I grew up within Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches my whole life. I went to an IFB college and seminary. Many of the IFB churches I attended were part of General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). This is my denominational heritage. My experience with them was mostly positive. Most notable was the youth pastor I had from 10-12th grade who has continued to be an influence and source of wisdom in my life, and I pray will continue for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, IFB churches are not impervious to sin and its sometimes public stains. This will be the case as long as sinners inhabit IFB churches (and any church for that matter) and until Christ returns. Since we are all sinners and Christ hasn’t returned, churches will have sinners regardless of their denominational stripe.

While I never knew of any accusations of abuse (let alone sexual abuse) in the IFB churches I attended, I later came to know that it has happened frequently in other similar churches and within our organizations.

There have been two instances of sexual abuse in the news recently that have created a lot of discussion and questioning of the integrity of certain IFB churches. I emphasize certain because this does not happen in all IFB churches but it does happen in many. For it to happen at all or anywhere is too much.

The first case deals with the retirement of Donn Ketcham from the mission board of ABWE. In their open confession, ABWE admits that Ketcham’s acts of pedophilia extend as far back as 1975 and that he should have been let go no later than 1985. A number of investigations were started but never seen through even as recent as 2002 in which more allegations from alleged victims were made. ABWE has posted a plea for forgiveness on their blog and has opened themselves up to a third party investigation by G.R.A.C.E. to further explore the pedophilia accusations and how they handled the accusations. Those familiar with the GARBC will know that ABWE is one of their main mission boards. Further, Donn Ketcham’s father, Robert Ketcham, is the founder of the GARBC. That ABWE did not properly deal with Ketcham despite his relationship to the GARBC’s founder is inexcusable and bodes very poorly for them.

The second recent story dealing with sexual abuse within IFB churches stems from a recent 20/20 interview in which several women who were sexually and physically abused by IFB church members and pastors recount their stories. Listening to these women tell their horrific stories is heartbreaking to say the least. To further add to their horrific stories, it is angering to hear how their church leaders handled, or better did not handle the situations. In one case, a women confided in her youth pastor about what was happening to her and he in turn sexually abused her himself.

While I am thankful that ABWE is finally getting around to dealing with the Ketcham issue, there is no excuse that it took this long to deal with. Unfortunately, this is characteristic of too many IFB churches and their organizations. This habit of sweeping these accusations under the carpet has to stop. I realize that IFB churches and their organizations are not the only ones within Evangelical circles to do this. However, the fact that two instances have recently been made public and that they reveal years of cover up seems to point to the fact that this has been going on for a long time.

Some may think these statements to be too harsh, ill informed and uncalled for. I am not alone. Once I watched the 20/20 interview I quickly emailed one of the site organizers at Sharperiron.org and asked that someone with much more of a voice than I respond to the interview. Whether it was due to my request or not, SI posted a response yesterday on their blog. It came from none other than Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Bauder is no stranger to Fundamentalism. He has been a voice for Fundamentalism for years and is a contributing author to the to-be-released book Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. In his post Bauder begins and ends with these words,

We used to think that the problem of child molestation belonged to other people, but not to fundamental Baptists. Now we are learning otherwise. We are hearing more and more reports of sexual predation, pedophilia, and cover-ups on the part of fundamental Baptist leaders. The resulting impression upon the public is that the clergy of Baptist fundamentalism is unusually goatish, thuggish, and corrupt…….Baptist fundamentalism has endured dark episodes in the past, but none has been blacker or more ugly that the present hour. We have no one else to blame. We have been too lax for too long. If the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, then we should welcome the purifying effect that the exposure of sin will have upon us, and we should respond rightly.

You can read the whole thing here which I would do carefully and thoughtfully.

If Bauder’s words are not enough for you, then consider the words of another leading Fundamentalist leader, Dave Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church. In a post titled “You Get What You Honor“, Doran concludes his statements by saying,

I do not mean to endorse or excuse anything connected to the 20/20 report by this post. I’ve spoken very clearly in other places about some of it. My point here is to say that my reaction to the program wasn’t anger that people with grievances went to a secular news outlet or that they tried to tie a bunch of churches together that don’t really belong together. It was a sad, sick feeling. Most of that was about the horrible things that were done to girls and young ladies. Part of it was because I couldn’t help thinking that we have gotten what we honored. We created, or at least tolerated, a culture that permitted and produced this. We too often smiled when we should have been frowning. Perhaps before we start hurling accusations and making counter arguments, we ought to look in the mirror and mourn over what we see there.

Both Bauder and Doran see these instances for what they are as well as the 20/20 interview. Yes, 20/20 did seem to group all IFB churches together by using the phrase “the IFB” as if to say they are a declared denominational group like the GARBC when in fact no such thing exists. I have watched the 20/20 interview twice and for all of the smaller quibbles of how IFB churches were portrayed, I hope people can see it for what it is – a story that exposes the cover up within certain IFB churches in regards to sexual abuse.  It was an opportunity for these abused women to have a voice and seek the justice that they were denied by their own churches and organizations. Justice is God’s, but he has also put government in place to bring civil justice for victims of civil injustice (Rom. 13).

To all who are members and leaders of IFB churches and organizations, please see these remarks for what they are – a plea to purge the body of Jesus Christ from abusers of all kinds. Let this no longer be named among the body of Christ.

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