Nearly three weeks ago, news broke that a large-scale investigation had been undertaken by the Houston Chronicle outlining twenty years of more than seven hundred sexual abuse claims across Southern Baptist churches. This news has hit the SBC hard. It has revealed a weak and pathetic approach to handling cases of sexual abuse on the part of pastors and leaders in our denomination.
Addressing the subject on CNN, SBC President J.D. Greear said, “Churches that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse, that allows it to happen, that protects the abuser — they have no place in our convention.”Greear spoke last night to the Executive Committee of the SBC, calling our convention to a season of lament for the horror of sexual abuse and outlined the following ten action items for our network of churches going forward:
- Enter a season of sorrow and repentance.
- Embrace a new curriculum for holistic care in the early stages of learning of abuse. You 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.
The Southern Baptist Convention sits at a crossroad. There is no doubt in my mind that J.D. Greear is the president we need at this moment in history. He has not defended anything. He has not excused anything. He has confessed this grievous sin of our convention. Speaking to the EC Greear said, “Brothers and sisters, there is a problem. This is not a fabricated story made up by people with a secular agenda. We’ve not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands & sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims. And it’s time we back up our words with actions that demonstrate our commitment to this… that demonstrate with our lives and our habits the message we proclaim with our lives.”
As one Southern Baptist, my heart is broken over this tragic report. It’s a stain on the gospel and a stain on our witness as Christ followers. Yet the opportunity to shore up our churches’ processes, to become more focused on weeding out those who aren’t called and training up those who are will only get better in time. While many Southern Baptists have policies in place, have reported properly to the authorities, let’s take this moment to reassess and improve. Let’s not stop until we make it impossible for anyone to be harmed amongst our churches. We must be vigilant to protect the vulnerable in our churches and in our communities in every way possible. As God has created us and lavished his love on us, we must seek to do the same with everyone created in God’s image.
We at Baptist21 look forward to talking more about this subject at the 2019 Baptist21 Panel at the SBC in Birmingham, Alabama. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Greear will be joining us for our panel, along with Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We look forward to announcing more panelists who will speak into important SBC subjects in the days ahead.
At Baptist21 our heart has always been to provide a platform for the pastor’s voice at the SBC. We look forward to hearing from the voices you want to hear from on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in Birmingham. You can register for our panel at this link.Until then, let’s pray for the SBC as we move into a new future. A better future. For the praise of King Jesus and the glory of God.