I sat on Sunday night, May 22 with many from our church family to affirm and celebrate special friends who are serving God in another country. We were together to love them, to pray for them, and to learn about the place in which they serve.  We ate food that resembled the food they eat.  Our children sang a song in a language that is one of the languages used in their country.  We played a game using words and pictures from their country.  We prayed for them using the prayer requests that they sent us.  There was so much laughter in the room.  We had so much fun together.  It represented for me all that is good and right and healthy about being a Southern Baptist.  But I knew as I left the room to get in my truck to drive home what I would do as soon as I got home.  I would download the report that was released at four o’clock, Sunday May 22, from the independent auditors investigating sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I read myself out of sleep.  It is a long report, 288 pages.  It is intense.  It is overwhelming from page one.  I was coming to the report thinking that there would not be much in it worth my time or attention.  I was devastatingly wrong.  What has been going on for years now at the highest levels of our Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is hard to read and even harder to swallow.  You can access the report at sataskforce.net.  Don’t do it just for the jollies; there are none here.  Don’t do it just because you want to mock denominationalism or organized religion.  We are all fallen and flawed and will be the day we die.  Get it and read it because you want to be a part of a people who will see our sinfulness and seek repentance lest we face the full force of God’s judgment.  What is here reveals that we have been horribly sinful and woefully wicked in the highest places of leadership.  I read it last night for the first time and came away from it with several conclusions.

First, many of the powers that be in our SBC who said that raising the flag about sex abuse in our denomination was much to do about nothing actually knew a lot of what had been done, and it was not nothing.  It was seethingly sinful.  It turns out if my reading is right that when men like J.D. Grear were crying out that we step up to the plate and “act like men,” and when Russell Moore was getting too close to pulling the rug out from under them that they came after these men rather than face the facts.  Power proved itself to be addictive.  Get it and we tend to want more of it.  And we want to use it for our benefit.  I am a pastor.  I am very capable of being allured by the aphrodisiac of power.  I know.  It has happened to me.   All in leadership positions face that fatal attraction.

Second, I learned that we have been led by listening more to lawyers and the legal processes that they said we needed to avoid than we have been led by the Word of God.  The SBC is a Convention of churches whose headquarters is in the local church.  The local church in our polity is where the buck stops.  And the local church in our theology is governed by the inerrant, infallible, and FULLY SUFFICIENT Word of God.  The Bible is our law book.  And it is enough.  It seems that we had some mighty powerful men who got the inerrancy and infallibility piece right, but got absolutely wrong the “fully sufficient” piece.  Listening to what would keep us most legally safe and protected has kept us; it seems to me, from facing the reckoning that is now inescapable.

Third, and most painfully:  we have brought devastating realities into the lives of too many women particularly and men that only the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ can heal.  I know the truth that wounds can only be healed when the wounds are exposed.  And it may be that healing can begin now for the wounded and those who inflicted the wounds.  And may God grant it so during this time that we do not point fingers at each other but that we all bow together before our great and gracious God in deep and genuine repentance seeking real and revolutionary change.  Maybe it would be best to put aside for a year or two all of our efforts to increase statistical data from baptisms to budgets and simply pray, “Come Lord Jesus and do in us, to us, with us, for us and through us whatever You will to do.  We worship at your feet.”