The Token IFB Response to Religious Abuse
It was only a matter of time, after IFB cult survivors and victims started speaking out, before the cult had to minimize the stories of courageous men and women. This turned the IFB world upside down. With the visibility of social media, personal blogs and so many support groups, it finally got the attention of the IFB movement. They realized they were going to have to do damage control to keep their dwindling attendance. Hence, a few podcasts and blogs were born to combat the truth and hide their lack of accountability.
These blogs and podcasts sound good on paper. We have listened to more episodes than we would ever care, read more blog posts, and scoured social media searching for the "fruits of their labors". Not one of these pastors or laymen seem to have a coherent answer to the pressing questions of how to handle abuse within the church.
There have been comparisons made to several Old Testament stories instructing the abused to "cry out". What happens when we do cry out and it falls on deaf ears?
There must be a standard. We know many people who are Biblically disqualified from the pulpit who are standing behind one every time the church doors are open. When will the church and its leaders open their eyes or fulfill their mandatory reporting duties? We know MANY pedophiles and other sex offenders working in the ministry. Many times, this is due to shuffling around from one church to another or just a lack of due diligence on the church's part.
After scouring around 20 IFB church websites, we found that not even one of them had a statement explaining the vetting methods of the church volunteers and employees. References to KJV only, pre-tribulation rapture, "standards", and many of the normal IFB beliefs were everywhere. The pastor got his honorary doctorate from some obscure non accredited school, the church is run by family and close friends of the family, or information on how to put your child in the non-accredited church school with unqualified teachers. Who needs an actual education when you can just get awarded an honorary doctorate? Every single website included a small section on how to accept Christ as Saviour. However, the salvation message was watered down with an easy believism passage. Take this quote as an example:
"Knowing you have a relationship with God and a home in Heaven isn’t about being good or religious. It’s about trust—faith. Everyone is trusting something as an “ultimate thing.” The message of the Bible is that Jesus is the only source of ultimate and eternal hope—forgiveness and pardon from sin, acceptance and adoption into God’s family, and the promise of eternal life in Heaven. It happens the moment you call out to Jesus and ask Him to be your Saviour. In that moment, He will forgive your sin and give you His gift of eternal life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13)." (Source)
While we know that salvation is a gift of God, there must be conviction and repentance. The fact so many of the IFB churches follow this "say some words and you're saved" or easy gospel is incredibly disturbing. They cherry pick the "Roman's Road" into a watered-down Gospel, leading many astray thinking they are saved.
These major theological errors, along with a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of fundamentalism in the style of Hyles/Roloff/etc, create an environment ripe for predators. You get a pastor who follows the standard IFB theology and begins to rule with an iron fist. You won't see it at first, it's gradual. Every single cult is the same. (For more information about cults see Combatting Mind Control as a wonderful reference).
We hear rebuttals to the allegations, excuses for the "man of God", and if there is a conviction (as in the Schaap case) it is glossed over. Many of these IFB churches claim independence or unaffiliated but there is always a loose affiliation of like-minded churches. Preacher friends, missionaries or families that move to other churches or colleges - it all creates a closed network that perpetuates an environment for abuse.
What we need is a concrete plan of action for each church. All churches are different and have varying needs. We have called around fifteen churches asking if they have a plan or policy in place for vetting new employees or volunteers and not one of them was able to give a solid answer. "We only take ministry employees from the church or recommended from another IFB pastor." "We don't run background checks, but we do pray and fast."
None of these are proper methods to protect our churches. Background check. Twelve months of church membership. Professional and personal references.
If we must go through a background check, drug test and other things for a secular job, how much more should we be protecting the spiritual wellness of our congregations?