Let’s be honest. Over the past few years there has been a lot of turbulence in the Southern Baptist Convention and a lot of that has been directed at the SBC Executive Committee, the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) and the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF).
But let’s not overlook the opportunity to express appreciation when appreciation is due.
I believe every Southern Baptist can agree that even a single instance of abuse in any church is one too many. A church should be the most obvious place people can take refuge from the brokenness of this world; where people can hear of God’s love and be ministered to by God’s people. A place where broken lives are mended.
As followers of Jesus and as a convention of churches, it is our responsibility to ensure we strive to that end.
Agreement on how we get there has at times been difficult. However, pastor Marshall Blalock, chair of the ARITF, and the other members of that task force, deserve credit for making the decision not to pursue their initial recommendation of contracting with GuidePost Solutions for the purpose of “establishing and maintaining a database for those credibly accused of sexual abuse.”
And for that I want to say thank you. I know it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision and as a Southern Baptist I want to express appreciation to task force members.
Getting to this point has been a process. Several state mission board executive directors, including myself, spoke with Dr. Blalock in February at our state executives’ annual gathering. We spoke with him again a week later, the day after he reported to the SBC Executive Committee that the ARITF would employ GuidePost Solutions.
The conversations continued — some public; most private — over the next few weeks. They were good and productive, and we believe our concerns were heard.
Our concerns stemmed from a social media post made last June by GuidePost Solutions that said — in part — that the company was, “… proud to be an ally to our LGBTQ+ community.” I publicly expressed my conviction at that time about Cooperative Program funding being used to pay a company addressing an issue like sexual abuse when that company does not share our biblical view of sexuality. I still feel that way.
I heard from people who agreed with me and others who didn’t, and I respect those who differ.
And that’s the point.
We should, and must, respectfully listen to differing perspectives, without compromising deeply held biblical convictions. We should strive to preserve unity where we can strike compromise without altering foundational principles.
I believe that is the track Dr. Blalock and the committee chose. Consider these statements made by the ARITF: “…We have also endeavored to listen carefully and thoughtfully respond to those who have raised concerns.”
“We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the local, state and national leaders, as well as abuse survivors, who have not only engaged in productive dialogue with us but have patiently allowed the ARITF and Credentials Committee time to consider these concerns and work toward a unifying solution.”
“It is our prayer that leaders in our Convention will choose to work together as we move forward in a manner that is both unifying and effective.”
I appreciate Dr. Blalock, and those working with him, in making such a strong call for unity in our stand against sexual abuse. Let’s understand that the battle is not against the task force or with a secular company that has every right to its own cultural principles. Our focus must be in making certain that churches and ministries are as safe as possible against sexual abusers and in offering support to sexual abuse survivors. I believe together, we can do that.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey. B&R