Saturday, March 22, 2008

Abusive Ministers & Autonomy

Something just occurred to me ... please bear with me as I try to put it into words...

Baptist leaders are quick to say that the SBC can't do anything about abusive ministers because of the doctrine of local church autonomy. This indicates that autonomy is such a highly prized doctrine that it over-rides pretty much everything, including concerns about protecting children. In essence they say, "Catholics can handle the problem differently than we can because their church government is structured differently; our hands are tied by our form of church government."

Yet Baptists believe in (cling to) the doctrine of autonomy not just out of tradition, but because they believe it is right. They believe it is what the Bible teaches, and that other forms of church government (like the hierarchical structure of the Catholic church) are unbiblical. Put another way, Baptist believe that the way Catholics are organized is wrong, just as they believe Catholics are wrong on their doctrines of justification, sanctification, purgatory, saints, Mary, etc.

All that said, wouldn't if follow that when the Catholic church as an organization removes a Priest's ordination and refuses him a place of service in any Catholic church, according to Baptist doctrine, the Catholic church is wrong for doing so? I mean, if Baptists believe they are right about church government (autonomy) and Catholics are wrong (hierarchy), then doesn't that mean that the Catholic church is wrong when they act according to their wrong doctrine?

But I have yet to hear a Baptist leader say that. They simply throw up their hands and say, "Oh well, Catholics do things differently than we do; we can't do what they do."

This raises the question ... if autonomy is really the primary concern, and if it is so strongly believed to be true Bible doctrine, why do Baptist preachers not have the courage of their convictions to come right out and say, "What we are doing [leaving it to local churches] is right and what the Catholics are doing [handling it as an organization as a whole] is wrong"?

I will answer my own question ... because they know how bad it would sound. It would be plain for all to see that they are saying that it is preferable to allow abuse to continue in order to protect autonomy.

And that is one reason I believe autonomy to be just a smokescreen, a convenient excuse to do nothing. There may be many reasons the SBC has chosen not to address this issue as it should (fear of lawsuits, pride, potential loss of esteem and power, laziness, apathy, etc.) but autonomy is not the reason; it is just an excuse.