Tuesday, April 23, 2019

ROBERT OSCAR LOPEZ RESOLUTION ON WHISTLEBLOWERS


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On Southern Baptist Whistleblowers and Their Freedom of Conscience
April 21, 2019

ROBERT OSCAR LOPEZ
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention has already suffered the consequences that occur when people who hold ecclesiastical power intimidate church members into silence, as exemplified by (1) the sex abuse crisis reported by the Houston Chronicle, and by (2) dangerous compromises by Southern Baptist groups that partnered with Anglican groups which, as investigators such as Tom Buck discovered, encouraged youth to explore homosexuality and even attend prurient homosexual events—both scandals, among many others, which might have been averted if whistleblowers and informants who knew of such problems had had the opportunity to bring information to the public without retaliation from people in power; and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ demonstrated in His ministry the importance of confronting authorities when they have failed to live out God’s Word or have badly shepherded the flocks to whom God has called such authorities, such as in the following selections from only one gospel: Jesus Christ’s public challenge to scribes in Matthew 9:4; Jesus Christ’s challenge to the Pharisees’ objections to His associations in Matthew 9:12; Jesus Christ’s rejection of the Pharisees’ view of fasting in Matthew 9:15; Jesus Christ’s prophecy that Christians will be brought “over to sanhedrins,” “in their synagogues,” and “before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations” in Matthew 10:16; Jesus Christ’s admonitions to entire generations and entire towns in Matthew 11:16 and Matthew 11:21; Jesus Christ’s confrontation with the Pharisees about the Sabbath in Matthew 12:3; Jesus Christ’s refutation of the Pharisees’ accusations about demons in Matthew 12:25; Jesus Christ’s refusal to provide the scribes and Pharisees with a sign in Matthew 12:39; Jesus Christ’s public charge of hypocrisy against the Pharisees and scribes about dietary law in Matthew 13:7; Jesus Christ’s rejection of the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ prophetic claims in Matthew 16:2; Jesus Christ’s public warning against the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16:6; Jesus Christ’s description of the source of his future tribulations as “the elders, chief priests, and scribes” in Matthew 16:21; Jesus Christ’s public refutation of the Pharisees’ position on divorce in Matthew 19:8; Jesus Christ’s description of his crucifixion as being “handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death” in Matthew 20:18; Jesus Christ’s warning about hierarchies, saying “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them and the men of high position exercise power over them […] It must not be like that among you,” in Matthew 20:25; Jesus Christ’s expulsion of money changers and dove sellers from the temple complex in Matthew 21:12; Jesus Christ’s rebuttal to the chief priests and scribes by assigning moral weight to children and infants in Matthew 21:16; Jesus Christ’s shrewd deflection of condescending interrogation by “chief priests and the elders” in Matthew 21:24; Jesus Christ’s purposeful targeting of the chief priests and the Pharisees as faulty leaders who will lose their kingdom in Matthew 21:45; Jesus Christ’s calling of the Pharisees “hypocrites” about taxation in Matthew 22:18; Jesus Christ’s public claim that the Sadduccees were “deceived, because [they did not know] the Scriptures or the power of God” in Matthew 22:29; Jesus Christ’s public and purposeful deflation of the scribes and Pharisees for not practicing what they preach and loving honors and titles when they are really “broods of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” in the entirety of Matthew 23; all these passages, when taken as a whole, overwhelmingly show that Jesus Christ intended His people not to stay silent before religious authorities whose misdeeds come to people’s attention; and
WHEREAS, Southern Baptist leaders who invoke “hospitality,” “civility,” and “speaking lovingly,” as hedges against the confrontation of religious authorities, would seem to be in error; insofar as Scripture demonstrates that secrecy and silence in the face of wrongdoing are not godly, as evidenced by the following: 2 Samuel 12:7 (the prophet Nathan did not hold back from revealing King David’s crimes to him); Luke 12:49 (Jesus Christ states, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were set ablaze!”); Luke 9:33 (Jesus Christ’s Transfiguration aligns Him with prophets like Elijah, who confronted Ahab in 1 Kings 18:18 and Jezebel in 1 Kings 21:23); and 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 (the Apostle Paul defines love such that “love does not act improperly…Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth”); and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ demonstrated in His ministry that secrecy and silence in the face of wrongdoing are rather harmful and ultimately doomed to failure, saying in Matthew 10:26, “there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known… [w]hat I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; what you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the rooftops”; and
WHEREAS, the Apostle Paul calls us to speak openly when we know of things being done under the cover of darkness in Ephesians 5:11-13, saying, “Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them [f]or it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret [but] everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light”; and
WHEREAS, in Revelation 3:16 we are warned that churches that rely too much on politeness and complacency will not please Jesus Christ in the last days, but rather, it will be said, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth”; and
WHEREAS, scriptural warnings match what we see occurring to the Southern Baptist Convention in our present time, as decades of fear and silence cultivated by people in power have caused many potential whistleblowers to back away from taking concerns public, and many whistleblowers who have taken concerns public have suffered retaliation and found themselves marginalized within their communities; and
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist heritage dates back to the Reformation and a profound element of Baptist identity lies in the rejection of any concept of a “pontiff” or “pope” or “archbishop” claiming infallibility, so that our foundations clash with the rise of individuals so influential that they operate beyond the pale of criticism or scrutiny; and
WHEREAS, more than a few employees or members of Southern Baptist entities—including, among many others, employees of churches, professors at Baptist seminaries, pastors at Baptist churches, and others engaged with Baptist churches—have been warned not to criticize leaders in Southern Baptist entities due to a “gentleman’s agreement” or the supposed “eleventh commandment”; and
WHEREAS, some Southern Baptist leaders have misused certain scriptures (among them Matthew 18:15-19, Exodus 20:16, Romans 13:2-5, Ephesians 4:1-6, Ephesians 6:7-8, and 1 Timothy 5:19), mistakenly construing any criticism from any Southern Baptist as a violation of the gospel’s mandate to avoid needless discord, or mistakenly construing any expression of concern as slander, with the result that, for example, professors at one Baptist seminary are forbidden by a “gentleman’s agreement” from criticizing any public figure leading any Southern Baptist organization or associated with any Southern Baptist organization leaders; and
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention should not use non-disclosure agreements at all insofar as such agreements impose silence on fellow believers by threatening to use the power of the unbelieving world’s legal system to enforce such silence, in violation of Jesus Christ’s warning in Matthew 22:21, to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to the Lord what is the Lord’s; and
WHEREAS, so long as Southern Baptists unofficially enforce gentleman’s agreements and the eleventh commandment, or make use of non-disclosure agreements on those whom they dismiss or pressure to resign, then potential whistleblowers will face reprisal in the form of church discipline and organizational retaliation to include firing, blacklisting, and/or character assassinations in public forums, with the result that many people will remain silent about corruption, abuse, error, and financial mismanagement in Southern Baptist entities; and
WHEREAS, for the sake of harmony and out of obedience to the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17, we may expect employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to show discretion in questioning or challenging authorities within their own chain of command, yet to extend this mandate from one Southern Baptist organization to the entire leadership and its cronies of the whole Southern Baptist Convention would turn the Convention into a totalitarian cult; and
WHEREAS, the “eleventh commandment” known as “thou shalt not criticize a fellow Baptist publicly” cultivates a climate of fear and silence that can only allow sinful, abusive, or misguided practices to flourish within the Convention and within its organizations, because some Baptist figures who hold powerful positions have availed themselves of their influence to retaliate against their critics by contacting employees, church leaders, or associates in order to apply pressure behind the scenes; and
WHEREAS, no authority figure should be granted such eminence that the gentleman’s agreements, an old boys’ network, the so-called eleventh commandment, and/or non-disclosure agreements can afford the authority figure an airtight shield against necessary and healthy scrutiny or challenge; it should never be the case that an authority figure can, if he chooses corruption or fails to see how he has become corrupted, ignore or dismiss private criticisms, and then deflect public criticism by claiming that critics can only challenge him privately; and/or that an authority figure can ultimately cite false standards such as “civility,” “cordiality,” “hospitality,” “church unity” or “respect” as a way of blocking fellow Southern Baptists from raising concerns or seeking correction to Southern Baptist organizations; and
WHEREAS, trustees, entity leaders, pastors, executives, directors, and other empowered individuals in the Southern Baptist Convention do not own the resources they steward and must act in the interests not of themselves or of their friends but rather of the Kingdom, of the Southern Baptist Convention, of the Southern Baptist people, and of the members of their entities; and all these interests are always best served by transparency, due diligence, and scrutiny to avoid conflicts of interest, corruption, nepotism, error, abuse, and waste; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention affirms that there are only ten commandments in Exodus 20:3-17, and none instructing Southern Baptists to refrain from criticizing Baptist leaders, even publicly if necessary; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention denounces “gentleman’s agreements” designed to force silence on people whose livelihoods depend on the Convention due to their service to the Convention; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention denounces “non-disclosure agreements” and calls all Southern Baptist leaders who have imposed them on former employees to repent of them; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention denounces retaliatory actions by Southern Baptist leaders, such as contacting critics’ employees or charges in order to threaten critics’ jobs or standing within their community; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention calls all Southern Baptists to proclaim and avail themselves of their freedom of conscience, since our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ told us in John 8:32, “the Truth will set you free.”