I want to address a serious matter within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
The 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville called for the creation of an independent task force to examine allegations of sexual abuse reports within SBC churches. As a result, a 288-page report was released on May 22nd. You can review this report for yourself at sataskforce.net.
To ensure transparency in this process, the trustees of the Executive Committee, after some hesitation and multiple votes, finally waived attorney-client privilege and fully funded the investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions. As a result, this report addresses the handling of sexual abuse cases between 2000-2021 within the SBC and the involvement of the Executive Committee. The SBC website defines the Executive Committee as follows:
“The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is comprised of 86 representatives chosen from qualified states and regions and acts on behalf of the Convention between sessions. Although the Executive Committee does not control or direct the activities of Convention agencies, it reviews their financial statements and recommends the Convention’s annual operating budget. In addition, it receives and distributes the monies Southern Baptists give in support of denominational ministries, acts as the recipient and trust agency for all Convention properties, and provides public relations and news services.”SBC website – http://www.sbc.net
The report reveals allegations of sexual abuse, consistent concealment of abuse, mistreatment of victims, instances of intimidation of victims, witnesses, and advocates, and resistance and opposition to sexual abuse reform initiatives. The level of corruption, concealment, and sinful, evil, and abusive actions of a small but influential group of people associated with the Executive Committee and the SBC, in general, is shocking and repulsive.
I have read Guidepost’s report in its entirety. It is difficult and painful to read, for it reveals that survivors of sexual abuse were hurt and unloved. To add insult to their injury, the pain endured by the abuse survivors was worsened by our leadership. Victims were ignored or dismissed to avoid legal risk to the Convention or internal conflict. In at least one of the many documented cases, an accuser’s words were changed, sexual assault was then referred to as an affair, and the abuser was said to have been guilty of an adulterous relationship. In another case, a former Executive Committee Vice President called the movement to address sexual abuse in the SBC “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.” Still, another case documents an Executive Committee Chairman helping a pastor who was a college friend accused of an inappropriate relationship with a single mother he was counseling. The chairman helped the pastor draft an apology letter to the congregation. When contacted to share their feelings of intimidation during the church’s investigative process, one witness was told by the chairman’s assistant that he (EC Chairman) planned to help the pastor, not the church. Serious wrongs have been perpetrated against abuse survivors. These wrongs should drive every Southern Baptist church to grieve and seek reform and transparency from its leadership.
I have met with our deacons and shared the contents of this report, as well as my thoughts and feelings. Together we offer the following statements:
- We believe a spirit of repentance needs to fall upon our SBC, and we commit to pray for such a spirit.
- We commit to pray for and act on behalf of sexual abuse survivors.
- We defend the right of an abuse survivor to have their story told without the threat of reprisal, intimidation, embarrassment, or concealment.
- We believe a lack of transparency from our leadership has led to the present crisis. Transparency is non-negotiable.
- We commit to putting policies and practices in place to allow abuse survivors to tell their stories and prevent instances of sexual abuse in the future.
The Southern Baptist Convention will meet for its Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, June 14th-15th, 2022. This report is sure to be the on the hearts and minds of all the messengers attending. The Executive Committee is promising change, and recommendations are already being discussed. We should all pray for the Lord to move on the hearts of our leadership with a spirit of repentance and revival. We should pray for a renewed commitment to and focus on gospel advancement. So, for now, we move forward. Our agencies for missionary sending and mobilization (NAMB and IMB) are top-notch. Our seminaries that are training our future church leaders are excellent. We have a strong, local connection to our state convention.
In closing, we must not allow a few power-hungry, self-serving, and misguided people to determine the direction of the SBC. We are better than this. I believe the leadership of the SBC is filled with people who love Jesus Christ. We should be careful not to condemn the entire Executive Committee of the SBC as being culpable in the small group’s actions outlined in the Guidepost’s report over the past twenty years. On the contrary, the Executive Committee is working under challenging circumstances and scrutiny to get things right and do right by abuse survivors. They deserve our prayers and support.
You should know that more stories will likely come out over the next few months. Unfortunately, things may get worse before they get better. Some will take this opportunity to attack, smear, and mischaracterize the church and the work of the gospel. Some of you may be wondering how this could have happened. Some may wonder how they can remain Southern Baptists in light of these shocking revelations. If you have questions about anything you read or see in the news, please reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to sit down with you and answer your questions.
A hotline has been established for those who need to report sexual abuse within Southern Baptist churches. Guidepost, the authors of the report mentioned above, operates this hotline, and all information is kept in confidence. The hotline number is 202-864-5578. If you are the victim of sexual abuse and are able, don’t hesitate to contact the law enforcement agency in your area.
We will communicate to the church on this issue as we know more.
Dr. Steven Ruff, Senior Pastor – FBC Perry