Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer is right to assert that Jack Schapp was fired as pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, over sexual "abuse" of a teenage girl Not "adultery."
Technically, Schapp was fired for adultery and the FBI is investigating whether the girl was the legal age of consent, not just in Illinois but also Indiana. But the problem is predatory abuse of power, by the pastor.
The power differential between Schapp and his victim made consent effectively and in some states legally impossible:
... the church environment is remarkably well-suited to the needs of predators, who carry out a form of rape. Dr. Gary Schoener, Executive Director of the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis which serves both offenders and victims of clergy sexual abuse, told the St. Petersberg Times that “17 states see even adult relationships with priests as a type of statutory rape. The victim can’t possibly consent because the power relationship so clouds the issue.”
Stetzer focuses on the age difference and comes to the same conclusion:
A 54-year old pastor taking advantage, both sexually and emotionally, of a 16-year old girl goes far beyond the bounds of desecrating the marital bed and making immoral choices. This is a prime example of abusing the power and trust of an office. It was part of the problem at Penn State, and it is the problem in this situation.
Stetzer urges pastors to "speak up" about the abuse and in the comments Christa Brown takes him to task for saying and doing too little himself:
Southern Baptists have also had way too many child-sex-abuse and cover-up scandals among their clergy. The Southern Baptist track record is no better than the Independent Fundamental Baptists. There is a volunteer-compiled list of Southern Baptist scandals at StopBaptistPredators.
To Ed Stetzer and other Southern Baptists, I say this: Speaking up would be a start, but words are not nearly enough. You must implement cooperative denomination-wide clergy accountability systems similar to those that exist in other major faith groups and stop using “local church autonomy” as an excuse for denominational do-nothingness. Clean up your own faith group.
Stetzer is right (and Brown is right to in effect push it back at him) when he writes:
Those who justify enable more such scandals and endanger more children.
He cannot by that standard justify his failure to speak with equal force to the well-known Southern Baptist failure to protect children and others from abuse by pastors and church staff. It's an enduring national scandal. In 2008 the Southern Baptist Convention's refusal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors, was one of Time magazine's top ten underreported news stories of the year. They use church autonomy as an excuse for inaction, and the number of lives avoidably blighted by abuse grows and grows.