Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — During the 2021 Summit at Brentwood Baptist Church, messengers of the Tennessee Baptist Convention commissioned Tennessee Baptist Convention president Clay Hallmark with the duty of appointing a Sexual Abuse Task Force.
Hallmark recently released an update on the task force (SATF). The full report can been read below this story.
The task force was assigned to do a thorough evaluation of how the TBMB responds to allegations of sexual abuse, as well as how it resources and helps Tennessee Baptist churches minister to individuals during these difficult times.
“This assignment was a monumental task,” Hallmark said. “I sought advice and input from individuals all across the state of Tennessee. My goal was to gather together a task force that was diverse and one that had the ability to not only complete the assignment given to us by the messengers, but members whose reach would go deep and far into the resources for meeting people’s needs and addressing sexual abuse from experts, ministries, victims, law enforcement, insurance and people in the legal field.”
Victoria Tillman, an attorney, chair-elect of the TBMB and member of Bell’s Campground Baptist Church, was appointed chair for the task force.
“I am overwhelmed by the width and depth of experience of the individuals called to this special Task Force,” Tillman said, “and the degree of discussion and insight that we have had at our meetings ensures me that the end product is going to provide Tennessee Baptists with a significant resource to assist them with building best practices and handling sensitive situations should they arise.”
Hallmark said that, from the start, the task force “wanted to be very proactive in addressing this issue.”
He noted that the SATF’s goal was to bring a report to the TBC churches by May 2022 in advance of the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. in June.
“The Task Force has reached out to many experts throughout the state, as well as talking with law enforcement and victims,” he said.
Hallmark said that a wide variety of new resources are now in development. He also noted that a new website is being developed that will allow members and churches of the TBC to interact with the TBMB in reporting allegations, as well as finding comprehensive resources to help them in ministering to people and addressing allegations.
These resources will be available in hard copy both in English and Spanish and distributed to messengers at the 2022 Summit in Cordova, Hallmark said.
The new website will also be online and active for messengers by the start of the 2022 Summit, he added.
“We are developing a strategy to disseminate all of these resources throughout the TBC to every church and association,” he said. “We will also provide training to Association Mission Strategists and Harvest Field Team leaders in how to access, use, distribute, and implement these resources alongside their churches.”
Tillman added, “I am very thankful to be working with this group of dedicated professionals to fulfill the task entrusted to us by the TBC.” B&R
SEXUAL ABUSE TASK FORCE REPORT
Editor’s note: Below is the report that was recently released by the Tennessee Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force:
BRENTWOOD — In response to the authorization given to him by the messengers during the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Clay Hallmark, president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, appointed the following team to serve as the Sexual Abuse Task Force:
Assistant District Attorney General for the 23rd Judicial District
First Baptist Church, Dickson
Title IX Coordinator for Union University
First Baptist Church, Jackson
Attorney at Law, McKinney & Tillman, P.C.
Bell’s Campground Baptist Church
Charles W. (Chuck) Cagle
Attorney at Law, Lewis Thomason, P.C.
First Baptist Church, Nashville
Gary D. Chesney
Price & Ramsey Insurance Group
First Baptist Church, Morristown
Clay Hallmark, TBC President
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lexington
First Baptist Church, Collierville
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
The purpose of the SATF was to evaluate the following three things:
(1) The process of how the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) responds to allegations of sexual abuse occurring in churches and TBC entities and reported to TBC;
(2) The process of how Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB) seeks to protect those it serves from sexual abuse and responds to allegations growing out of TBMB ministries and events; and
(3) The resources and assistance provided by TBC and TBMB to cooperating churches to help educate church leaders on best practices to protect their congregants from the evil of sexual abuse.
Finally, the task force was to compile a report, including suggestions for improvements, for presentation to cooperating Tennessee Baptist Churches, and any other findings of a thorough evaluation no later than the 2022 annual meeting of the TBC in Cordova, Tennessee.
TBC president Clay Hallmark and SATF Chair Victoria Tillman called for an initial meeting on February 22, 2022. This meeting took place at the Church Support Center. At the beginning of the meeting, the task force was challenged by president Hallmark to be diligent and thorough in its work and evaluation, as well as to wisely use the expertise of law enforcement, both state and local entities and ministries who work daily in the field of sexual abuse, companies and other national ministries that could provide reference points and details for the evaluation, as well as individuals who had been victims of abuse.
From this meeting was developed the preamble of the report. Also, tasks and procedures were assigned for evaluation and review, as well as updating and expanding the materials assembled by the 2019 Sexual Abuse Task Force.
The evaluation included checklists for churches to follow for preventing and protecting against abuse, response checklists if an allegation is made, ministry responses to both victims, families of the accused and anyone determined to be wrongfully accused, as well as specific resources and references. At this meeting the SATF decided to complete a majority of its work and present a report to the Directors of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board at their April meeting, submit a report to Tennessee Baptists through the Baptist and Reflector, and develop a timeline to complete both hardcopy and online resources and references for churches which will be available by the 2022 Summit in Cordova.
The Task Force had a second meeting on March 17, 2022. Reports on the progress of the previous meeting assignments were presented, reviewed and discussed. The SATF members were given additional assignments and specific areas of evaluation, interviews and resource development.
President Clay Hallmark and chair Victoria Tillman met with TBMB ministry specialist William Maxwell to review and comment on the section of the TBMB Operations Manual entitled “Policies and Practices Related to Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response.” This section of the manual will be updated, will be placed in a final format, and presented to the Directors of the TBMB at the September board meeting. Initial changes and language of the TBMB Governing Documents will go to the Directors for adoption at the April 2022 meeting of the Board.
On April 4, 2022, TBMB college ministries director Bill Choate, by appointment and in representation of executive director Randy C. Davis, Kevin Shrum and Victoria Tillman attended the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force meeting in Nashville at the invitation of that Task Force.
At that meeting, the team representing the TBMB was introduced to the SBC’s Task Force team and heard reports from Guidepost and the ERLC. This meeting was for the purpose of gathering input from similar committees from various state conventions. Our SATF left that meeting with information and knowledge that confirmed the productivity, expertise and direction of the report and information that was being assembled to guide and support Tennessee Baptist churches.
The Task Force met again via Zoom on April 11, 2022 to discuss the progress of materials and to work on a recommendation that is to be made to the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws to clarify the role of the Committee on Credentials. The role of the Credentials Committee, as well as a way for TBC churches and members to communicate concerns to the Credentials Committee prior to any annual gathering of Tennessee Baptists, were discussed and launched into development with TBMB staff. Additionally, the Task Force with the assistance of the TBMB staff is presently working on updating the TBMB website to include an easily discoverable section on the site for the following:
• Prevention Checklist
• Library of resources (links/information about trainings and background checks; sample policies and procedures, forms, etc.)
• Allegation Response Checklist
• Statutes and Definitions
• Resources, including links/information about reporting to state agencies, Committee on Credentials, referrals for counselors and other professionals, etc.
In addition to the website, a booklet containing the report of the Task Force and the supporting checklists and references will be assembled, and a draft of both the booklet and website will be presented to the TBMB at the Directors Meeting in September. The booklet will also be translated into Spanish. After the directors of the TBMB have the opportunity to hear and visually experience the report of the SATF, the final booklets, websites and any other helpful product will be presented and made readily available at the Summit in November 2022.
The Task Force has also discussed disseminating the report as follows:
• Hand out the booklet and present the website at the 2022 Summit.
• Include an article in the Baptist and Reflector about the booklet and website.
• Have the Harvest Field coordinators talk to the pastors/church staff in their Harvest Field and give them the materials.
• Provide the Association Mission Strategists of each Association with the booklets and ensure that they are familiar with the website so that they can encourage and remind their churches about these resources.
• Regular reminders through the Baptist and Reflector, e-mails, Harvest Field team leaders and Association Mission Strategists that these resources are available.
• Offer training to churches and/or associations on how to use the materials and the website.
The Task Force is also recommending that the TBMB staff continue to review and evaluate the materials and website on a regular basis to ensure that the information and resources stay up to date and relevant to the churches and members of Tennessee Baptists. B&R