Dear Russell Moore,
Few things are more disturbing than the report that was released on February 10, 2019 by the Houston Chronicle regarding sexual misconduct, abuse, and assault that has taken place in Southern Baptist Convention churches over the past twenty years. My heart sank when I read about all those who have suffered at the hands of men they had trusted to be spiritual leaders and shepherds in their lives but ended up being predators.
One reason my heart sank is because I have personally dealt with cases of sexual misconduct, abuse, and assault in my twenty-five years of serving as the Senior Pastor of a church. I have had to confront such issues and help families pick up the broken pieces of their lives. I can honestly say I have never experienced a greater pain in ministry than this. Therefore, I was ready to stand together to do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening again in the SBC.
That is why I was shocked when I read your prepared response from the ERLC, which you have now repeated in the Dallas Morning News. At first, I was quickly thankful for your rightful outrage, but how disappointed I was to see you use the pain of others to speak out against those who disagree with you about your concept of social justice.
Here is the line that you carefully crafted and chose to say: “Others have suggested that the church should not concern itself with questions of ‘justice,’ and that preaching the gospel itself will resolve matters of injustice.” Specifically, who have you ever heard speak or write such words? For example, I do not know one pastor who has signed the Social Justice & the Gospel statement who would say the words that you seemingly chose to put into our mouths. Many of us have been crying out to no avail for years about issues like this being ignored in the SBC. Each of us are concerned about biblical justice, and I am not aware of any pastor that would say cases of sexual misconduct, abuse, or assault should be ignored while we just go back to preaching the gospel. For me, it has been just the opposite.
Because I do not want any victim to relive the pain, I will not give specific details here. But I have dealt with multiple cases of this kind throughout my ministry. Each time I sought to lead our church to act biblically, which included biblical justice. When an issue arose, people were immediately removed from any position of authority and we quickly went to the church to be completely transparent. With issues that required reporting to the police, we immediately reported. When other churches needed to be informed, we informed. Our church stood by the victims and supported them and their families providing whatever they needed. When someone went to jail, our church supported their family and even provided financially for them. Overall, we ministered to all the victims and the abusers with the Gospel. In other words, we functioned like a biblical church in full obedience to Scripture. While, apparently, leaders in the SBC were ignoring these kinds of issues for years, pastors like myself were on the frontlines actually handling them in our own contexts in godly and biblical ways.
I do not write this to toot my own horn. I actually do not think I am a unique and special pastor. In fact, I believe there are far more pastors like me than there are that were reported to have failed Christ’s church by the Houston Chronicle. I do not think that we need to ignore this report, we should grieve over it and act. But what we need from leaders in the SBC at a time like this is to unite us all around the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This was a perfect time for you to lead in such a way that unifies. I am sure that some will ask why, in the midst of this great crisis, that I would take the time to focus on one line in your response. I would simply ask why you, in the midst of this great crisis, would take the time to carefully craft and include such a divisive line.
How easy it would have been for you to write, “Although there is disagreement among us about how to rightly carry out justice, this is an issue of justice that I am certain we all fully agree upon.” However, rather than take this opportunity to unite us together in the SBC, you chose to divide and mischaracterize, which comes across as scoring political points. You attacked pastors like me whose churches pay your salary and expect godly leadership from you in times like this, not cheap shots.
Sadly, this is not the first time you have done this type of thing. For example, in an interview with Fox News, you characterized the Social Justice & the Gospel statement to be nothing more than about race. If you read the statement, you would know that is a false claim. None of us have stated that we disagree with pursuing justice and believe that we should merely preach the gospel. What we have absolutely stated with clarity is that we embrace the sufficiency of Scripture – which is able to guide us in pursuing biblical justice without error.
Now, you take it to another level to characterize us as being uncaring about victims of sexual abuse? When the world is watching for the SBC to respond, you use the tragedy of victims to insinuate that we would ignore biblical justice for the sexually abused. To even hint at such a thing is, in a word, shameful.
Where is the biblical justice in how you falsely portrayed us? Where is the biblical justice in ignoring all the pastors who have faithfully dealt with these issues for years? Biblical justice is a big category, and it includes not bearing false witness against others. And that is exactly what you have done and exactly the thing for which you need to confess and repent.
I am asking you to set this right, Dr. Moore. Be a leader who unites rather than using this crisis as an opportunity to divide.
In His Grace,
Pastor Tom Buck
Sr. Pastor FBC Lindale