Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Baylor, Baptist Churches and Change

As a Baylor graduate myself, my first thoughts are with the victims. I hope they are healing and know that they are not to blame and that they are not alone. How incredibly brave they are to speak out and now hopefully are heard. The institution that they should have been able to count on for support towards healing failed them terribly, causing unspeakable pain. Baylor chose to support and protect itself and image over the precious lives of these students. 

While this is certainly newsworthy, sadly, this skewed priority is an all-too-familiar guiding, operational structure among Baptist churches as well. Allegations of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults within churches, like the sexual assault allegations at Baylor, are all too often handled in-house and not reported to police. This is revictimization. Victims are blamed, perpetrators enabled, and more lives placed at risk. Sexual assault must be rightly viewed as a crime and reported to law enforcement, not just as sin or "inappropriate behavior" to be handled as a spiritual and behavioral matter by the church or managed by a football coach or university administration. 

There are churches who need to turn the spotlight on themselves and expose the truth, wherever that may lead. And then, like Baylor finally did, make the necessary changes that will hopefully lead to authentic change. Only then can churches begin operating as the Christian institutions that they proclaim to be, marked by the love and care of Christ for people, instead of the love of image of the institution as corrupt corporations.  

Baylor University Board of Regents Findings of Fact can be read here.

ESPN: Outside the Lines

Monday, May 9, 2016

SNAP statement on arrest of Newspring Church volunteer for child sex abuse

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Statement by Amy Smith, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests leader
Florence church youth volunteer kissed and fondled teen boy, police say
By Eric Walters, April 29, 2016, WBTW News 13
FLORENCE, SC – A youth group volunteer at a Florence church has been arrested for sexually assaulting a minor.
According to Florence Police Major Carlos Raines, a 15-year-old boy claimed Leo LaSalle Comissiong, 20, of Florence kissed and fondled him through his clothes.
The incident happened in February at the NewSpring Church on North Cashua Drive, Raines said.
Comissiong is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, 3rd degree.
A spokesperson for NewSpring Church, Suzanne Swift, released the following statement regarding the case:
On Sunday, April 24, 2016, a NewSpring Church staff member saw Leo La Salle Comissiong III enter an unoccupied room with a 15 year old. The staff member immediately entered the room and questioned Comissiong. Comissiong denied    any wrongdoing at that time. Because we take the safety of minors very seriously, we never allow adults to be alone with children or teens while on a NewSpring Campus. NewSpring Church questioned Comissiong again, and at that time removed him from volunteering in any capacity at NewSpring. After a separate conversation with the student, NewSpring staff contacted law enforcement. Since that time, NewSpring has fully cooperated with authorities and in this investigation.

NewSpring Church will continue to corporate with this investigation and we are praying for everyone impacted.

Perry Noble is the lead pastor of Newspring Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch headquartered in Anderson, South Carolina.

We are glad that law enforcement was contacted. Now, Perry Noble and Newspring Church have a moral and civic duty to aggressively seek out others who may have suspicions or knowledge of Leo Comissiong’s crimes and beg them to call law enforcement. With Newspring’s vast resources, we hope they will will spread this news and use church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and church websites to aggressively seek out others who Leo may have hurt.

This is how kids will be safer, other victims could be found and assisted in healing, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Youth volunteer at S.C. megachurch charged with abuse

A 20-year-old youth group volunteer at the nation’s largest Southern Baptist church has been arrested on a charge of sexually assaulting a minor.
Leo LaSalle Comissiong III is accused of kissing and fondling a 15-year-old boy in February at the Florence, S.C., location of NewSpring Church, a multi-site congregation based in Anderson, S.C. The church is ranked No. 1 on a LifeWay Christian Resources list compiled by LifeWay head Thom Rainer of the 500 largest Southern Baptist churches with an average attendance of 31,215 in 2014.