As Southern Baptists process a nearly 300-page report released May 22 by the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force outlining the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases between the years 2000 and mid-2021, many Southern Baptist leaders are expressing grief over the findings of the independent investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions.
The task force opened the extensive report with a statement, which reads in part:
“As the task force, we grieve for what has been revealed in this report,” the task force said in opening comments. “We lament on behalf of survivors for how they have not been protected and cared for as they deserve and as God demands.
“With broken hearts, we want to lead the way by publicly repenting for what has happened in our convention. We implore our Southern Baptist family to respond to this report with deep repentance and a commitment to the ongoing moral demands of the gospel as it relates to sexual abuse.
“We must resolve to give of our time and resources to not only care well for survivors of sexual abuse, but to provide a culture of accountability, transparency, and safety as we move forward,” the task force noted. “We acknowledge that any act of repentance requires ongoing, deliberate, dedicated obedience and sacrifice. This is the calling of our Savior to unite as a body in following after Him.
The task force continued, “As we are brought face to face with the sin that has been done, especially in the name of Christ and in our own community, we can be tempted to want to minimize what has happened or to look only at the most obvious wrong actors.
“We must resist the temptation to minimize, to look away, to find the easy ‘scapegoats’ for what was uncovered in this report, and instead ask ‘what could we have done better?’ and ‘what should we do now?’ As a Convention, we did not hold our own leaders accountable, and we did not listen to the warnings. Leaders had access to expertise but chose not to seek assistance, and in some cases, rejected any assistance that was offered.”
Special meeting called for May 24
In response to the report, the SBC Executive Committee has called for a special meeting on May 24 to “discuss and process” the report. Rolland Slade, SBC Executive Committee chairman, and Willie McLaurin, SBC Executive Committee interim president, released the following comments in a joint statement:
“To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks, and to respond to the will of the messengers in Anaheim next month … .
“We have requested the members and staff of the SBC Executive Committee to closely examine the findings and recommendations of this report and begin formulating how they might be incorporated into Southern Baptist Convention polity and structure,” the statement noted. “…To the members of SBC churches, we ask for continued prayers for wisdom as the Sexual Abuse Task Force and the SBC Executive Committee move through the process that Southern Baptists have asked us to do.”
Credentials Committee response
The SBC Credentials Committee also released the following in a statement:
“We grieve for those impacted by abuse, and we are prepared to repent for anything the Credentials Committee inadvertently failed to do to alleviate the suffering of survivors,” the committee noted. “We are committed to listening and learning from this extensive report and its recommendations. We look forward to implementing recommendations and strengthening the Credentials Committee’s work.”
In the report, the task force noted they “will work with and resource the Credentials Committee to help them function more effectively, including formalizing and improving their processes, procedures, and standard principles of cooperation.”
The report also noted, “The Task Force and Executive Committee will take steps to establish a relationship with an independent firm to assist the Credentials Committee in their work.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by The Baptist Paper. This story will be updated. The Baptist Paper staff has requested media credentials to cover the May 24 EC meeting and is waiting to hear back. A request to cover the April 28 EC meeting was denied even though other media representatives were allowed to cover the meeting.