Southern Baptist seminaries are strengthening the training and oversight of faculty, staff, and students as the #MeToo movement continues to refocus America's attention on sexual abuse.
Over the past few decades, the fall of American faith leaders has been legend and all too frequent – most notably evangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, but also individuals like Eddie Long, Ted Haggard, Tony Alamo, and Bill Gothard.
The six Southern Baptist seminaries in the U.S. would like to avoid that kind of failure, and as accountability has become more swift and sure in the #MeToo era, they are taking steps to ensure that they do. From online training to background checks to actual courses in the curriculum, the schools – according to one seminary president – have "heightened the alert."
Dr. Alex McFarland is the director for Christian worldview at North Greenville University, a Southern Baptist-affiliated school in South Carolina. "In this culture – but really, in any milieu – it's only right and appropriate for Christian ministries to have their staff and faculty carry themselves in a way that is beyond reproach," he tells OneNewsNow.
The educator acknowledges that that's an important but difficult task, especially because when ministering to people who are hurting, appropriate physical touch very often is a part of ministry. He's also seen the #MeToo movement become radicalized and indiscriminate on some secular campuses.
"The one caution that I would have is that, certainly among the Church, the #MeToo movement wouldn't ignite some latent female anger or rage that would cause false accusations," he offers.
McFarland says that may be all the more likely as the Southern Baptist Convention takes a new look at the role of women in ministry. "I am concerned that the momentum of the #MeToo movement might influence the Church in some quarters to take the moment of culture above the mandate of scripture," he shares.
Baptist Press reports that while some Baptist colleges are mandated by law to offer training in sexual abuse prevention and reporting, Southern Baptist seminaries aren't under federal law to do so but voluntarily offer such programs.