Evangelist and author Beth Moore said Monday during a panel on sex abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention that her faith family “is sick” and in need of help.
Her comments came during a discussion hosted by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore was joined by ERLC president Russell Moore, SBC president J.D. Greear, lawyer and sexual abuse survivor Rachael Denhollander, and SBC sexual abuse survivor Susan Codone.
Speaking candidly, Moore, herself a survivor of sexual abuse, rebuked her fellow believers in the SBC for systematically failing to “equally esteem men and women,” at one point noting, “Women have more to offer a future spouse than simply virginity.”
“There is a disparity between the way we value men and women. And I’m not talking out of feeling; I’m talking out of what has proven to be factual,” Moore said. “[W]omen have been trying to say these things have been happening to us.”
She explained many Southern Baptists have used “spiritual manipulation” to silence abuse victims by suggesting to them, “We’ve got to protect the church, you don’t want to destroy the church, just think of what this would do to the man of God.”
“One of the things I’ve heard over and over,” Moore explained, “[is] how many women have been told, when they came forward, were asked if they were raped, and if they were not raped, ‘Well, thank goodness you’ll still be a virgin for your husband,’ as if their only value would be that they could give a future mate their virginity. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Ultimately, Moore equated the abuse within the SBC to her own experience of sexual abuse in her family growing up. She explained that, while not everyone in her family was an abuser and not everyone was abused, “the whole family was sick” because abuse was nevertheless present.
“What I want to say to my own family of Southern Baptists: our family is sick. We need help,” Moore pleaded. “This is not conjecture. This is a proven fact. It has come forward. It is before our very eyes. And what will just kill us will be denial. We will never get healthy if we cannot get honest.”
She continued, “We have a very serious problem because we have this built-in disesteem for women, and it’s got to change. We’ve got to get down to the root of it, where we understand that this is being perpetuated.”
At the beginning of the panel, Denhollander, who was thrust into the spotlight in 2018, when she became the first women to accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault, rebuked Southern Baptists for ignoring the issue of abuse in the name of “unity.”
She spoke out against a tendency to be vague and leave details out in order to protect churches and religious leaders who have “egregiously failed.”
“Oftentimes, we do this in the name of unity. ‘Don’t say anything negative, we need to be unified,’” Denhollander said. “But brothers and sisters, what we are to be unified around is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be unified around the holiness of God. We are to be unified around our confrontation of sin and our confrontation of the darkness. We are to speak light. That is where our unity is.”
“If we hold back from being articulate and concise and very direct about those failures,” she added, “we are not unified around what we are commanded to be unified around.”
I encourage everyone to take the time to watch the panel in its entirety.