February 23, 2007

In unprecedented move, molestation victim speaks to Southern Baptist panel

Nation's largest denomination takes no action on SNAP's sex abuse prevention requests

Victims' support group is 'very disappointed' but still resolute

SNAP apologizes for mix-up on letters from church officials

A committee of the Southern Baptist Convention took no action on proposals from a clergy molestation victims' support group that would have set up a national plan for handling sexual abuse cases within Baptist churches.

On Tuesday in Nashville, a workgroup of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee heard from a Baptist abuse victim in person, but did not take action on requests to set up an independent review board to hear molestation allegations and to institute a national zero-tolerance policy.

The proposals were made by a Chicago-based self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and other Clergy (SNAPnetwork.org).  "We're grateful they discussed our requests and let us speak briefly at their meeting," said Christa Brown of Austin, a SNAP leader who was molested by a Baptist preacher and who operates a website called StopBaptistPredators.org. "But at the end of the day, no child is any safer now than they were before."

The Baptist workgroup also heard from SNAP's Nashville coordinator, Mike Coode.

In a related move, SNAP leaders are apologizing to SBC officials for the fact that two letters from SBC official D. August Boto were misplaced in SNAP's office. On several occasions, SNAP spokespersons told reporters the SBC had not responded to SNAP's letter of September 26, 2006, which was sent by certified mail. But one of the misplaced letters was in reply to SNAP's September 26 communication.


"We said the SBC hadn't replied to us, and we were wrong. I have no idea how this happened, and I'm terribly, terribly sorry," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's national director. "I'm very upset and embarrassed by this and deeply apologize to the Convention for our mistake and for our erroneous comments to the press about the lack of reply."


Brown said, "I'm chagrined that I was unaware of these letters. I'm very sorry about this and extend my apology to Mr. Boto and other Southern Baptist officials."


SNAP says while it is discouraged that the SBC committee didn't take action at their Nashville meeting, the group intends to "keep helping Baptist victims and keep prodding Baptist officials until every wounded adult is recovering and every vulnerable kid is safe," said Clohessy.


David Clohessy, SNAP National Coordinator, 314.566.9790, snapclohessy@aol.com

Christa Brown, SNAP-Baptist Coordinator, 512.217.1730, christa@stopbaptistpredators.org