The Houston Chronicle recently published a series of articles related to sexual abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention. The stories included are heartbreaking.
Part 1 brought to light over 380 Southern Baptist Church leaders or volunteers accused of sexual abuse or misconduct impacting over 700 victims and survivors. Part 2 covered predators who successfully moved from one church to another. Part 3 dealt with youth pastors who prey on teens by using their access to students through the church to groom and sexually abuse youth.
This week as the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention convened, SBC President J.D. Greear announced 10 calls to action for Southern Baptists based on initial recommendations from the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Group. The group’s efforts are ongoing, and there will be more resources and responses released in the months to come. But Greear called Southern Baptists to:
1. Enter a season of sorrow and repentance. Southern Baptists should lament abuse in our churches and repent of our failure to adequately address the issue.
2. Embrace a new curriculum for holistic care in the early stages of learning of abuse. Becoming a Church that Cares Well on Abuse is a free video-based curriculum created by a diverse team of survivors, advocates, and experts. Contributors to the curriculum include Rachael Denhollander, Diane Langberg, Andrea Munford and more. Greear encouraged people to sign up at the curriculum’s website to stay informed about its launch.
3. Affirm three separate “Statement of Principles” documents. Three separate documents were ratified by (1) all six SBC seminaries and (2) all 41 SBC State Conventions, and (3) SBC Associational Leaders signal a collective commitment to address abuse at every organizational level of the SBC.
4. Take immediate action on abuse prevention and care. Churches, associations, state conventions, and entities should seek to strengthen their policies and practices on abuse.
5. Consider requiring background checks, at a minimum, for all SBC standing committees and trustee appointments. The Executive Committee should consider integrating background checks into the standard process for evaluating appointees and trustees in a manner that fits our polity. Our goal is to be vigilant to make sure that predators have no place at any level in our structure.
6. Reexamine the ordination process. Churches should evaluate how to strengthen screening and background efforts in the ordination process.
7. Update the Annual Church Profile to ask about abuse. Questions related to updated abuse policies and occurences of abuse should be considered for inclusion in the Annual Church Profile completed by SBC churches.
8. Prepare to address abuse at the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting. The 2019 SBC Annual Meeting will address abuse through prayer, reports, events, and resources.
9. Explore possibilities related to a database solution. The Study Group will continue to evaluate possibilities for a registry of offenders.
10. Request that the Executive Committee enhances governing documents on disfellowshipping churches and evaluates several churches. The Executive Committee should strengthen language in the SBC’s governing documents related to mishandling abuse as a grounds for disfellowshipping churches. They should also do due diligence on several churches specified in media reports on abuse to evaluate if their standing aligns with our faith and practice.
How can Southern Baptists stay involved and connected to the study group? The advisory group wants to hear from you. If you have suggestions, questions, connections, or ideas, please send those to firstname.lastname@example.org.