by Tim Patterson
PLYMOUTH, MI – The report from the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost Solutions was released at 4pm on Sunday, May 22nd to the general public. This has been a much needed and timely investigation into a matter that should have been addressed and dealt with decades ago. The following quote comes from the report and gives a basic summation of the results.
"Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC's response to these reports of abuse. They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations.”
After being immersed in the report, my emotions have been from one extreme to the other.
Deep sadness, grief, heartbreak, intense empathy for the victims/survivors, anger, frustration, relief…and much more. There were revelations in the report that were shocking, especially concerning those in the past for whom I have had the greatest of love and admiration.
Disappointment is such an inadequate word to describe my feelings.
Michigan family, I want you to know and understand that I stand in full support of the investigation and the subsequent report, though painful as it may be. Sin and abuse at any level cannot be tolerated, especially in the area of leadership and those who try to cover up instances of abuse are just as guilty as those who commit the abuse, if not more so! It is hard for me to imagine the pain, suffering and abuse/survivors have and are experiencing. As I read the report last evening, I was actually physically ill, almost to the point of vomiting.
Those who know me well, understand that I cannot and will not tolerate the abuse of others, especially those who cannot defend themselves. When I encounter this kind of abhorrent behavior, my anger arises and can very easily be fleshed out.
What has been done to the abuse/survivors is wrong, wrong, wrong! They should be able to be heard and find justice without any fear of retribution or retaliation. It is my greatest hope that this becomes a reality and is the normal way the SBC handles these issues.
Early on when these issues started to surface, the BSCM began to take steps to assure that sexual abuse would be dealt with appropriately from a Biblical foundation here among our Michigan churches. Several tools and ministries were accessed or developed.
Caring Together is a ministry that was created and initiated in Michigan in October of 2019 with Dr. Michell White, a wonderful and gifted professional counselor, taking the lead. We created Caring Together to connect churches with resources and support in order for them to have the tools and training to equip and protect their congregations from abuse and also to provide care and support for those who have been the victims of abuse.
We also provide free Ministry Safe training for pastors, leaders, and members as another layer of protection and prevention. Since my arrival here in Michigan as your State Executive Director, we have trained all our staff and personnel that are connected with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan that when they receive accusations of sexual abuse, especially concerning minors but not limited to them, that they must report these matters to local authorities and to offer counseling and support to the victims.
It should be noted that after the Annual Convention in Nashville where the messengers directed the Executive Committee to implement the Task Force and there began to be push back from the EC, we as a state convention developed and voted unanimously as a State Board to make a resolution that instructed the Executive Committee to move forward with the investigation unimpeded and to wave attorney client privilege. As to my knowledge, we were the first and only state convention to do so. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
Another fact that our BSCM family should be aware of is that we do not endorse nor recommend pastors, ministers, or church leaders to anyone if we are aware of any allegations or proof of abuse in their history. We also recommend and will provide for an extensive background check for anyone who works in our churches or ministries.
With all this being said, I want you to understand that even though this has been a heart wrenching and difficult report, I am encouraged and hopeful for our future.
When the truth is elevated to its supreme and rightful position and darkness is exposed, God is glorified, and His children are blessed. The purpose and process of this Task Force is a good and godly thing.
When we think of the breadth and depth of our Convention, the tens of thousands of churches and millions of members, only a handful of people were responsible for keeping our family in the dark, while resisting accountability, reporting and transparency. Our convention rose and demanded the truth, and it has been revealed. Is the work finished? NO! But it has begun, and it will be completed.
When we recognize the good and godly leaders in our Convention that stood up for what is right and against wickedness and have prevailed. We will be forever indebted for their courage and strength. Many have paid dearly for their heroic actions but not as dearly as the victims/survivors.
Are there difficult days ahead? Yes. But God has given us the Great Commission and a wonderful mechanism through which we may accomplish it. Here in Michigan our mission has not changed, our message has not changed, and our motive has not changed. But greatest of all, our God has not changed nor will He. With that assurance, may we all join together to: “PUNCH HOLES IN THE DARKNESS.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.