church body.

#7 Regarding the SBC, what might happen next?

If there is no substantive action, expect survivors/advocates to continue pressure and publicizing of specific SBC cases that demonstrate abuse, concealment, no restorative justice for victims, no prevention for vulnerable.

If the SBC institutionally and locally continues to fail in addressing abuse and its enablement, I suspect level of activism will increase to spotlight these criminal sins and evil (in)actions, and to amplify consequences thru non-violent non-cooperation, calls for censure, boycott, etc.

I base this on my own experiences, observations since 2007 of what’s been going on in Christian abuse survivor communities, and research writing. You’ll find details in this “cultural geography” series where I map out its paradigms, groups, values, etc. See: A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities (Compilation of Posts).

I’ve also posted concept frameworks and practical suggestions for remediation (repair) work in this page on taking responsibility for abuse. There I address general issues, along with a spectrum of leveled responses to abusive individuals and institutions. See: Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse (Compilation of Posts).

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Five Absolute Minimum Actions to Show “Good Faith” Efforts

on Behalf of Abuse/Violence Victims, Advocates, and Activists

SOURCE NOTES: This list comes from a Twitter thread of December 12, 2018.that was then adapted as a section in Part 2 of my Cultural Geography series.

What do survivor communities look for in those who claim to be allies? Credibility. But what does that mean and why are some people still suspect? Look at this list of five positive actions that demonstrate transparency, accountability, and integrity – and their polar opposites. Consider individuals, institutions, and ideologies with a public presence/platform: Why do they either have credibility or not with survivors?

While “people of peace” want to do good by being hospitable and taking others at face value, they are also justice-oriented and want to prevent harm. Survivor community members need to figure out realistic contours of credibility that promote and protect the common good. This helps us go deeper into what constitutes legitimate boundaries and gates for the Christian #MeToo movement: who’s in, who’s out, who’s suspect, and why.

Credibility of claims that we “do good plus do no harm” is established through consistently demonstrating a combination of:

Transparency – we are not hiding the truth.

Accountability – we take responsibility for our own/our organization’s actions.

Integrity – we follow through on what we say we will do.

If we want to have credibility with survivor communities, there are five essential actions their members are looking for from us as individuals and as institutions, and from our underlying ideologies.

  1. Protect the vulnerable – not exploit them.
  2. Support abuse/violence victims, advocates, and activists – not passively ignore them or actively silence them.
  3. Obey the laws of the land – not usurp civil/legal authority in the name of your theology.
  4. Arrange for a timely independent investigation into accusations against personnel or complaints of systemic problems – not equivocate, cover up, or hide behind “investigations” designed to limit liability.
  5. Where there has been past failure, make and report good faith efforts now to remediate (repair) the damages done, and to develop a safer and sustainable future.

You will have no-to-low credibility within survivor communities if you fail to live up to actions #1 (protect the vulnerable), #2 (support victims, advocates, activists), #3 (obey the laws of the land), and/or #4 (conduct timely and independent investigations into accusations).

If you engage in the necessary remediation and development work that #5 requires, it will still take time for survivor communities to observe your ongoing efforts and reevaluate your level of credibility with them. Please persevere and remain diligent!

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