FENTON, MI – Recent reports about sexual abuse in Southern Baptist Churches by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express were heart breaking. Investigative reporters discovered more than 700 victims of sexual abuse and 220 offenders in SBC churches since 1998. The collective response from across the Convention has been one of concern for the victims and a commitment to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening.
All 41 state conventions responded quickly and “...committed to partnering with the Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group to equip churches and ministries in our respective states to engage the issue of abuse with compassion and care. Our desire is for the churches and ministries in our states to become safe for survivors and safe from abuse.” The SBC Executive Committee is recommending a bylaw change to disfellowship churches that demonstrate an indifference to sexual abuse (and racism). Convention President, JD Greear, announced that a new resource called, “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused” will come out soon. The study will be a free 12 lesson, 20-minute training for ministry leaders.
The Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM) wants to lead the way by requiring all Convention employees to take Ministry Safe Sexual Abuse Awareness Training. Ministry Safe is a leader in providing churches and ministries with tools to prevent child sexual abuse proactively. Gregory Love, one of the founders, says: “We want to equip people with the information necessary to understand the risk, see how it unfolds, so they can participate in what is necessary to make sure that the child isn’t placed in harm’s way.”
The Sexual Abuse Awareness Training deals with:
Facts and Misconceptions
The Grooming Process
Methods to Reduce Risk
Peer to Peer Abuse
If a Child Reports Abuse
Impact on Children
Responsibility to Report
As it relates to child abuse, our BSCM is making this training available to every Michigan Baptist pastor free of charge. Pastors, watch for an email with a link to the training. Our hope and prayer is to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening by making resources available to churches. For churches that are interested in using Ministry Safe training for all their children’s workers, we have an agreement with Ministry Safe to provide their service for a greatly reduced price. Contact email@example.com for details.
Another critical safety step is for churches to conduct background checks on every person who works with children. This not only protects children, it tells parents, the church family, and the community that we take our responsibility to physically and spiritually care for children seriously. Background checks are about safety, should not be considered optional, but mandatory for all who work with children. LifeWay has an excellent service that provides background checks for as low as $10.
The era of thinking it can’t happen to us is over. Real people have experienced a devastating hurt and we grieve over their pain. Let us be the generation of churches and leaders that ends this forever!
NOTE: For resources to help those suffering from sexual abuse, please visit bscm.org/abusehelp.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.