Update from the SBC Task Force on Sexual Abuse

In response to a motion passed at the 2021 SBC meeting in Nashville, a nine-member task force was appointed to engage a qualified firm to conduct an independent investigation of claims of sexual abuse, mishandling of abuse, or mistreatment of victims as related to the Executive Committee of the SBC from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 1, 2021. From the original motion: “A written report on the factual findings of this review shall be presented to the task force 30 days prior to the SBC annual meeting in 2022, and made public in full form within one week of the task force’s receipt of the report, along with suggestions from the task force for actions to be taken by our convention.”

I was asked to serve on this task force — something that I would never have sought out — and yet I became convinced God had called me to serve in this role. For any facts about the work being done, the task force has a website with a full report concerning all of our work so far, sataskforce.net. The policy of the task force is to report fully, and to err on the side of too much information rather than not enough.

Our main responsibility to date has been to choose an investigative firm and to ensure they have access to all the information they need to conduct an independent audit of our Executive Committee of the SBC. The task force chose Guidepost Solutions, a large and capable firm with vast experience in these kinds of matters. Guidepost put together a strong and experienced team that includes Southern Baptist church members who are well-regarded in law and are trauma-informed investigators. After the SBC Executive Committee approved the request from the task force that Guidepost be given free access to all documents and information, the independent review began — and it is going well based on reports we have received so far.

In this update, my goal is to tell you a more personal side of the story. Although every Baptist I know stands against sexual abuse, most are unfamiliar with the sad realities of sexual abuse, how people’s lives have been deeply wounded, and how all too often abuse gets mishandled and covered up. So let me answer a few questions that may be of interest and help.

Who is on the task force?

Four of the members are pastors from Texas, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Three of the members are counselors who have worked with sexual abuse survivors, one of whom works with abusers. Two of the members are attorneys who work in this field as well. Some of our members are themselves survivors of sexual abuse or have immediate family who are survivors. All of them are committed Christian people who desire to see God glorified in our work. The wisdom and training in these members is invaluable; I have been especially impressed by the counselors and attorneys. I have come to respect and trust these men and women and have confidence they are in this role for such a time as this.

What have you learned?

Our task force has been reading on this subject since we were named to serve. In addition, we have had moving and heartbreaking conversations with abuse survivors. I cannot describe the evil that has been done to some of these survivors, often with the name of God being used in the abuse. I call to mind the words of Jesus, that anyone causing one of these little ones to stumble, it will be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks and thrown into the sea. I had no idea of how often this kind of abuse happens, and how often it is covered up in many cases by well-meaning people. I wish none of this were true, but it is — and God is calling us as Baptists to stand up and protect these little ones.

What do you see as the outcome?

We will report the results of the investigation in May when it is given to the task force, and we will publish it in full no matter what it says, good or bad. However, part of our role is to make recommendations in June of 2022 on how the Executive Committee, and the SBC as a whole, can prevent sexual abuse and to help churches appropriately deal with it should it happen in the future. Our next meeting will be entirely given to that purpose. Should you have an idea for consideration, we are interested in recommendations with two essential qualities: They must be biblically sound and practically possible.

What can we do?

Pray for the task force to have the wisdom of God in making recommendations. In the meantime, learn more about the standards and practices in your own church, to make sure your church is the safest place for every person, especially the vulnerable. Thank the members of the Executive Committee from South Carolina, Dwight Easler and David Sons, both of whom represented you well in Nashville last fall. Then, let’s work together with the new South Carolina task force as they work on recommendations for us here. This is one issue that should never divide us; every single life is made in God’s image, and we stand together to protect every life.

— Marshall Blalock is pastor of First Baptist Church, Charleston, and a member of the SBC Task Force on Sexual Abuse.