24 May Pastor’s Response to SBC Sexual Abuse Report
Many, if not all, major news outlets are covering the Guidepost Solutions independent report of sexual abuse allegations in the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s almost 300 pages and I have given particular attention to the summation of its findings. I usually try to stay clear of commenting on denominational issues (I’ve grown weary of them through the years). However, due to the publicity and importance of the subject matter, I wanted to offer a few thoughts.
At its best, the SBC is known for its cooperative missions, theological education, and disaster relief efforts. I am a product of Southern Baptists in years past and am grateful for my upbringing. There are many Baptists (and Christians in general) who are shocked and saddened today by these findings. I myself am saddened but am not surprised by them. It took persistent efforts by messengers at the national convention last year to force the Executive Committee to have an outside entity carry out this investigation.
There are many good people within the denomination who are outraged yet grateful that this information is finally being brought to light. Indeed, the attitudes and toxic theology of some in key leadership positions have contributed to an environment of dismissive and abusive behavior, especially towards women.
One of the recommendations of the Guidepost report is establishing a database of sexual offenders so that churches can have a resource when doing background checks on ministers. One of the objections to a national database by the SBC has always been the view that it violates Baptist polity.
Yet, (and most surprisingly) the report reveals that a list of sex offenders has been in place for a while–not to help churches but to defend the SBC against possible litigation. The formation of an accessible database for search committees would be a significant step in keeping known sex offenders from being quietly dismissed at one church, only to find employment at another unsuspecting church.
The SBC national meeting is next month in Anaheim and I’m sure that responding to this report and recommendations from Guidepost will be high on the agenda. The actions (or inactions) that come out of this meeting will be significant.
Finally, and closer to home, this national news provides greater clarity as to why our church had already approved the formation of a Prevention of Sexual Misconduct committee. This team of three individuals is already in place and will give leadership in education, prevention, and if necessary, hearing allegations of misconduct. I’m grateful for our church’s being proactive in this area and hope we can encourage others congregations to take similar action–DC