Sorrow for Survivors Runs Deeper than the Surface Issues of Southern Baptists
Thirty-five years ago, the scene in our living room was like a private funeral for our family of four. Not a soul was there to hear us wail, as we leaned on one another for support.
Not only had our children lost their sense of identity and their adopted homeland of Malawi, where we'd worked for more than a decade from preparing to go, being appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and serving there, bonded with beloved nationals and our Mission Family, with these ties stronger than any we'd ever known on earth.
Until 1986, we'd felt a part of the Family. Yet, soon we began to feel more and more like the enemy because Ron and I stood together after stating our grave concerns, as anyone should whenever a group is faced with a sexual predator that had, so far, only had his hand slapped before sending him home for a full medical evaluation. It was as if everyone was buying into Gene Kingsley's "memory problem," thinking surely he must have a serious medical condition rather than a character issue, same as his wife was trying to convince everyone rather than saying what she told me--that he'd been going into rages and acting out for a long time in their home, frightening her and his own children.
Over the next nine months, Ron and I could hardly wait for furlough. Just to get some relief from the oppression that surrounded us at every turn. Not only from our "helpless" Mission family and its leaders, who claimed they couldn't stand up against the "warlords" back in Richmond, headquarters for this, the largest mission board in the world--that of Southern Baptists.
At appointment, we'd been told with great assurance: "We'll be holding the ropes as you go down into the well."
The Ropes Broke Twice
The southern hemisphere, it seemed, was seen as a dark well, though I didn't give that meaning to their words in 1978, as we left for Malawi.
Not only had the ropes broken with the betrayal of all five of us who were victimized in various ways by Kingsley. For two of us--myself and a national teen, who ended up in the ER, too frightened to talk--we had felt the violence of this giant of a man as he tried to control us in every way.
For two male victims, who never reported to anyone but me, Gene's behavior was much more subtle--with verbal harassment and writing a horrific, sexually abusive letter to Gene's own daughter, while the mother was certain the signature was not her own son's, but "Uncle Gene's," as our children called him.
Incest in the family of God, whether in a church, a family, or a Mission, requires swift and decisive action. Anything short of that is incestuous behavior--collusion or complicity shows the deep sickness that runs in every system that does not stand for rapid responses to contain the alleged perpetrator, followed by a complete investigation by those outside the system.
Collusion is Nothing Less than Hate
After working for 3.5 decades to end the same nonsensical behavior that I experienced as a woman of forty, I cannot imagine how younger ones even survive. Having to rebuilt our entire lives and to re-examine our belief system, questioning everything about our heritage (as every soul should do so, but few are ever forced to do), I am convinced that the Southern Baptist Convention is a denomination of hate.
It hates progressive thinking, hates homosexuality, projecting that hate onto God rather than taking the issue apart to truly understand what the meaning of the Scriptures is. It hates "uppity" women or those who have prophetic voices. How dare we challenge the male-dominated system, they ask, without using those words.
Hate is the watchword, no matter what comes out of the mouths of the lions who are so good at getting the masses to follow. Golden lions, not made in God's image anymore than the wolves in sheep's clothing that are being protected by a lot of men who have the same history and have never gotten caught--of this I am certain.
No wonder leaders are scared. No wonder so many others remain confused. This is a denomination, throughout its history has been a denomination of hate--from despising the slaves, hating those who opposed it, despising women who are given power and have the gift of leading, and on and on the list will go.
Right now, it is on very dangerous ground, though. For it hates the "little ones," and the past two generations who have been led into the wilderness by parents with their heads in the sand, following men of hate and even managing to put one of the worst in the White House, are not going to stop hating easily. Neither are their confused children going to forgive.
Take courage, those on the fringes of this massive denomination that is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. If anyone is listening, take courage. Wake up! Your very soul depends on you doing so.