Earlier this week, I learned that the findings of an independent investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee had been released. The NC Baptist convention summarized the history of the investigation in this way: “The investigation was initiated by messengers at the 2021 SBC annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The motion, which was nearly unanimously approved, came in response to public allegations that committee members and staff defamed sex abuse survivors, bullied advocates, and resisted reforms.”
The motion required the SBC president to form a nine-member task force to hire a third-party to conduct the investigation and release a report of their findings and any attending recommendations. The task force selected Guidepost Solutions. Their full report is available here.
To understand this report, it is helpful to understand the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is governed by Trustees approved by messengers to the SBC. The EC acts on behalf of the messengers to the Convention between convention meetings — receiving agency reports, identifying convention host cities, managing logistics for the convention meeting, and distributing funds received from the churches to the seminaries and mission agencies. When you look up the SBC online, the posted contact information leads you to people employed by the Executive Committee. One of the problems identified in this report is that some long-term EC staff kept their Trustees in the dark on some key issues.
The report confirms a pattern, on the part of key Executive Committee staff, of putting liability and public-relations concerns ahead of the well-being of survivors of sexual abuse. I am appalled and angered to learn that sex abuse survivors were ignored, dismissed, and, at times, even belittled by Executive Committee leaders. As a long-time Southern Baptist, this report has been difficult to process. For a season of my life, I worked closely with one pastor named in this report. Reading those details and realizing now what I did not know then has been absolutely gut-wrenching. It is a vivid and painful reminder to me of how vital it is to remain above reproach.
While there is much in this report that is deeply disturbing, I do find some reasons for hope. The Executive Committee has been called out by the nearly 15,000 messengers who voted to investigate it. I expect some of Guidestone’s recommendations for reform will be adopted as early as the upcoming meeting of the SBC in June. I also anticipate that longer-term structural and policy adjustments to ensure the Executive Committee does not act contrary to the expressed will of the Convention will be forthcoming.
I do not believe it is time to abandon the SBC, but we must take abuse seriously. At North Roanoke, we will continue requiring background checks for all volunteers who work with children, and we will continue requiring at least two adults in rooms with children and/or teens. Last year, we were able to install cameras in our high-traffic areas. In the future, we will add cameras to individual rooms — especially those rooms where we have children and students. As a staff, we will also continue to fulfill our moral and legal responsibility to report to the appropriate authorities any abuse that we observe, suspect, or which is shared with us. Finally, and most importantly, we will continue to guard our hearts and our actions for the good of all the people we are blessed to serve and for the sake of the gospel.
For as long as I have been a member of a local church, I have been a part of a church that voluntarily cooperates with other churches through the SBC to train pastors, teachers, counselors, and missionaries and to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to people with little to no access to it. The value of the training I received at a discounted rate at an SBC seminary is something I could never repay. The opportunity to be on the front lines of advancing the gospel all over the world through the missionaries we send out through the International Mission Board is not a privilege we should casually discard. I am hopeful that the messengers of the SBC will chart a path of hope and healing for abuse survivors and that we will maintain our commitment to be a convention of Christ-exalting churches standing on the truths of God’s Word as expressed in our statement of faith. The next convention meeting is in Anaheim, CA on June 13 –15. Please join me in praying that God would bring healing to those who have been hurt and that He would lead the messengers to the convention to honor and glorify Him in their actions.
In Christ’s abounding love,