NASHVILLE—Leaders with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have responded to the numerous reports of sexual abuse in SBC churches. SBC President J.D. Greear announced Tuesday evening, Feb. 18, a call-to-action plan, based on initial recommendations from the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Group.
“If we don’t get this right, our churches will not be a safe place for the lost,” Greear said during the SBC Executive Committee meeting. “That is not something that I am OK with… I know that it is not something that you’re OK with either.”
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission published the list of actions that Greear addressed. He called Southern Baptists to do the following:
- Enter a season of sorrow and repentance.
- Embrace a new curriculum for holistic care in the early stages of learning of abuse. Churches can sign up to be kept up to date on the project at churchcares.com.
- 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.
- Take immediate action on abuse prevention and care.
- Consider requiring background checks, at a minimum, for all SBC standing committees and trustee appointments.
- Reexamine the ordination process. Churches should evaluate how to strengthen screening and background efforts in the ordination process.
- Update the Annual Church Profile to ask about abuse.
- Prepare to address abuse at the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting.
- Explore possibilities related to a database solution.
- Request that the Executive Committee enhances governing documents on disfellowshipping churches and evaluates several churches.
“We wholeheartedly affirm the efforts of SBC President J.D. Greear, the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Advisory Group and its statement of principles,” said Brian Hobbs, communications director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).
“As a state convention, we recognize our vital role in the path forward, such as offering quality training and resources to help churches and ministries ensure care for the vulnerable and prevention of abuse. Oklahoma Baptists already have taken increased steps toward preventing abuse, and with God’s help, we will pursue a day in which all people are cared for and protected,” Hobbs added.
The BGCO is one of 41 state Baptist conventions who affirmed a “statement of principles” related to preventing abuse. The full statement can be read at https://erlc.com/resource-library/statements/southern-baptist-state-conventions-statement-of-principles-on-abuse.
Thomas Jordan, who serves as a BGCO church services specialist, said, “Since 2010, the BGCO has been working with outside professional organizations to provide Child Sexual Abuse Awareness training for the BGCO staff that serve in ministries that serve children and youth, including BGCO conference centers.”
Jordan underscored that the BGCO also runs criminal background checks on all staff who are hired. BGCO staff members also have been trained on screening job applicants for warning signs related to child sexual abuse. Every year, the BGCO runs criminal background checks on all of its summer staff who serve at Falls Creek and CrossTimbers, Jordan said.
“We are committed to continue the practice of training and re-training BGCO staff in protecting the children we serve,” added Jordan.
In the last five years, the BGCO has also sponsored 17 regional and statewide training events for churches across the state where more than 800 church and associational leaders have received training in this area from MinistrySafe, a leader in training for child sexual abuse prevention.
The Baptist Messenger will have continued coverage of this story as it develops.