The Southern Baptist Convention made the news for a very negative reason this week. At the 2020 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers voted to form a Sexual Abuse Task Force and have an independent investigation of alleged mishandling of sexual abuse complaints. The main reason for this call for an investigation was the fact that many sexual abuse survivors were able to share (via social media) their stories of how they were treated when they reported their sexual abuse to their church, their pastor, and/or to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Often, their abuse was covered up and the abuser continued in Christian ministry positions. Guidepost Solutions was hired to perform the independent investigation and report back to the Sexual Abuse Task Force and SBC before the 2022 annual meeting.
On Sunday, May 22nd, the Sexual Abuse Task Force Report was released in full (288 pages). Basically, the report found that “survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been met with ‘resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the [Executive Committee]’” of the Southern Baptist Convention. Additionally, many of those involved in alleged sexual abuse were in leadership positions in our SBC churches. I think one of the most disheartening findings in the report was the fact that those in leadership was more concerned about protecting the institution (Southern Baptist Convention) than caring for the abused and addressing the abusers.
While I was saddened by the many findings in the report, I think the report gives us an opportunity to change the culture in regards to how we handle reported cases of abuse in the future. We certainly want to do all that we can to prevent any sexual abuse in our churches. Then, it is imperative for churches and pastors to know how to respond to victims of abuse and take action against the abusers so that the abuse does not continue or simply move to another church.
At the 2021 annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, we voted to put together a Sexual Abuse Task Force for Kentucky. As the President of the KBC, I serve on that task force and we have been taking a preventative approach to this issue. We also partnered with Guidepost Solutions and are currently working on four priorities.
- Reviewing KBC documents and procedures relating to sexual abuse.
- Training KBC staff members in prevention, response, and care so that they can help our KBC churches if sexual abuse is reported.
- Developing a Sexual Abuse Prevention Handbook for our churches to address prevention, response, and care as it pertains to sexual abuse.
- Training KBC church leaders in prevention, response and care as related to sexual abuse.
As a church, we are apart of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This report, while discouraging to read, is a clear call to repentance and change. I am thankful that Southern Baptist wanted these issues investigated and now will work to make the necessary changes to prevent and appropriately respond to sexual abuse in the future. As a pastor, I want to do everything I can to prevent sexual abuse in the church and take appropriate action if such abuse is reported. Appropriate action would certainly include ministering to the survivors of the abuse as opposed to minimizing or covering up their abuse. I think we can best honor the Lord by caring for the weak, helpless, and the abused. My prayer is that the Lord will use these findings for good!
You are welcome to read the Sexual Abuse Task Force report by going to www.sataskforce.net/updates/guidepost-solutions-report-of-the-independent-investigation. If you have any questions or want to share your concerns, please feel free to reach out to me. Will you join me in praying for all sexual abuse survivors?