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Oklahoma pastor requests predator database for Baptist convention

A small group of protesters fighting various forms of abuse within the church engage passersby outside at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting Tuesday in Dallas. [PHOTO BY Rodger Mallison, Star-Telegram via AP]

DALLAS — At a time when the #MeToo movement is sweeping the nation, an Oklahoma pastor is hopeful that the Southern Baptist Convention will heed his request for a predator database to protect members of Southern Baptist churches.

The Rev. Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, requested the development of the database in 2007 and returned to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting on Tuesday to bring the matter up again.

"Southern Baptist pastors need to recognize that we have a responsibility to protect women from men who move towards them for sexual or physical abuse," Burleson said. He made his remarks at a noon rally in support of women held Tuesday at a park outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Baptist delegates gathered.

His request was rejected in 2007 because convention leaders said it would be difficult to set up a mandatory database among Southern Baptist churches, which are autonomous and do not adhere to a top-down hierarchy. However, Tuesday, the preacher said he is hopeful that momentum has shifted in favor of the database.

"Some of my fellow Southern Baptists say, 'Why are we letting the #MeToo culture, why are we letting the secular culture determine how we treat our women?' I said, 'Are you kidding me?' We are called by our heavenly Father to encourage and empower women just as we would men," he said.

Burleson said he thought his request for a database may move forward this time because the convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission may take on the project. In 2007, he had asked that the convention's Executive Committee consider his proposal. He became teary-eyed as he told those at the rally about a recent conversation he had with a woman who said a Southern Baptist leader had quashed her efforts to seek justice after she was raped.

Tuesday evening, Russell Moore, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president, said he agreed with Burleson that a database would be beneficial. Moore said it will be up to the convention to decide whether the convention affiliate he leads will be tasked with creating one.

Meanwhile, women and the issue of abuse were the focus of two resolutions that seemed to garner the most attention on Tuesday.

Part of that attention appeared to be because the male-dominated convention has been steeped in turmoil over controversy that some have described as a “#MeToo moment.”

Among other things, controversy erupted before and after the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth removed prominent convention leader Paige Patterson from his post as president. Trustees said they made the determination amid allegations that Patterson mishandled matters when several rape allegations were made on campus and his previous statements regarding women facing domestic violence in their marriages.

Convention delegates approved a resolution “On the dignity and worth of women,” on abuse and the “holiness and integrity of ministry leaders.”

The Rev. Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, voted in favor of all three resolutions. Dilbeck had expressed support for the resolution on the dignity and worth of women in advance of the conference.

“I was honored to join voices with others in the Southern Baptist Convention in presenting this important resolution,” Dilbeck said. “We need to speak with clarity about the dignity and worth of women, as we point people to the example of Jesus Christ in how to treat women."

Prior to the annual meeting, conjecture abounded that the convention might be poised to upend the doctrine of complementarianism, its long-held theological view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities, and, in particular, that men are to be the leaders in the home and church.

None of the trio of resolutions addressing women, abuse and ministry leaders' integrity seemed to counter this view. Jason Duesing, resolutions committee member, said it was important that the committee bring the resolutions up for a vote because it was obvious to committee members that delegates wanted to make a statement on the issues. He said about four or five proposed resolutions on those topics were submitted for the committee's consideration.

“It was clear that the convention wanted to speak to those themes,” Duesing said.

#MeToo meets #ChurchToo

Other speakers at Tuesday's rally for women challenged convention leaders and delegates to take action to protect women and children from abuse. The rally was about an hour and 15 minutes long in Pioneer Park adjacent to the Hutchison convention center. Women and a few children held up signs with slogans promoting messages like "Jesus Christ: abuse victim betrayed by religious leaders. #ChurchToo" and "Jesus: Calling women to preach since the first Easter morning."

Carolyn Deevers, a Stillwater native and Christian blogger who described herself as an abuse survivor, said organizers of the rally wanted to help not harm the church.

"We want this to be a positive experience for the church. We want to support them. We want to get resources into their hands," she said.

"The church needs to put away this 'God hates divorce' mantra. God does not expect us to place the institution of marriage above the safety and sanity of women and children."

Another rally organizer Cheryl Summers said she was raised Southern Baptist and considers herself a lifelong Southern Baptist but she does not currently attend a Southern Baptist church.

She said she made the decision to help coordinate the "For Such a Time As This Rally" after the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary removed Patterson.

Summers said the women's rally organizers had three goals. She said they want to see women in the Southern Baptist Convention treated with the honor and dignity they deserve and they want the convention to establish a clergy sexual predator database. The group also wants the convention to ensure that clergy and seminary students are trained on the proper treatment of disclosures of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

"It will come up. One in four women will be a victim so that is at least 25 percent of women sitting in the pews," she said.

Meanwhile, an estimated 9,743 Baptist messengers or delegates were in attendance when a count was taken Tuesday afternoon at the downtown Dallas gathering.

Delegates voted the Rev. J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, as the organization's new president. Convention leaders said Greear, 45, garnered about 68 percent of the votes for the leadership post. An Oklahoman, the Rev. Felix Cabrera, was voted second vice president Tuesday evening. Cabrera is senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City.

Southern Baptists are expected to gather on Wednesday for the final day of the annual meeting. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to address the gathering Wednesday morning.

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Pastor Wade Burleson

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ae9b3645c653bfabe99496795fc5d567.jpg" alt="Photo - Pastor Wade Burleson " title=" Pastor Wade Burleson "><figcaption> Pastor Wade Burleson </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d2cf467cedd817d7bcce9460f3a70577.jpg" alt="Photo - A small group of protesters fighting various forms of abuse within the church engage passersby outside at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting Tuesday in Dallas. [PHOTO BY Rodger Mallison, Star-Telegram via AP] " title=" A small group of protesters fighting various forms of abuse within the church engage passersby outside at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting Tuesday in Dallas. [PHOTO BY Rodger Mallison, Star-Telegram via AP] "><figcaption> A small group of protesters fighting various forms of abuse within the church engage passersby outside at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting Tuesday in Dallas. [PHOTO BY Rodger Mallison, Star-Telegram via AP] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6dca861746ec20b17bcc8d606410b8a1.jpg" alt="Photo - Chase Crawford, a Southern Baptist Convention messenger from Arkansas, and his 2-year-old daughter, Chloe Jean Crawford, listen Tuesday to speakers during a rally protesting the Southern Baptist Convention's treatment of women outside the convention's annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. [AP Photo] " title=" Chase Crawford, a Southern Baptist Convention messenger from Arkansas, and his 2-year-old daughter, Chloe Jean Crawford, listen Tuesday to speakers during a rally protesting the Southern Baptist Convention's treatment of women outside the convention's annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. [AP Photo] "><figcaption> Chase Crawford, a Southern Baptist Convention messenger from Arkansas, and his 2-year-old daughter, Chloe Jean Crawford, listen Tuesday to speakers during a rally protesting the Southern Baptist Convention's treatment of women outside the convention's annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. [AP Photo] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8e7af3021fba741567b27078f47c5888.jpg" alt="Photo - Rally organizer Cheryl Summers speaks to a crowd at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women on Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] " title=" Rally organizer Cheryl Summers speaks to a crowd at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women on Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Rally organizer Cheryl Summers speaks to a crowd at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women on Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9427d103577afdc5efc07e8452acc95c.jpg" alt="Photo - The Rev. Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, talks to the Rev. David Cecil, senior pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] " title=" The Rev. Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, talks to the Rev. David Cecil, senior pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> The Rev. Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, talks to the Rev. David Cecil, senior pastor of Eagle Mountain Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, at the “For Such a Time As This Rally” in support of women Tuesday outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where Southern Baptists gathered for their annual meeting in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f5c7e373b86e9370f05656e055246d1f.jpg" alt="Photo - Women and children participate in the “For Such a Time As This Rally” on Tuesday in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] " title=" Women and children participate in the “For Such a Time As This Rally” on Tuesday in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Women and children participate in the “For Such a Time As This Rally” on Tuesday in Dallas. [Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7fd14488a96dcf8596205541deba2686.jpg" alt="Photo - Carolyn Deevers " title=" Carolyn Deevers "><figcaption> Carolyn Deevers </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and... Read more ›

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