Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is a “time to weep.” If ever there was a time for weeping in our independent Baptist world, it is now. Last week, a 280-page report was published on the serial sins of a trusted Baptist missionary doctor and the apparent malfeasance of his mission which, despite repeated signs of serious moral failures(!) of the doctor, allowed him to remain in good standing, returning to his field of service. Signs of questionable behavior were evident to some as early as the late 1960s. People began to alert the mission of inappropriate conduct with female colleagues. He had an affair in the early 1980s to which he later confessed. Despite the mission’s stated policy of moral integrity, he was allowed to continue serving. His sins escalated from serial adultery, sadly, to serial pedophilia. Yet when the pedophilia came to light in 1989, he was permitted to resign and save face by calling his behavior merely “immorality.” His churches and government officials in two countries were never notified of his deviant behavior. The full extent of his evil may never be known this side of heaven as he, through negligence on the part of mission leadership, was permitted to retain his medical license until the whole issue became a public scandal in 2011, when a blog was started by his victims seeking justice.
The point of this essay is not to further rehearse the story of this tragedy but rather to express a sense of shame and outrage on behalf of the victims, most of them children at the time of their abuse. Little, if anything, was done to protect them. One was even coerced into accepting blame for being complicit in her own abuse.
I had no connection to the mission and have only slight connection with the abused through friendship with the father of two of the victims. I have followed the story now for over five years and my heart is broken that anyone in my Christian world could do so much harm to so many innocent children. Mostly under the guise of a medical practitioner, this doctor perpetuated heinous abuse on children, and because his mission failed to honor its own written policies, a predator was allowed continued access to innocent victims and continued to do irreparable damage.
The time for recriminations, however, is not now. That will come and justice will be meted out, if not in this life, certainly in the next. The Divine Judge will do right and hold those responsible even if His servants did not. Now is a time to mourn—to mourn innocence lost, to mourn promises unfulfilled, to mourn responsibilities not faithfully discharged, to mourn dereliction of duty in a most egregious way, and perhaps most significantly, to mourn the fruit (apparently) of hero worship run amok. The man in question was the son of a well-known Christian leader whose name is synonymous with a movement that eventually reached around the world through several large mission agencies, including the one with which the man served. The man had friends in high places who protected him, unwittingly, and failed to hold him accountable for serious moral failure. Did his friends knowingly permit his sin? Not explicitly, but perhaps through a flawed sense of friendship and certainly through negligence, a serial sexual predator had freedom to operate.
The shame, however, is larger than the mission’s. The shame I think should be shared by all who love the Lord Jesus and abhor this outrage. It is our shame to own as Christians who failed to protect the least among us—a failure to protest more loudly the hypocrisy of an immoral man who continued to work among us. At the time the blog went online, the doctor, as a veteran missionary, was an honored member of a local church, appearing in the church’s newsletter praising his missionary dedication. Sadly, the church had no idea about the character of the man who walked among them. Such was the hypocrisy.
Paul reminds Timothy (1 Tim. 5:19) that accusations against an elder are not to be received lightly. Two or three witnesses must testify to the sin. Sadly, in this particular case, there was a myriad of evidence over decades, coupled with the man’s personal confession to at least some of the accusations early on. Once the man confessed to his moral sin, he should have been dealt with on the basis of stated mission policy, but he was not. He was allowed to remain with the mission, even serving in its leadership! This apparently emboldened him to perpetuate further and more serious crimes against some who were least able to resist.
Humanly speaking, this is unforgiveable. How can we not mourn and weep over this tragedy? These girls could have been our daughters—my daughter! Christian leadership comes with a high responsibility. Such failure! Such devastation! Such wickedness! Mourning is the least we can do. It is also biblical. Isaiah mourned the sin of Israel as his own sin (Is. 6:4) as did Nehemiah who identified himself and his family with the sin of the nation (Neh. 1:6).
Finally, we must resolve to change the kind of culture that allowed this sin and criminal behavior to thrive. Sin must be exposed, even among friends. Wickedness cannot be covered. Leadership must lead and protect those who cannot protect themselves! It must be remembered, however, that during the years when these things happened our sensibilities were different. We can no longer live by old standards. We must act more swiftly and with greater care. It cannot happen again!
To those so badly abused, I can only weep with you and for you. I pray that through your suffering, we may learn lessons and change our ways. We cannot change the past. But by God’s grace, we can resolve to keep this kind of thing from happening in the future.
This essay is by Jeff Straub, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Great God, From Thee There’s Nought Concealed
John Newton (1725–1807)
Great God, from Thee there’s nought concealed,
Thou seest my inward frame;
To Thee I always stand revealed,
Exactly as I am.
Since I can hardly therefore bear,
What in myself I see
How vile and dark must I appear
Most holy God to Thee?
But since my Savior stands between,
In garments dyed in blood,
’Tis He instead of me is seen
When I approach to God.
Thus though a sinner, I am safe,
He pleads before the throne
His life and death in my behalf,
And calls my sins His own.
What wondrous love, what mysteries,
In this appointed shine!
My breaches of the law are His,
And His obedience mine.