If you haven’t yet seen the report of the Sexual Abuse Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention then I want to bring it to your attention so that we can lament, pray, speak, and work to see help & healing for victims of sexual abuse.
At the end of May 2021 there were a few things brought to light in the Southern Baptist Convention that compelled Chris and I to make the trip to Nashville for the annual meeting. The primary motivation for us was the revelation that sexual abuse victims had been consistently mistreated by the Executive Committee of the SBC. We went to Nashville with the hope that we would see repentance and change, and we were grateful to stand with other messengers of the convention and vote to initiate this report on sexual abuse.
As we feared, the report released on Sunday uncovers a decades long pattern of minimizing the severity of sexual abuse, neglecting to protect victims, promoting sexual offenders into new ministry positions after their offense, and refusing to take action to acknowledge and care for victims of abuse for fear of accepting liability. The report details how a group of staff members and legal counsel at the Executive Committee repeatedly failed to hear and protect victims of abuse and failed to identify and prosecute offenders.
The report finds that “for almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (“SBC”) Executive Committee (“EC”) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent e-mails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies and contacted the press … only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.”
Among the many horrible things detailed were the instances of people reaching out through the “Contact” page on the SBC website reporting abuse and looking for help who never received a reply. Internal emails show that the legal counsel was worried about the SBC accepting liability for the abuse if they responded to the inquiry. So they never responded. They decided not to help. This was a monumental failure.
As we read these things, we weep and pray. We lament and ask God to heal and help victims who have been long mistreated and overlooked. We pray that they would know his goodness and mercy, his nearness, and his tender care as they’re forced to relive both the abuse they suffered and the years of injustice they’ve suffered.
We’ll spend a time praying together in response on Sunday morning.
As we lament, we look for action. Thankfully, there have been helpful recommendations put forward by the task force to change the system that contributed to this kind of massive failure. You can read those recommendations at the end of the report linked under number 1 below. The annual meeting in June will be an important sign for us as a participating Southern Baptist church to see that significant changes are being made in response to this report. Matt, Chris, and I will provide an update in our next members meeting.
I’ll share with you a number of links below for you to read, watch, consider, and help guide you as we pray and respond. In no particular order:
(1) Here is a link to the almost 300 page report from Guidepost, the organization employed by the Sexual Abuse Task Force appointed by the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is worth reading carefully if you have time.
(2) This is a helpful FAQ summary concerning the report:
(3) The Executive Committee of the SBC met Tuesday and you can watch the discussion here:
(4) This is a helpful summary that was published by Christianity Today immediately after the release of the report:
(5) Russell Moore is the immediate past president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission who helped bring the severity of the issue of sexual abuse in the SBC to light. His reflection article is worth reading.
(6) I appreciate this article as an approach to responding to the report’s findings:
As mentioned, we'll talk and pray more on Sunday. Reach out to me, Matt, or Chris if you have any questions in the meantime. Love you church!