Kevin Bauder, in his In The Nick of Time, has some timely suggestions for all churches in light of these scandals. I will only give the outline of his insights. I would encourage you to read the entire article at his website. Bauder asks, So what are we supposed to do? First Bauder gives responses we should never give.
First, we should not blame the secular media for their reports on these scandals, nor should we dodge their questions. We must go out of our way to avoid any appearance that we have something to hide.
Furthermore, we must reject any temptation to blame the victims. An adolescent of thirteen or fourteen is an unequal match for an adult of thirty, especially if the adult is wrapped in the mantle of authority.
Nor should we blame the victims for going outside the fundamentalist network to seek justice. The whole reason that they have been forced to this extreme is because they could not find justice within the structure of the churches and other institutions that were supposed to help them.
We must also refuse to allow ourselves to be distracted by extraneous considerations. Accusers should never be dismissed just because someone thinks they seem odd or neurotic. Those are actually behaviors we might anticipate in someone who was molested as a child.
Next Bauder provides responses we should give.
Our first response must be to refocus upon personal integrity. We have a duty to live our lives such that no credible charge can be leveled against us. We must go out of our way to ensure that we avoid even the appearance of impropriety. How? By common sense precautions. We will install windows so that people can see into our offices. We will never be alone with any female other than our wives and daughters. We will never be alone with a child, even of the same sex, other than our own children. We will never touch a minor in any way except in full view of other adults—and we will guard those touches carefully against misunderstanding.
Just as importantly, our second response must be prevention. Every church needs a child protection policy. The policy should define when and where adults are allowed to have contact with minors at church activities. It should prohibit adults from being alone with minors in an unsupervised environment. It should require everyone involved in ministry to minors to receive specific training aimed at avoiding abusive relationships. Very importantly, it should require a background check for every church member who works with minors. It should specify procedures for pursuing complaints and suspicions. It should be widely distributed so that every parent knows its provisions. For a good example of such a policy in a secular organization, churches might look at the Cadet Protection Policy of the Civil Air Patrol.
Our third response should involve prosecution. When pastors and church leaders become aware of abusive situations, they should report these situations to police and child protective agencies. In fact, they should do more than to report. They should demand that the authorities take action. Concerns over confidentiality are badly out of place here, as are concerns over 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. Paul was not writing to the Corinthians about situations in which crimes were being committed or the powerless being victimized.
The fourth response is more systemic, but just as necessary. Baptist fundamentalists absolutely must repudiate those models of leadership that foster abusive and predatory behavior. Too many fundamentalists equate spiritual leadership with bluster, demagoguery, egotism, authoritarianism, and contemptuousness toward deacons, church members, and especially women. We must stop tolerating such attitudes.
Pastoral authority extends no further than the right to proclaim and implement the teachings of Scripture. Pastors must recognize the God-ordained authority of the congregation, and congregations must hold pastors accountable. Churches must seek pastors who focus upon the exposition of Scripture, who are gentle in their dealings with people, who are open and transparent, and who welcome criticism and accountability. Most of all, churches must reject numerical and financial growth as a measure of success and realize that the very first qualification of any minister is that he must give evidence of knowing and loving God.
Baptist fundamentalism has endured dark episodes in the past, but none has been blacker or more ugly than the present hour. We have no one else to blame. We have been too lax for too long. If the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, then we should welcome the purifying effect that the exposure of sin will have upon us, and we should respond rightly.