Advantages & Disadvantages of Religion

Discussion in 'Religion and Spirituality' started by themickey, Apr 3, 2022.

  1. themickey


    Credit...Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

    The Russian Orthodox Leader at the Core of Putin’s Ambitions

    Patriarch Kirill I has provided spiritual cover for the invasion of Ukraine, reaping vast resources for his church in return. Now, in an extraordinary step, the E.U. is threatening him with sanctions.

    By Jason Horowitz May 21, 2022

    As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unfolded, Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, had an awkward Zoom meeting with Pope Francis.

    The two religious leaders had previously worked together to bridge a 1,000-year-old schism between the Christian churches of the East and West. But the meeting, in March, found them on opposing sides of a chasm. Kirill spent 20 minutes reading prepared remarks, echoing the arguments of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that the war in Ukraine was necessary to purge Nazis and oppose NATO expansion.

    Francis was evidently flummoxed. “Brother, we are not clerics of the state,” the pontiff told Kirill, he later recounted to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, adding that “the patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin’s altar boy.”

    Today, Kirill stands apart not merely from Francis, but from much of the world. The leader of about 100 million faithful, Kirill, 75, has staked the fortunes of his branch of Orthodox Christianity on a close and mutually beneficial alliance with Mr. Putin, offering him spiritual cover while his church — and possibly he himself — receives vast resources in return from the Kremlin, allowing him to extend his influence in the Orthodox world.

    To his critics, the arrangement has made Kirill far more than another apparatchik, oligarch or enabler of Mr. Putin, but an essential part of the nationalist ideology at the heart of the Kremlin’s expansionist designs.

    Patriarch Kirill I with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in 2018 in Moscow’s Red Square.Credit...Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    Kirill has called Mr. Putin’s long tenure “a miracle of God,” and has characterized the war as a just defense against liberal conspiracies to infiltrate Ukraine with “gay parades.”

    “All of our people today must wake up — wake up — understand that a special time has come on which the historical fate of our people may depend,” he said in one April sermon. “We have been raised throughout our history to love our fatherland, and we will be ready to protect it, as only Russians can defend their country,” he said to soldiers in another.

    Kirill’s role is so important that European officials have included him on a list of individuals they plan to target in an upcoming — and still in flux — round of sanctions against Russia, according to people who have seen the list.

    Such a censure would be an extraordinary measure against a religious leader, its closest antecedent perhaps being the sanctions the United States leveled against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    For more than a decade, Kirill’s critics have argued that his formative experience of religious repression during the Soviet era had tragically led him into Mr. Putin’s empowering and ultimately inescapable embrace, turning the Russian Orthodox Church under Kirill’s leadership into a corrupted spiritual branch of an authoritarian state.

    Sanctions, while likely to be seen within Russia and its church as merely further evidence of hostility from the Godless West, have the potential to place a finger on the scale of the shifting balance of power within the often bitterly divided Orthodox Church.

    “This is new,” said Enzo Bianchi, an Italian Catholic prelate who first met Kirill in the late 1970s at conferences he organized to promote reconciliation with the Orthodox Church.

    Father Bianchi worried that imposing sanctions on a religious leader could set a dangerous precedent for “political interference in the church.” Still, he considered Kirill’s alliance with Mr. Putin disastrous.

    All of which has raised the question of why Kirill has so thoroughly aligned himself with Russia’s dictator.

    The war’s destruction in a village east of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. Protection of the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine who remain loyal to Moscow has been used as part of the pretext for the Russian invasion.Credit...Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

    Part of the answer, close observers and those who have known Kirill say, has to do with Mr. Putin’s success in bringing the patriarch to heel, as he has other important players in the Russian power structure. But it also stems from Kirill’s own ambitions.

    Kirill has in recent years aspired to expand his church’s influence, pursuing an ideology consistent with Moscow being a “Third Rome,” a reference to a 15th-century idea of Manifest Destiny for the Orthodox Church, in which Mr. Putin’s Russia would become the spiritual center of the true church after Rome and Constantinople.

    It is a grand project that dovetails neatly with — and inspired — Mr. Putin’s mystically tinged imperialism of a “Russkiy Mir,” or a greater Russian world.

    “He managed to sell the concept of traditional values, the concept of Russkiy Mir, to Putin, who was looking for conservative ideology,” said Sergei Chapnin, a senior fellow in Orthodox Christian studies at Fordham University who worked with Kirill in the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Born Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev at the end of World War II, Kirill grew up, like Mr. Putin, in a small St. Petersburg apartment during the Soviet era. But while Mr. Putin has painted himself as a brawling urchin, Kirill came from a line of churchmen, including a grandfather who suffered in the gulags for his faith.

    “When he returned, he told me: ‘Don’t be afraid of anything but God,’” Kirill once said on Russian state television.

    Like practically all elite Russian clerics of the era, Kirill is believed to have collaborated with the K.G.B., where Mr. Putin learned his early trade.

    Kirill quickly became someone to watch in Russian Orthodox circles, representing the church in 1971 at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, which allowed him to reach out to Western clerics from other Christian denominations.

    “He was always open to dialogue,” said Father Bianchi, who remembered Kirill as a thin monk attending his conferences.

    Kirill, center, leading Christmas services in Moscow last year. He has aspired to expand his church’s influence.Credit...Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

    Traditionalists were initially wary of Kirill’s reformist style — he held megachurch-like events in stadiums and amplified his message, and popularity, on a weekly television show, starting in 1994.

    But there were also early signs of a deep conservatism. Kirill was at times appalled by Protestant efforts to admit women to the priesthood and by what he depicted as the West’s use of human rights to “dictatorially” force gay rights and other anti-Christian values on traditional societies.

    In 2000, the year Mr. Putin took power in Moscow, Kirill published a mostly overlooked article calling the promotion of traditional Christian values in the face of liberalism “a matter of preservation of our national civilization.”

    In December 2008, after his predecessor Aleksy II died, Kirill spent two months touring — critics say campaigning — in the Russian monasteries that kept the flame of conservative doctrine. It worked, and in 2009, he inherited a church in the middle of a post-Soviet reawakening.

    Kirill gave a major speech calling for a “Symphonia” approach to church and state divisions, with the Kremlin looking after earthly concerns and the church interested in the divine.

    At the end of 2011, he lent his voice to criticism against fraudulent parliamentary elections by defending the “lawful negative reaction” to corruption and said that it would be “a very bad sign” if the Kremlin did not pay attention.

    Soon afterward, reports of luxurious apartments owned by Kirill and his family surfaced in the Russian media. Other unconfirmed rumors of billions of dollars in secret bank accounts, Swiss chalets and yachts began to swirl.

    A news website dug up a photograph from 2009 in which Kirill wore a Breguet Réveil du Tsar model watch, worth about $30,000, a marker of membership to the Russian elite.

    After his church sought to airbrush the timepiece out of existence, and Kirill denied ever wearing it, its remaining reflection on a polished table prompted an embarrassing apology from the church.

    The Rev. Cyril Hovorun, an Orthodox priest who was a personal assistant to Kirill for a decade, said the tarnishing of the patriarch’s reputation was interpreted by Kirill as a message from the Kremlin not to cross the state.

    Kirill drastically changed direction, giving full support and ideological shape to Moscow’s ambitions.

    Mr. Putin, center, with Kirill in 2017 visiting the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow.Credit...Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

    “He realized that this is a chance for the church to step in and to provide the Kremlin with ideas,” said Father Hovorun, who resigned in protest at that time. “The Kremlin suddenly adopted the language of Kirill, of the church, and began speaking about traditional values” and how “Russian society needs to rise again to grandeur.”

    Father Hovorun, now a professor of ecclesiology, international relations and ecumenism at University College Stockholm, said Kirill took Mr. Putin’s talk of being a believer with a grain of salt.

    “For him, the collaboration with the Kremlin is a way to protect some kind of freedom of the church,” he said. “Ironically, however, it seems that under his tenure as the patriarch, the church ended up in a situation of captivity.”

    Steadily, the line between church and state blurred.

    In 2012, when members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a “Punk Prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral to protest the entanglement of Mr. Putin and Kirill, Kirill seemed to take the lead in pushing for the group’s jailing. He also explicitly supported Mr. Putin’s presidential bid.

    His church reaped tens of millions of dollars to reconstruct churches and state financing for religious schools. The St. Basil the Great Foundation of Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian Orthodox oligarch close to Mr. Putin, paid for the renovation of the Moscow headquarters of the church’s department of external church relations, which Kirill used to run.

    Kirill raised taxes significantly, and with no transparency, on his own churches, while his own personal assets remained classified. Mr. Chapnin, who had been personally appointed by Kirill to run the church’s official journal, began criticizing him and was fired in 2015.

    Like Mr. Putin’s Kremlin, Kirill’s church flexed its muscles abroad, lavishing funds on the Orthodox Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch, based in Syria. Those investments have paid off.

    This month, the Antioch Patriarchate publicly opposed sanctions against Kirill, giving a predicate to Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, arguably the closest European leader to Mr. Putin, to this week vow that he would block any sanctions against Kirill.

    But for Kirill, Moscow’s status in the Orthodox world is perhaps of primary importance.

    The Great Schism of 1054 split Christianity between the Western church, loyal to the pope in Rome, and the Eastern church in Constantinople. In the ensuing centuries, the Constantinople patriarch, with his seat in present-day Istanbul, maintained a first among equals status among Eastern Orthodox churches, but others became influential, including Moscow.

    Moscow’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 led the already unhappy Ukrainian Orthodox Church to break from centuries of jurisdiction under Moscow, costing it about a third of its parishes. Recognition of the Ukrainian church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople fueled tensions between Moscow and Constantinople.

    Ukrainians attending a blessing on the day before Orthodox Easter last month in Lviv, Ukraine.Credit...Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

    The internal church war has also spilled into the military one, with Moscow using the protection of the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine who remain loyal to Kirill as part of the pretext for invasion.

    Mr. Putin’s war and Kirill’s support for it now appear to have diminished their shared grand project. Hundreds of priests in Ukraine have accused Kirill of “heresy.” The threat of European Union sanctions looms. Reconciliation with the Western church is off the table.

    Yet Kirill has not wavered, calling for public support of the war so that Russia can “repel its enemies, both external and internal.” And he smiled broadly with other loyalists in Mr. Putin’s inner circle on May 9 during the Victory Day parade in Moscow.

    Some say he has no choice if he wants to survive.

    “It’s a kind of mafia concept,” Mr. Chapnin said. “If you’re in, you’re in. You can’t get out.”
    Last edited: May 22, 2022
    #51     May 22, 2022
  2. themickey


    Power, money, politics, land, buildings, naive gullible sheeple believers, influence, ambition, fantastic stories of miracles and eternal life, brainwashing, enslavement, conformity and group think......

    = sure paths to Corruption
    #52     May 22, 2022
  3. themickey


    Vatican airs dirty laundry in trial over London property
    The Vatican’s sprawling financial trial may not have produced any convictions yet or any new smoking guns
    By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press 22 May 2022
    The Associated Press
    FILE - The sun sets behind St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.

    VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican’s sprawling financial trial may not have produced any convictions yet or any new smoking guns as prosecutors work through a first round of questioning of the 10 suspects accused of fleecing the Holy See of tens of millions of euros.

    But testimony so far has provided plenty of insights into how the Vatican operates, with a cast of characters worthy of a Dan Brown thriller or a Shakespearean tragicomedy. Recent hearings showed a church bureaucracy that used espionage, allowed outsiders with unverified qualifications to gain access to the Apostolic Palace and relied on a pervasive mantra of sparing the pope responsibility — until someone’s neck was on the line.

    Here are some revelations so far in this unusual airing of the Vatican's dirty laundry:

    The investigation was borne of the secretariat of state’s 350 million-euro ($370 million) investment in a London property, which was such a debacle that the Vatican sold the building this year at a cumulative loss of more than 200 million euros ($210 million).

    Prosecutors have accused Italian brokers, the Vatican’s longtime money manager and Vatican officials of swindling the Holy See out of tens of millions in fees and commissions and of extorting it of 15 million euros (nearly $16 million) to finally get control of the London building.

    Pope Francis wanted a trial to show his willingness to crack down on alleged financial impropriety. Three years on, though, the investigation has cast an unwelcome spotlight on some of Francis’ own decisions and how Vatican monsignors managed a 600 million-euro ($630 million) asset portfolio with little external oversight or expertise.

    The original investigation has spawned tangents, including one in which a once-powerful cardinal, Angelo Becciu, is accused of embezzlement for having donated 125,000 euros ($130,000) in Vatican money to a Sardinian charity run by his brother.

    Linked to him is another codefendant, Cecilia Marogna, a security analyst who is accused of embezzling 575,000 euros (over $600,000) that Becciu had intended as payment to liberate a Colombian nun held hostage by al-Qaida militants. They both deny wrongdoing, as do the other defendants.

    Marogna’s story, detailed for the first time last week, is a remarkable tale which, if corroborated, would be a chapter of its own in the storied history of Vatican diplomacy.

    She and Becciu say she gained entry in the Apostolic Palace on the basis of an email she wrote Becciu in 2015 about security concerns. Based on her grasp of geopolitics and apparent connections to Italian intelligence, she became an adviser to Becciu, then the No. 2 in the secretariat of state.

    According to her statement, Marogna became a conduit to Becciu for everything from Russian emissaries seeking the return of holy relics to efforts by Catalonia's separatist leader to establish a channel of communication with the Vatican.

    Becciu testified that he turned to Marogna in 2017 after a Colombian nun was kidnapped in Mali, and Marogna suggested that a British intelligence firm could help liberate her. Becciu testified that Francis approved spending up to 1 million euros for the operation and insisted that it be kept secret even from the Vatican’s own intelligence chief.

    The tale suggests Becciu, with the pope’s approval, created a parallel Vatican intelligence operation using an Italian freelancer.

    It’s not the only instance of espionage that pose questions about the Vatican’s status as a sovereign state: Becciu testified last week that Francis himself ordered the ouster of the Vatican’s first auditor general because he had hired an external firm to spy on the Vatican hierarchy, whom he suspected of wrongdoing.

    In previous testimony, a Vatican official told prosecutors that Becciu’s replacement, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, had brought members of the Italian secret service into the Holy See t o sweep his office for bugs, again bypassing the Vatican’s own gendarmes.

    No figure in the trial is as intriguing as Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, who was the chief internal money manager in the secretariat of state, responsible for the Vatican’s equivalent of a sovereign wealth fund with estimated assets of 600 million euros (around $630 million).

    It was Perlasca who recommended certain investments or advised against them, and it was he who signed the contracts in late 2018 giving Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi operative control of the London property. The basis for the extortion charge against Torzi is prosecutors’ allegation that he pulled a fast one on the Vatican to gain that control and only relinquished it after getting paid 15 million euros (nearly $16 million).

    Perlasca was at first a prime suspect in the case. But after his first round of questioning in April 2020, Perlasca fired his lawyer, changed his story and began cooperating with prosecutors.

    Despite his involvement in all the deals under investigation, Perlasca escaped indictment. Last week, the tribunal let him join the trial as an injured party, enabling him to possibly recover civil damages.

    Hours after tribunal president Giupseppe Pignatone admitted him as a civil party, Perlasca showed up at the tribunal unannounced, sat in the front row of the public gallery and declared “I’m not moving.”

    Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi immediately objected and Pignatone ordered him to leave, which he did.

    Many of the defendants have testified that, at key junctions, Francis wasn't only informed of the issues but approved them, including the crucial moment in which the Vatican had to decide whether to try to sue Torzi to get the London property or pay him off.

    Several witnesses and defendants have said Francis wanted to “turn the page” and negotiate a deal. Prosecutors say Francis was essentially duped by his own underlings.

    But blaming the pope marks an unusual development, since Vatican culture generally seeks to spare the pope responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

    Becciu explained this tradition during his testimony by invoking its Latin phrase “In odiosis non faceat nomen pontificis,” roughly meaning that the pope shouldn’t be drawn into unpleasant matters.

    Becciu responded to a question about why the pope only approved of financial decisions orally, not in writing.

    “I’m from the old school … where you try to protect the pope, protect his moral authority without involving him too much in earthly matters. This doesn’t mean not informing him, but not giving him the responsibility for certain decisions,” he said.

    Becciu kept to that until Francis released him from the pontifical secret so he could testify in his own defense. Becciu then revealed that Francis himself had authorized the Colombian nun liberation operation and had ordered the resignation of the auditor-general.

    The week ended with the testimony of one of Perlasca’s deputies, Fabrizio Tirabassi, who explained how investment decisions were made and the origins of the London property deal. His lawyers said Tirabassi's testimony proved that there was no crime in the deal.

    “The only mystery of this story is why someone wanted to have a trial about an issue that the hierarchs of the Holy See wanted to close with a deal,” the lawyers said.
    #53     May 22, 2022
  4. themickey


    Southern Baptists face push for public list of sex abusers

    A blistering report on the Southern Baptist Convention’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations is raising the prospect that the denomination, for the first time, will create a publicly accessible database of pastors and other church personnel known to be abusers.

    The creation of an “Offender Information System” was one of the key recommendations in a report released Sunday by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the SBC’s Executive Committee after delegates to last year’s national meeting pressed for an investigation by outsiders.

    The proposed database is expected to be one of several recommendations presented to thousands of delegates attending this year’s national meeting, scheduled for June 14-15 in Anaheim, California.

    “Those recommendations will be open to questions, debate and comments on the meeting floor,” said SBC President Ed Litton.

    He expressed hope that the shocking findings in the Guidepost report will bring “lasting change” to the SBC, America’s largest Protestant denomination. It has been losing membership steadily in recent years, while being wracked by internal divisions over race and gender roles.

    The Guidepost report said survivors of abuse by SBC clergy repeatedly shared allegations with the Executive Committee, “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.”

    “Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse ... and were singularly focused on avoiding liability,” the report said.

    The motion for an independent investigation was put forward at last year’s national meeting by the Rev. Grant Gaines, senior pastor of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

    Reading the Guidepost report, Gaines said he was struck by repeated examples of a callous disregard for survivors, as well as leaders prioritizing protection of the SBC from liability over abuse prevention.

    “We’re at a fork in the road,” Gaines said. “I think this report provided the information that we needed for there to be a groundswell of support to take the right actions.”

    Specifically, Gaines said he supports the proposal to create a system that alerts communities to known offenders.

    “I think that’s one of the first things we should do,” he said.

    Lawyer and writer Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teen by the youth minister at her SBC church, has been pressing the SBC since 2006 to create a publicly accessible database of known abusers. She was heartened that Guidepost was recommending such a system, but said questions remain about its implementation.

    “What is absolutely critical is that the local church cannot function as the default or presumed starting place for a survivor to try to obtain an investigation of clergy sex abuse,” she said via email. “If the local church is deemed to be a requisite first stop for survivors to pursue action, then many survivors’ voices will be choked in their throats before sound is ever uttered.”

    Among the Guidepost report’s findings was that the Executive Committee kept a secret list of hundreds of SBC-affiliated clergy and other personnel identified as sex abusers. Brown said the committee, at a special meeting Tuesday, should agree to release this list.

    “I urge you to make public the entirety of your list of pastors & ministers accused of sexual abuse, in whatever form it’s been kept for lo these many years,” Brown tweeted. “Post. It. Now.”

    The final decisions about recommendations to submit to the Anaheim delegates will be made by the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force, comprising seven members and two advisors. Its work over the past year has been an emotional journey, said Pastor Bruce Frank, who led the group.

    “We saw patterns and things that were deeply concerning,” he said. “Our main job was to empower Guidepost to do their job, and they have done a truly remarkable job in the last nine months to look at events that occurred over 20 years.”

    In the next week or so, the task force will bring forth formal motions in “precise language,” which will be made public and presented to the delegates in Anaheim for a vote, said Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina.

    Frank said the crux of the task force’s recommendations based on Guidepost’s report can be summarized in two words – prevention and care.

    “Our main goal should be preventing sexual abuse,” he said. “And if abuse does occur, how do we care for survivors in a much better pastoral way? How can we better communicate to make sure (abusers) don’t go from one church to another?”

    His hope is that this report serves as “a catalyst for change.”

    “Any person who is fair-minded will look at what’s in that report and demand that things be better,” Frank said. “SBC is a big family with 48,000 churches. There might be some disagreement on how to make things better. But I’m confident that we’ll work through the difficulties.”

    In addition to sex abuse, the agenda for the meeting in Anaheim includes election of a new SBC president to succeed Litton.

    One of the leading contenders is Bart Barber, a pastor from Farmersville, Texas, who expressed dismay at the mean-spirited behaviors attributed to some SBC officials in the Guidepost report.

    If elected, Barber said in a broadcast interview Monday, “I’m praying that God will give me the wisdom to know what to do.... We’re sailing into uncharted waters.”

    “The work’s not done,” he added. “We’ve gotten the report, but I think everybody in the survivor community that I’ve heard from has said reports are one thing, but we’ll see if this family of churches has the courage and resolve to take action.”

    The sex abuse scandal was thrust into the spotlight in 2019 by a landmark report from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases in Southern Baptist churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remained in ministry.
    #54     May 23, 2022
  5. themickey


    Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Report Stuns, From Pulpit to Pews
    The results of a sprawling investigation are coursing through every level of Baptist society, at an already fraught moment for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

    An annual meeting for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has almost 14 million members.Credit...Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

    By Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias May 23, 2022

    Carissa Beard was helping her daughter pack up her dorm room on Sunday night when she got the text from her husband, the lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Thurmont in Maryland. The nearly 300-page report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention had dropped online. “It is every bit as bad as I expected it to be,” she said.

    When Philip Meade, pastor at Graefenburg Baptist Church in Kentucky, read the details, he began reworking his plans for the church’s worship service next Sunday. He will now devote a portion of the service to “a lament for the mishandling of sexual abuse claims and for the survivors who have suffered so much,” he said.

    Michael Howard, the head pastor of Seaford Baptist Church on the coast of Virginia, paused a family vacation to spend hours reading the report on Sunday afternoon. “It makes you ill,” Mr. Howard said. “I know as the word gets out, the people in our church will be asking: What is our response?”

    Revelations in a sprawling report covering 20 years of sexual abuse accusations are coursing through every level of Southern Baptist society. The report, made public by the denomination on Sunday, claims that top church leaders suppressed and mishandled abuse claims, resisted reforms and belittled victims and their families.

    The investigation, conducted by a third party at the insistence of church members, has thrust the nation’s largest Protestant denomination into turmoil at a particularly fraught moment. The Southern Baptist Convention is already grappling with declining membership, sharp divisions over politics and culture, and a high-stakes leadership change that is weeks away.

    In some quarters, pastors and church members are openly frustrated at what they see as years of inaction on a crisis that has publicly persisted since 2019, when an investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News revealed that nearly 400 Southern Baptist leaders, from youth pastors to top ministers, had pleaded guilty or been convicted of sex crimes against more than 700 victims since 1998.

    The report quickly proved to be another dividing line within the denomination, with some pastors and members seeing it as a call to action for deep cultural and structural changes on abuse, as well as a range of issues around politics and the treatment of women.

    Turmoil in the Southern Baptist Convention
    Internal and external crises have hit the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
    The denomination’s former policy head, Russell Moore, who left last year, called it an “apocalypse” that revealed “a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.” Its current president, Ed Litton, said the report was “far worse” than he had anticipated.

    More than 24 hours after the report was published online, leaders of the ultraconservative wing of the denomination remained relatively muted. The Conservative Baptist Network, an influential group founded in 2020, said in a brief statement on Monday evening that it joins other Southern Baptists in grieving, and that while it disagreed “with certain aspects of the report,” Southern Baptists should study its recommendations.

    Mr. Litton’s successor, to be chosen at the denomination’s annual meeting in June, will determine the convention’s direction.

    Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who is a candidate favored by many of Mr. Litton’s supporters, said in a statement that the convention needed leadership that “breaks decisively” from the patterns described in the report. “Discovery is no substitute for action,” he said.

    Another candidate, Tom Ascol, a Florida pastor who has said the denomination needs a “change of direction” from what he describes as a leftward drift, said in a statement late Monday that the report’s revelations should prompt Southern Baptists to “uphold God’s standards of holiness and purity in all things, especially in caring for those who are most vulnerable among us.” He urged prayer and study of the task force’s recommendations.

    Leaders of the convention’s executive committee said they would meet on Tuesday to discuss the report.

    In pews across the country, the report’s impact was just beginning to be felt. The denomination includes almost 14 million members in more than 47,000 congregations. In small towns and cities, pastors and churchgoers grappled with what the report said about their denomination, and what should happen next.

    “Our people, I don’t think they have the bandwidth to get into all the details,” said Griffin Gulledge, the pastor of Madison Baptist Church in Georgia. “But what all my pastor friends are hearing is we better get this right, and we better fix this.” He is planning to discuss the report with attendees at the church’s weekly Bible study on Wednesday night.

    For some victims and family members, the report did not go far enough. When a friend texted Christi Bragg that the report was online, she quickly tapped the Command and F keys to search for any references to the Village Church in Texas. Nothing popped up.

    Four years ago she reported to the church’s leaders that her daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children. A trial in her daughter’s lawsuit against the church is set to begin in October.

    “The report ignores active legal litigation our daughter is navigating against one of the biggest churches in the S.B.C.,” Ms. Bragg said on Monday. “It continues to make you see the place she stands is such a difficult place; there is a lack of accountability and there is a lack of acknowledgment.”

    The denomination has been roiled in debates over misogyny, racism and the handling of abuse cases in recent years. Critics say some pastors have focused more on fighting women in leadership and critical race theory than they have on rooting out abuse and the power structure that keeps it under wraps.

    Three years ago, as the abuse crisis exploded in public view, a faction of ultraconservative pastors attacked Beth Moore, one of the most prominent white evangelical women in the United States, when she spoke at a church on Mother’s Day. She publicly renounced “the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC,” and has since left the denomination.

    “If you still refuse to believe facts stacked Himalayan high before your eyes and insist the independent group hired to conduct the investigation is part of a (liberal!) human conspiracy or demonic attack, you’re not just deceived,” Ms. Moore said in a tweet on Monday responding to the report. “You are part of the deception.”

    The report shows how some leaders used the convention’s decentralized structure as a reason for avoiding mandatory accountability regarding sexual abuse in local churches. National entities have significantly less control over individual congregations than they do in institutions like the Roman Catholic Church.

    Critics have said that the Southern Baptist Convention is comfortable drawing hard lines from the top down when it chooses. After one of the denomination’s largest congregations, Saddleback Church in Southern California, announced it had ordained three women pastors in supporting roles last year, high-profile pastors and leaders criticized the church sharply, and a committee was assigned to examine whether the denomination should break with the church.

    Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee expelled two churches over their decisions to accept gay couples as members and church policies that the denomination deemed accepting of homosexuality.

    For Ms. Beard, the Maryland pastor’s wife, the crisis remains personal. She is finishing a graduate degree in professional counseling, focused on trauma, to help people like her who have survived sexual and spiritual abuse in churches. While there are some people in the denomination who really want to do the right thing, she said, others are content with the status quo.

    Last year she and her husband went to Nashville for the denomination’s convention and voted in favor of commissioning the report. They plan to go to next month’s convention in Anaheim, she said, “to make sure the S.B.C. follows through” on reforms.

    “If we don’t have enough people that are willing to stand with the survivors, then, I’m going to call it the good ol’ boys network, is going to be successful at just brushing this aside,” she said.
    #55     May 24, 2022
  6. themickey


    Church is corrupt to the eyeballs as I said it was, but only a little few believe it.
    #56     May 24, 2022
  7. themickey


    Southern Baptist leaders release sex abuser database they kept secret for years
    By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Michelle Boorstein and Marisa Iati May 26, 2022

    Southern Baptist leaders on Thursday evening released a list of alleged church-related sexual abuse offenders that denomination heads had kept secret for more than a decade. The Executive Committee for the Southern Baptist Convention said earlier this week it would publish the names after it issued a third-party investigation that suggested a widespread coverup by top leaders who ignored and even “vilified” people who came forward with stories of abuse.

    The database, which an SBC attorney said includes people who have been criminally convicted of abuse and those who have confessed to abuse, is expected to show what top leaders knew behind the scenes while telling Southern Baptists they could not create a list of accused abusers because the denomination is not hierarchical and churches operate independently from one another.
    #57     May 27, 2022
  8. themickey


    #ChurchToo revelations growing, years after movement began
    By PETER SMITH and HOLLY MEYER, an hour ago
    A withering report on sexual abuse and cover-up in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

    A viral video in which a woman confronts her pastor at an independent Christian for sexually preying on her when she was a teen.

    A TV documentary exposing sex abuse of children in Amish and Mennonite communities.

    You might call it #ChurchToo 2.0.

    Survivors of sexual assault in church settings and their advocates have been calling on churches for years to admit the extent of abuse in their midst and to implement reforms. In 2017 that movement acquired the hashtag #ChurchToo, derived from the wider #MeToo movement, which called out sexual predators in many sectors of society.

    In recent weeks #ChurchToo has seen an especially intense set of revelations across denominations and ministries, reaching vast audiences in headlines and on screen with a message that activists have long struggled to get across.

    “For us it’s just confirmation of what we’ve been saying all these years,” said Jimmy Hinton, an advocate for abuse survivors and a Church of Christ minister in Somerset, Pennsylvania. “There is an absolute epidemic of abuse in the church, in religious spaces.”

    Calls for reform will be prominent this week in Anaheim, California, when the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting following an outside report that concluded its leaders mishandled abuse cases and stonewalled victims.

    The May 22 report came out the same day an independent church in Indiana was facing its own reckoning.

    Moments after its pastor, John B. Lowe II, confessed to years of “adultery,” longtime member Bobi Gephart took the microphone to tell the rest of the story: She was just 16 when it started, she said.

    The video of the confrontation has drawn nearly 1 million views on Facebook. Lowe subsequently resigned from New Life Christian Church & World Outreach in Warsaw.

    In an interview, Gephart said she’s not surprised that so many cases are now coming out. She has received words of encouragement from all over the world, with people sharing their own “heartbreaking” stories of abuse.

    “Things are shaking loose,” Gephart said. “I really feel like God is trying to make things right.”

    For many churches, she said, “It’s all about covering up, ‘Let’s keep the show going.’ There are hurting people, and that’s not right. I still don’t think a lot of the church gets it.”

    Hinton — who turned in his own father, a former minister now imprisoned for aggravated indecent assault — said the viral video demonstrates the potency of survivors telling their own stories.

    “Survivors have far more power than they ever think imaginable,” he said on his “Speaking Out on Sex Abuse” podcast.

    #ChurchToo revelations have emerged in all kinds of church groups, including liberal denominations that preach gender equality and depict clergy sexual misconduct as an abuse of power. The Episcopal Church aired stories from survivors at its 2018 General Convention, and an archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada resigned in April amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

    But many recent reckonings are occurring in conservative Protestant settings where a “purity culture” has been prominent in recent decades — emphasizing male authority and female modesty and discouraging dating in favor of traditional courtship leading to marriage.

    On May 25 reality TV personality Josh Duggar was sentenced in Arkansas to more than 12 years in prison for receiving child pornography. Duggar was a former lobbyist for a conservative Christian organization and appeared on TLC’s since-canceled “19 Kids and Counting,” featuring a homeschooling family that stressed chastity and traditional courtship. Prosecutors said Duggar had a “deep-seated, pervasive and violent sexual interest in children.”

    On May 26 the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader reported on a spate of sex abuse cases involving workers at Kanakuk Kamps, a large evangelical camp ministry.

    Emily Joy Allison, whose abuse story launched the #ChurchToo movement, said the sexual ethic preached in many conservative churches — and the shame and silence it breeds — are part of the problem. She argues that in her book, “#ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing.”

    Allison told The Associated Press that addressing abuse requires both a change in church policy and theology. But she knows the latter is unlikely in the SBC.

    “They need to undergo a transformation so radical they would be unrecognizable at the end. And that will not happen,” Allison said. Reform work focused on “harm reduction” is a more realistic approach, she said.

    Some advocates hope the front-burner focus on abuse could lead to lasting reforms — if not in churches, then in the law.

    Misty Griffin, an advocate for fellow survivors of sexual assault in Amish communities, recently launched a petition drive seeking a congressional “Child’s Rights Act.” As of early June, it had drawn more than 5,000 signatures.

    It would require that all teachers, including those in religious schools and homeschool settings, be trained about child abuse and neglect and subject to reporting mandates, and would also require age-appropriate instruction on abuse prevention for students. Griffin said such legislation is crucial because in authoritarian religious systems, victims often don’t know help is available or how to get it.

    “Without that, nothing’s going to change,” said Griffin, a consulting producer on the documentary “Sins of the Amish.”

    The two-episode documentary, which premiered on Peacock TV in May, examines endemic abuse in Amish and Mennonite communities, saying it is enabled by a patriarchal authority structure, an emphasis on forgiving offenders and reluctance to report wrongdoing to law enforcement.

    The Southern Baptist Convention, whose doctrine also calls for male leadership in churches and families, has been particularly shaken by the #ChurchToo movement after years of complaints that leadership has failed to care for survivors and hold their abusers accountable.

    At its annual meeting, the SBC will consider proposals to create a task force that would oversee a listing of clergy credibly accused of abuse. But survivors criticized that proposal and are calling for a more powerful and independent commission to perform that task and also review allegations of abuse and cover-up. They’re also seeking a “survivor restoration fund” and memorial dedicated to survivors.

    Momentum for change grew as survivors such as Jules Woodson, who went public in 2018 with a sexual assault accusation against her former youth pastor, were emboldened to tell their stories.

    “I felt like, ‘Thank God there’s a space where we can tell these stories,’” Woodson said.

    Such accounts led to the independent investigation, whose 288-page report detailed how the SBC’s Executive Committee prioritized protecting the institution over victims’ well-being and preventing abuse.

    The committee has apologized and made public a long-secret list of ministers accused of abuse.

    Woodson said seeing her abuser’s name on it felt like a double-edged sword.

    “It was in some ways validating that my abuser was on there, but it was also devastating to see that they knew and yet nobody in the SBC spoke up to warn others,” she said.

    Woodson added that she is still waiting for meaningful change: “They have offered minimal words acknowledging the problem, but they have offered zero reform and true action which would show genuine repentance or care and concern for survivors or the vulnerable people who have yet to be abused.”
    #58     Jun 12, 2022
  9. themickey


    Ffs, dream on!
    #59     Jun 12, 2022