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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The mess at ABWE HQ gets ever deeper, and it's not just ABWE being affected

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This blog has been deluged for the past few days with searches for news on Donn Ketcham, so I knew something must have gone down. It took a bit of digging, but sure enough: another Baptist missionary has just been implicated in the abuse of missionary kids in Bangladesh.

There's a problem, though: he's the father of one of the founding members of the group of AMK's who set out to expose what went on back there in their childhoods--now a former member, and a vociferous opponent of letting this thing go any further.

It gets worse. ABWE limited GRACE to only investigating Donn Ketcham's peccadilloes, and that investigation continues to plod along. GRACE is accountable to the public, and must be thorough. But what they can't do, per ABWE restrictions on the investigation, is follow any evidence that leads to the exposure of any other missionary. That job has to be left to someone else.

That's the other problem. The "someone else" was a legal team directly hired by ABWE and is accountable to them alone. And furthermore, they managed in just a few months to 'investigate' a whole pile of cases, do all their interviews, and wrap up their final reports and recommendations--all without any public disclosure or outside accountability. Can you say "Damage Control?"

What's happened is that several heads have quietly rolled due to the "preponderance of evidence" raised by their investigations--all before GRACE has even released a preliminary report.

What does this all have to do with me? Well, as someone with close ties to the Western Missionary Movement, I've taken a hard look at The Way Things Were Done and wondered if the organizations that Did Things That Way could ever manage to pull out of the old paradigm and embrace the future. And this latest move by ABWE tells me that, at least as far as regular Evangelical Baptist Missions are concerned (and I use the term generally, now that the specific organization that held that name for 80 years has gone ignominiously bankrupt), the answer is, No. The Phoenix cannot be transformed; it must be burned to a crisp before any new life can arise from its ashes.

So, the Old Guard Missions are going away; what will replace them? Alas, I see only more of the same. As long as a missionary candidate can find 100 churches to support him for an average of $50 a month, Bible College graduates will continue to sign their names on the line to go forth and plant Fundamental Baptist Churches. Mission Hospitals will continue to be built. Some things will be different--boarding schools definitely are still on the way out--but the next iteration of Western Missions will be only marginally different than the last. At least at the beginning--whether this next generation will be able to go farther than the last is capable of remains to be seen.

Stay tuned for a report on how this sort of thing all falls out for a ministry based out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

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