SBC Executive Committee Bylaws Workgroup Releases Response to Sexual Abuse Report

In his Feb. 18 report to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, SBC President J.D. Greer named 10 churches he said should be asked to assure the convention they are working to correct their policies and procedures relative to sexual abuse. The EC’s Bylaws Workgroup released a statement in response today (Feb 23). Photo by Morris Abernathy

Following a called meeting via extended conference calls on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 22-23), members of the SBC Executive Committee bylaws workgroup have released a statement responding to SBC President J.D. Greear’s report earlier this week on sexual abuse.

In his Feb. 18 report, Greer specifically named 10 churches included in recent news reports about sexual abuse cases involving Southern Baptist congregations. He noted these churches should be asked to assure the convention they are working to correct their policies and procedures relative to sexual abuse. See related Baptist Press report.
The bylaws workgroup’s statement, which was released to the Executive Committee on Saturday (Feb. 23), specifically addresses the churches named in the report in light of a proposed SBC constitutional amendment the Executive Committee approved as a recommendation for the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

“We understand it is difficult, if not impossible, to issue a report on sexual abuse that will be met with satisfaction by everyone,” Ken Alford, chairman of the bylaws workgroup, said in his message to the Executive Committee. “That is the reality of addressing an issue which has brought such pain, tragedy, and hurt. But we remain committed to act on behalf of all individuals and churches who have been impacted by the horrific sin of sexual abuse.”

See full statement below.

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February 23, 2019

On Monday, February 18, 2019, in his presidential address to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. J.D. Greear mentioned ten churches he deemed worthy of inquiry regarding whether or not they were “operating with a faith and practice that upholds the Baptist Faith and Message, specifically Article XV, which says that we should seek to provide for the abused.” On the following day, Tuesday, February 19, pursuant to both the president’s request and the Executive Committee’s internal structure, this list was brought under the initial purview of the Bylaws Workgroup of the Executive Committee.

The Bylaws Workgroup requested on February 19 that the president provide information he referenced as a “dossier” containing the information upon which he based his naming of the churches, and he supplied that dossier to the workgroup on the afternoon of February 22. The workgroup immediately met on that day, and also on the next, and after lengthy and prayerful deliberation, voted to present this report in the next meeting of the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee is recommending to the Convention’s messengers this June an amendment to the Convention’s Constitution affirming that the Convention does not, and will not, cooperate with a church that clearly evidences indifference to addressing the crime of sexual abuse, a crime virtually all Southern Baptists and all Christians believe to be monumentally destructive and worthy of the harshest punishment.

It is our collective opinion that in crafting the proposed amendment, the Executive Committee intended to use the test of “evidencing indifference” to the threat or fact of sexual abuse as the standard to determine that a church is not in cooperation with the Convention. Therefore, the receipt of credible information that would demonstrate such indifference should be the trigger for any sort of inquiry into a church’s conduct. It is also our opinion that the Executive Committee did not intend for every allegation that a church has demonstrated indifference to establish guilt which would then have to be disproved — in effect, a presumption of guilt which the Executive Committee should view as untenable and unscriptural.

We utterly and completely condemn the abominable horror of child sexual abuse. We must also be careful that our righteous anger does not prevent a deliberate and thoughtful response. Although the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse cases remains tragically unreported, in virtually all reported cases, the abuse and cover-up of abuse were criminal acts undertaken by a few individuals within a church. The church body rarely knew about these actions and even more rarely took any action to endorse or affirm the wrongful acts or the actors themselves. The Convention, through its Executive Committee, should not disrupt the ministries of its churches by launching an inquiry until it has received credible information that the church has knowingly acted wrongfully in one of the four ways described in the proposed amendment:

(a) employing a convicted sex offender,

(b) allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors,

(c) continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church, or

(d) willfully disregarding compliance with mandatory child abuse reporting laws.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press