Report From the Bob Jones University Sexual Abuse Seminar — Part 2
Ok, day two report. I still have to attend the final evening session but decided to post this report now instead of at 10 or 11 PM tonight. Practical note: Greenville is changing. People now drive like maniacs here. Apparently the southern drawl does not extend to their foot. Heavy, heavy traffic. Just in case you were thinking about moving here.
The first session of the day was Robert Crawford. He has been a pastor and for some 12 years now has served as an advocate for abuse victims, employed by an attorney’s firm. This man “gets it.” He functions in the trenches and knows how pedophiles and sex molesters operate. He understands shame. He understands how churches often handle these matters wrongly and superficially. Once the seminar sessions are posted on the BJU website, this one is definitely worth listening to, as is the opening address I reported on yesterday by Dr. Shumach.
The second session was primarily handled by Sgt Ty Miller of the local sheriff’s office. She also gets it. And though she held back her punch, it was quite apparent that she knows full well how churches and pastors can tend to cover up and fail to report sexual abuse. She told everyone “don’t investigate these matters. Report them and let the police investigate.” She also told a number of stories, one of which was a of a pastor who doggedly stuck by a perpetrator in spite of all the evidence against him, insisting that there was no way the guy could possibly be guilty.
Then came Daniel Hicks, an attorney and BJU graduate. But he gets it too. Why? Because his law firm has had to represent churches in lawsuits filed against them by abuse victims. He said quite frankly that some of the things he has seen pastors and churches do in these cases boggles his understanding. He went over practical policy issues that need to be established in every church.
The final session of the afternoon was Debi Pryde, whose writings we have critiqued before on this blog. She actually was not physically present as her husband is ill. But one of her lectures on counseling children who have been sexually abused was viewed. It was actually pretty good and she very strongly emphasized how lying and deceiving and manipulating pedophiles are. She didn’t do too badly on the forgiveness issue either. She is a heavy proponent of Biblical counseling and I was reviewing some more of her class notebooks in the campus bookstore yesterday which indicated this. I suspect that, in my opinion, she goes overboard on the rejection of psychology.
Oh, and I did submit my written question for the Q&A tomorrow, asking if we could have another seminar at which we all just listened to victims tell how they were treated by their churches (I see that hand, Rebecca!). So we shall see if the question is addressed tomorrow.
Now, what are my over all impressions? I think that for the most part, the speakers at this conference understand abuse very well and that they are doing an excellent job of presenting it. However, I am not sure where the BJU faculty is on this. Yes, they put on the seminar. But so fair I have not seen or heard any inkling of confession or repentance in regard to how we (churches, pastors, and BJU) have rendered gross injustice to victims. None. The speakers have nailed it some. But nothing at all from the faculty and there is no forum really for any pastors present to say anything.
Secondly, I am not convinced that the faculty here “gets it” because it is obvious to me that the no divorce allowed for abuse mentality is deeply, deeply entrenched here. I am thankful that they agreed to let Calvary Press have a book table and display our new book, But one of the reasons our book is looked at with great suspicion is because we maintain that abuse is indeed biblical grounds for divorce.
I have personally handed out a copy of our book to every one of the speakers and I have talked with each one and told them why we wrote the book. They were thankful to receive it. And in two cases now when I told the person our position on divorce, things went silent. I think they will still read the book, but it is like — Stepford Wives or something. Like there is an elephant in the room and when the big “D” word is mentioned a hush and uneasiness sweeps over them. Those are my impressions.
I think that anyone who knows and understands abuse realizes that it is really pretty crazy to tell a victim that God prohibits divorce for abuse. Yes, there are a few people here and there who actually still believe that Scripture does not allow for it and their reasons are due to genuine conviction. With the right information these folks may well come around some day. However, most people who oppose divorce for abuse — by opinion again — do so because it is the prevailing, long-standing position and if you buck it, you are going to pay for it.
One final note. In considering sexual abuse in the church, we should all be terribly grieved and to the degree that we have dealt injustice to victims, we should be on the floor face down. What I see here in this conference though (I don’t mean the speakers here) is that of a “aren’t we doing good here! Isn’t this a really great conference! Wasn’t that a marvelous lecture!” And that saddens me.
I guarantee that if we had another seminar at which 6 or so of you were up front and one after the other told your stories, there would be NONE of this back-slapping business going on. Not if there were a true atmosphere and spirit of humility and repentance.
I don’t want to alienate the BJU faculty so that we don’t even have any hearing with them, and I ask that our readers please refrain from naming anyone specifically when leveling criticisms. I am very glad they had this seminar. And I am thankful to have the opportunity to hand out these books and try to get our message through. But I cannot report to this point at least that yes, it is obvious that victims have been heard. The Cry for Justice is going to have to keep sounding.
NOTE: I will post a final report on the seminar later this evening while i sit in the Wash DC airport. It was a very eventful morning that included some good things and some things that provided me more insight. They actually decided to announce our book in the final general session and that created a flurry of activity at the Calvary Press display. Stay tuned!