In recent days much has been disseminated in the media concerning sexual abuse in some Southern Baptist Churches and the response, or lack of response to those cases by churches, leaders and our Convention. Our SBC President, J.D. Greear has taken the lead on addressing these sinful and criminal acts by doing more than just calling for a statement or resolution. He has put together a team that has worked diligently to give us a real solution to the problem and to ferret out any who would cover their sin and perpetuate these criminal and ungodly acts.
As the Executive Director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, I am in full and complete support and agreement with the efforts of our SBC President. This perpetuated abuse must stop and by God’s grace it will do so on our watch!
Please read carefully the article below. Also, I encourage you to click on the video link below and watch and listen to my statements about this matter and how we are dealing with this matter at the State offices and what can be done in your local church.
Pastor Tim Patterson
For resources to help those suffering from sexual abuse, please visit bscm.org/abusehelp.
NASHVILLE, TN (BP) – Preventing and responding to sexual abuse was a major focus during meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Feb. 18-19 in Nashville. Among the EC's actions was recommending an amendment to the SBC Constitution stating churches are not "in friendly cooperation with the Convention" if they "have evidenced indifference in addressing sexual abuse."
The EC also:
proposed an SBC constitutional amendment specifying racial discrimination as a basis to disfellowship a church;
heard a report that the EC presidential search committee believes it has found "God's candidate"; and
responded to two SBC messenger motions seeking to disallow addresses by elected officials at SBC annual meetings.
The proposed amendment on sexual abuse -- adopted without opposition -- would add a section to Article III of the SBC Constitution defining a "cooperating church" as one that "has not been determined by the Executive Committee to have evidenced indifference in addressing sexual abuse that targets minors and other vulnerable persons and in caring for persons who have suffered because of sexual abuse."
"Indifference," according to the amendment, "can be evidenced by, among other things, (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."
To take effect, the amendment would need two-thirds approval at both the 2019 and 2020 SBC annual meetings. EC chairman Mike Stone said adopting the amendment would make "explicit what has been implicit already in our government documents. That is, churches who do not deal decisively and biblically on issues of sexual abuse are not in good fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention." Survivors of sexual abuse "are loved, and we commit to seek to care for them," said Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga.
As the proposed amendment was discussed in the EC's Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Committee, EC leaders clarified that abuse committed by one member of a church would not in itself trigger disfellowshipping, but only action of the church body as a whole that evidenced indifference to the abuse. Additionally, if a church evidenced repentance for its indifference, the disfellowshipping process likely would stop, according to committee and workgroup discussion. SBC President J.D. Greear named several specific churches Feb. 18 as he reported to the EC on sexual abuse and asked the Bylaws Workgroup to determine whether they meet the SBC's standards for cooperating churches.
After meeting with Greear Feb. 19 in executive session, the Bylaws Workgroup reported their adoption of a motion requesting that Greear "provide to the workgroup through its staff liaison any information which he wishes to provide tending to demonstrate that a particular church is worthy of consideration as to whether or not it is currently in cooperation with the Convention." Amid the two-day discussion of sexual abuse, at least five EC members shared their personal experiences with abuse, ranging from being abused and being pursued by a sexual abuser to prosecuting child abusers and dealing with abuse in churches. "I was moved," Stone said, "by the number of Executive Committee members who expressed personal stories of connection to child abuse." Personal experience "did not drive our deliberations," but it "gave a personal backdrop to the necessity of our action."
Greear's report to the EC addressed a plan to battle sex abuse and its enablers among Southern Baptist churches, noting the Gospel's call to protect the vulnerable. "We serve a God who laid down His life to protect the vulnerable," said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. "How dare we proclaim that Gospel with our mouths and then turn a blind eye when the vulnerable in our midst cry out for help?"
Greear offered a wide-ranging plan to combat sex abuse including education, proven sincerity, accountability and possibly a sex abuse database and congregational disfellowshipping. The recommendations stem from the work of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study to date. Funded by the EC and initiated in response to an SBC messenger motion, the study includes male and female security, legal, medical and religious professionals.
The proposed amendment on racial discrimination would add a section to Article III of the SBC Constitution specifying a cooperating church as one that "has not acted to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity." If adopted by SBC messengers, Stone said, the amendment would alter "our governing documents" but not "our position."
"Southern Baptists have already taken strong stands on the issues of racial discrimination," Stone said. "... But I felt, as we were amending our Constitution, that it was very important that we send a message of love, compassion and partnership to people of all ethnicities."
In 2018, the EC, acting for the convention ad interim, disfellowshipped a Georgia church accused of racial discrimination.
EC presidential search committee vice chair Adron Robinson reported the committee has "identified God's candidate for such a time as this" and will announce the nominee "very soon." Stone, an ex officio member of the committee, added that "every" candidate submitted "has been seriously considered, for every submission is a sacred trust from Southern Baptists." The committee "has been both unanimous and unified at every single turn."
Elected officials at the SBC
The EC declined two requests made by SBC messengers in 2018 seeking to bar elected officials from speaking at SBC annual meetings. The requests were made as motions amid discussion of Vice President Mike Pence's speaking appearance at the Dallas annual meeting. In declining to take up the messenger motions, the EC noted it "has updated the Committee on Order of Business's orientation manual to highlight that SBC Bylaw 2 requires the authority of the officers ... in conference with the Committee on Order of Business when considering inclusion on the annual meeting agenda of causes other than those provided for in the regular work of the Convention."
EC ambassador Jimmy Draper told Baptist Press he recounted to the Bylaws Workgroup how he declined a 1982 request by then-President Ronald Reagan to speak at the SBC annual meeting when Draper was SBC president. Current and future SBC officers are free to do the same, Draper said, if an elected official requests to speak and the officers feel it would be inappropriate.
Children's Ministry Day
In a brief speech to the EC, 10-year-old Zak McCullar of Jasper, Ala., advanced his call for the addition of a Children's Ministry Day to the SBC calendar. "I think children's ministry workers should be thanked by this day," McCullar said during a rare opportunity to address the full EC from the stage. "And I want children to be recognized for the work we do to share Christ, even though we are young."
The EC voted to recommend to 2019 SBC messengers in Birmingham, Ala., the addition of Children's Ministry Day to the SBC calendar as the third Sunday in July, expressly July 21 this year. In forthcoming years, the day would be celebrated July 19, 2020; July 21, 2021; July 24, 2022, and July 23, 2023.
Louisiana's Hankins honored
The EC honored David E. Hankins, who will retire June 30 after more than 14 years as executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, crediting his leadership in numerous initiatives among the LBC's 1,650 churches. In a resolution of appreciation, the EC noted that in 2005 during his first year with the convention, Hankins played a key role after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in working with churches, Baptist associations, state conventions and the North American Mission Board in disaster relief and recovery.
Before leading Louisiana Baptists, Hankins had served as chairman of the SBC Executive Committee during two of his eight years as a member. He subsequently served as the EC's vice president for convention policy from 1996-1998 and vice president for Cooperative Program from 1998-2005. He is the coauthor with Chad Brand of "One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists."
As a pastor for nearly 25 years, Hankins led three churches in Texas followed by Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La., from 1985-1995. The resolution stated that the churches he led were marked by "strong Cooperative Program support and promotion," evangelistic outreach and involvement in their local Baptist associations, their state conventions and the SBC. While Hankins led Louisiana Baptists, the convention recorded more than 140,000 baptisms, 200 church plants and $300 million in gifts through the Cooperative Program. Hankins led an array of statewide campaigns, with such emphases as "80-20 church" calling Louisiana Baptists to send 20 percent of their gifts to ministries beyond the local church; the "Peace of Jesus" evangelistic appeal; "Kairos" (Key Acts In Reaching Our State); "The Pledge" for churches to advance their CP giving; and a "Harvest" initiative to pray for every home and share Christ with every person across the state.
Hankins and his wife Patty celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Jan. 4 of this year. They have three sons, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Compiled by Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach, BP senior editor Art Toalston and BP general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.