David Platt & IMB Issue Statement Apologizing to Anne Miller

Late Wednesday night, IMB President David Platt issued the statement reproduced below. You can find the original statement here along with the story in Baptist Press here.

Platt apologizes to Anne Miller and announces an investigation of this and any similar situations, as well as an examination of current policies.

You may contribute to Anne Miller’s Trauma Fund at GoFundMe to help with costs of treatment she’s undergoing.

 

Full IMB Statement Printed Below. Link


Statement from IMB President David Platt

I just returned from the last couple of weeks in sub-Saharan Africa, and after meeting immediately with IMB trustee leaders, I want to speak clearly about recent news concerning an internal IMB investigation in 2007 of alleged sexual abuse by a former youth pastor who had become an IMB missionary and then went on to serve in other ministry leadership positions. In order to fully guard the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation (with which IMB is committed to full cooperation), I believe it is wise, for the sake of everyone involved, for me to refrain from commenting on specific details in this case.

However, I do want to say that many facets of this situation are extremely disturbing. For this reason, I am commencing a thorough, outside, independent examination of IMB’s handling of past actions—including this case and any other similar situations. In addition, I am commencing a thorough, outside, independent examination of IMB’s present policies and practices to ensure that our current commitment to zero tolerance for child abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment is completely and consistently enforced across IMB today. Further, I am presently in conversations with leaders of other churches and ministries, particularly within the SBC, to establish practical ways we can and must prevent situations like this in the future. Any attempts to minimize, ignore, cover up, or overlook child abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment are absolutely intolerable, and we must take action together now to ensure safety and support for every person employed or affected by a church or ministry.

Moreover, I want to publicly apologize for the hurt and pain that Anne Miller has specifically suffered in this situation. I will not presume to know the variety of other emotions and challenges that she, those around her, and others who have walked through similar situations have experienced. Further, I want to apologize for various ways we in the IMB have contributed to such hurt and pain through our response to this point. In addition, I want to publicly thank Anne Miller for the courage she showed in approaching IMB in 2007, and the courage she is showing now. I realize the actions I have outlined above cannot remove her hurt and pain, or the hurt and pain of others who have experienced similar situations. But I am committed to doing all that I can so that her courage, and the courage of others like her, will prevent hurt and pain among others in the future.

In conclusion, we must do better. In the IMB. In the SBC. In any church and any ministry, we must do everything we can to protect children and adults from abuse and harassment, and we must do everything we can to hold anyone who is guilty of these things fully accountable.

Wealthy Patterson Supporters Threaten to Withhold Future Donations to SWBTS

News reported this afternoon. 16 individuals or couples have signed a letter to Kevin Ueckert and the SWBTS trustees threanening to withhold “tens of millions” in future donations to the school. In seven pages they express “utter disdain for your actions on May 30,” the day Patterson was terminated. They demand for an investigative committee to be appointed, half of which would be signers of the letter (sounds like it would be objective…).

You can read the full letter here.

 

A few thoughts here.

  • This list of donors together has given millions of dollars to SWBTS in the past (we know because the letter says so). Southern Baptists are rightly grateful for that past investment in theological education.
  • The landslide vote of the convention was not to fire the board but to allow the full board of trustees to review the actions of the executive committee. If it wasn’t clear before (I’d argue yes), it certainly was after Bart Barber’s speech that the Executive Committee was justified, cautious, and unanimous about the decision they made. Very few, if any, think the full board will reverse that decision. (My guess is these donors don’t either, which is why they demand to make up half of a committee instead of leaving it to the trustees.)
  • Southern Baptists are ready to move past this. The SWBTS report was handled exceptionally well by Dr. Bingham. The seminary needs to heal. Many people who were involved do too. The Pattersons do as well, and not turn this in to a drawn-out battle. Dr. Patterson missed his first convention in many years, and things went on without him. There wasn’t a widespread outcry. If anything, there was a sense of relief that the drama had settled.
  • The donor letter is a distasteful power move. Threats of withholding money don’t go well in SBC life, and that’s something we should be thankful for. The response on social media to this letter has, rightly, been universally negative, as far as I’ve seen.
  • We pray these donors, who will not get their way, will reconsider their actions and realize that theological education is still a worthwhile investment. And specifically future investment in Southwestern Seminary. This is bigger than one man, at least we hope it was for them.
  • I believe God will provide for Southwestern Seminary and continue to use that institution for his purposes. Let this be a reminder for us to continue to pray for SWBTS.

 

Unconvinced by Bart Barber’s Case for Prioritizing Strict Immigration Enforcement

Yesterday here at Voices, Bart Barber wrote A Non-Nativist Case for Strict Enforcement of Immigration Law. There are several reasons I approached Bart’s article with a lot of anticipation. One of which is the huge amount of respect I have for Bart. Another is that he’s helped me think through immigration-related issues before (here, here, here, and here, for example) in ways that have been really, really helpful. 

But yesterday’s post left me scratching my head. It’s not that I think Bart is wrong in advocating for the principle of strict enforcement of immigration laws. I’m for border security and better enforcement. I and many other Southern Baptists have signed the EIT Statement of Principles, which includes, as two of its six key principles, “Respects the rule of law” and “Guarantees secure national borders.”

So why did Bart’s piece not sit well with me? I’ve reflected some and I think there are two main reasons. First, I think Bart gives right answers to some of the wrong questions. Second, I think his main thesis fails under scrutiny because there are significant exceptions to the principle he lays out. Jumping from lax enforcement of bad laws to strict enforcement of bad laws may lead us to even greater injustice than what we’re currently seeing.

Agreement

Let’s start with where I think Bart is correct. (1) We want laws that accomplish just outcomes for everyone. (2) Lack of enforcement of immigration law can cause injustice in countless ways. (3) This one is huge and I really appreciate Bart highlighting it: We should reject the nativist, protectionist arguments often being advanced these days. (4) Our current system and lack of enforcement have unfairly disadvantaged potential immigrants, refugees, and others who don’t have access to a land border into the U.S. (5) Our immigration enforcement should take place without separating families at the border. 

Let’s not gloss over these areas of agreement. There is a lot here. A lot of substance. And I wish that all of those involved in this debate could start from this foundation. 

Problem #1: Wrong Questions

With that foundation in place, I think Bart’s argument answered questions that most people aren’t asking at this point. Maybe they should be, but I don’t think that’s where the conversation is. I understand Bart to be saying we have two options to even out the inequality between border/non-border situations: Either we ease access for non-border countries or we restrict access* for border countries. 

The only conversation seemingly taking place at this point is restricting access. There is a push from the far right and this administration to severely limit all immigration, not to potentially expand immigration from non-border countries. That’s why I say this may be the right answer (making sure access is equitable) but in our current situation that’s going to be nearly universally understood as an argument for restriction. 

Another fear I have is advocating for “strict enforcement” in this climate possibly communicates an approval of the harsh tactics currently in the headlines. Bart, to his credit, expressly denounces the deterrent strategy of separating families. Also, “strict enforcement” of the laws may actually point to a more humane way of treating asylum seekers than the family separation practice recently implemented (and more recently potentially reversed) by the Trump administration. I’ve seen some argue that asylum seekers are promised due process that would be more, not less, compassionate. But I don’t think that’s how Bart’s headline would normally be interpreted. Wish that everyone who saw the headline would stick around long enough to read Bart’s last paragraph! 

Problem #2: Exceptions to the Thesis

I understand the heart of Bart’s argument to rest on his fifth paragraph:

Rather, I’m arguing for the strict enforcement of immigration law (and I’m open to the improvement of the laws on the books) because I believe that these laws provide justice for immigrants themselves. When our immigration laws go unenforced, the result is injustice for immigrants.

Bart makes a great case that unenforced immigration laws cause injustice to certain immigrants – particularly immigrants without access to a U.S. land border. No argument there. But what needs to be said in addition is that in our complex, confusing immigration system, there are times that strict enforcement of the law can create a different kind of injustice – one that could be worse than the first. 

As an example, I watched this documentary about a year ago. One thing I haven’t been able to forget is the first-hand accounts contained where immigration laws were enforced but clearly led to injustice, rather than fair, common-sense outcomes. If you’re short on time, jump ahead to the 27:00 mark and listen to the story of Bruce and his family. 

Moving from lax enforcement of bad laws to strict enforcement of bad laws potentially puts us in a situation where we’re still dealing with the problem of injustice – maybe of a different kind and possibly even more severe. We have injustice now? Yes. The answer isn’t trading for another kind of (potentially worse) injustice. 

The logical progression that I understand from Bart’s post could be expressed this way:

Lax Enforcement -> Strict Enforcement -> Fix the Laws

I believe a better paradigm, a better general strategy would be to swap the second and third steps:

Lax Enforcement -> Fix the Laws -> Strict Enforcement

 

Of course, the reality is more complicated. We are not going to choose only enforcement or only fixing laws. We should move forward on both fronts. The question comes down to emphasis or priority. Which comes temporally first? Which comes logically first? My argument here is that fixing the laws ought to take temporal and logical priority. But again, we don’t have to choose either/or.

If we moved strategically, we could move forward in both areas without increasing injustice. Securing the border with a physical barrier (or other effective means) would be a step forward in enforcement with no (that I can see) potentially greater injustice associated. While the border is being secured in that way, let’s focus our other energy on improving existing laws so they really are more just and fair. Then, with the border secure and better immigration laws in place, we move fairly into a mindset of strict enforcement. 

Moving from ‘where we are now’ directly into a mode of strict enforcement skips important steps that safeguard human dignity and compassion. We have better options available and, especially as the church, we should make every effort to get to our destination making sure people are treated fairly in the process.

And I think when you get down to it, Bart’s position is probably not much different than what I’ve tried to argue for here. And that gives me hope I’m not too far off base.

 


*Please note when I talk about access here, I’m talking about legal accessibility. This is not an argument against a physical barrier. The point of the physical barrier is to force people trying to enter to go through an established legal process.

Surgery Update on Dave Miller: Remarkably Successful, Doctors Highly Optimistic

We are so thankful to report that Dave came out of surgery tonight and all indications are that things went exceptionally well. I know he will be eager to write and thank you guys for your prayer an support as soon as the anesthesia wears off. We changed his password when he started threatening to live blog the procedure. We’ll make sure all the medication is out of his system before he gets his login back. 😉

Here’s a summary of the report from Jenni:

Dave got out of surgery about 6:10. They were able to do the laparoscopic procedure. They took out the mass and shaved a little off the kidney. They froze tissue around that, then tested – it was cancer free. The doctor said there was an excellent chance of a total cure!

Even bleeding was less than usual for this procedure. This is the best case scenario possible. Praise God!

Let’s rejoice together and keep praying for Dave as he recovers.