A Report from the Bob Jones University Sexual Abuse Seminar
I am presently in Greenville, South Carolina (people talk funny here) attending a seminar on sexual abuse and the church, put on by Bob Jones University Seminary. Many thanks to kind friends in my congregation for 1) reminding me I really should attend, and 2) generously making it possible for me to come.
I came with foreboding and trepidation. Bob Jones University’s history is one of some pretty core fundamentalism as you might know and I wondered if I would not be coming to enemy territory. I am reformed in doctrine, I don’t use a King James Bible, and well… I can be a social misfit. On top of that I wrote a book that is being featured on the Calvary Press book display table that concludes abuse is grounds for divorce!
None of my fears came true. I spent quite a lot of time in the bookstore on campus and noticed many, many good reformed theology titles. And in the Bible section, they do not sell only the KJV! Lots of ESV’s and other version there as well.
But this evening’s opening session proved to be the highlight. Dr. David Shumate, an Old Testament scholar and ex-faculty member of BJU (now ministering in Phoenix, AZ), was the kick-off speaker. His topic was this: Facing the Challenge: Five Misconceptions that Hinder a Right Response to Child Sexual Abuse. He gets it. And I think he would get it about domestic abuse in the church too. His outline was:
- Misconception #1 – “It can’t happen here.”
- Misconception #2 – “Child molesters have a certain look about them.”
- M #3 – Acts that do not involve actual intercourse are not “so bad.”
- M #4 – It was just a “moment of weakness.”
- M #5 – Allegations of abuse should be handled within the organization.” (BIG wrong gong sound here!)
Dr. Shumate was speaking to a crowd of about 400 people, most of them pastors from fundamental, independent churches. He frankly told everyone that our tendency can be to discount, minimize, and cover up and that the Lord will surely hold us accountable if we permit evil people to cause any little ones to stumble. He gave statistics and told the audience that this means that sexual abuse survivors and victims… and perhaps even perpetrators….are in our churches and it is a flight of fancy to deny it. He told us to face up to it, take measures to defend against it, handle abuse cases rightly by immediately reporting to the civil authorities, and not yield to the pressure of what people will think of us if news gets out that such a thing happened in our church. It happens everywhere!
After the session we were given a reception where the various display tables were and I had the opportunity to actually meet Mr. Joseph Bianchi, owner of Calvary Press who published our book, A Cry for Justice [*Affiliate link]. He is a great guy with a good sense of humor, a passion for the Lord, and a New York accent! While speaking with him, we saw Dr. Shumate nearby, grabbed one of the books off the display table, and went over to meet him. We had a great talk. I gave him one of our books and he insisted that I autograph it. I was pretty clumsy, I must say. But then I was able to tell him about the book and how domestic abuse victims are in our churches just as sexual abuse victims are (sometimes they are one and the same). He keyed right in and we had probably a 20 minute talk.
And then, I told him that what really needs to happen now is for another conference, part 2, to be set up. Only at that conference, we would have about 6 of YOU (our blog readers, victim/survivors) upon on the stage in front of all those pastors, and we would listen to you tell all of us your stories of abuse and how you were treated by your churches when you asked for help. He told me to put that down on a comment card for the Q&A time tomorrow and he would be the one who will address it. He said vindication of victims is absolutely biblical and he was was visibly excited about it. So write it down, I shall.
Can you see it? What if some of you had that chance to personally tell a big group of pastors and seminary students and faculty what happened to you? I suspect that everyone would feel like getting down on their knees before God, asking for forgiveness, asking YOU for forgiveness, and telling you, “you were right and we were wrong.”
Pray! It could happen, couldn’t it? Maybe? Pray that the card really does make it up there and that Dr. Shumate gets it.
And many thanks to Barbara for reminding me late last night that she saw no place on the seminar agenda for victims to speak. That is what put the idea in my head and why I was able to bring it up tonight.
Oh, and I have an actual copy of the book in my hands! Order from Calvary Press directly and forget Amazon. You can get it cheaper there and much faster.