Following the release of the findings of Guidepost Solution’s investigation of the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims, the chairman of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force offered his reactions and called for their response and prayers.
“Like many of you I’m hurting, and I’m processing. My mind and my heart are filled with all kinds of reactions and emotions … from the heart of a husband, a father, a pastor, and a leader,” Task Force Chairman D.J. Horton, pastor of The Church at the Mill in Spartanburg, began a video posted on the state convention’s website.
State leadership, he said, felt it was important that he, as chairman, offer a brief update from the task force — “an update that I hope you will find encouraging during a dark and difficult time,” he added.
SCBC Executive Director-Treasurer Gary Hollingsworth also released a statement that accompanied Horton’s video, expressing grief of South Carolina Baptists caused by the national report’s findings and for “the [abuse] survivors that have been overlooked, unheard, or dismissed.” South Carolina Baptists, he said, “are committed to taking the necessary steps to protect the vulnerable and care for the abused and do our part to lead the way.”
At the SCBC annual meeting last fall, Horton offered the successful motion that authorized the convention president to name a task force to respond to the recommendations by the national sexual abuse task force’s report to be presented to Southern Baptist Convention messengers in Anaheim. Horton’s motion was overwhelmingly supported, and SCBC President Wayne Bray, lead pastor of First Baptist Church, Simpsonville/Upstate Church, has assembled a nine-member task force comprised of attorneys, pastors and counselors.
Horton said he met with the task force in preparation for the national report that was released on May 22. “[T]he members shared their hearts and their desires to put survivors first and to help our churches, our ministries, our institutions, and our convention as a whole, make sure we learn from this dark hour and position ourselves in the best possible way to move forward — advocating for those who have been hurt, holding up justice and mercy, grace and compassion, but also positioning our ministries and our missions in such a way that we’re better equipped to handle these incidents and to prevent them before they ever occur,” he said.
Task force members are “working very hard to take all of the information presented in the national report and the expertise already available in our state,” he reported. They are preparing a “robust report” for the state convention meeting this fall that “puts survivors first, a report that helps churches with practical, tangible, applicable steps to protect the most vulnerable in our populations,” he said.
Through recommendations and resolutions at the annual meeting, “We will have the opportunity with your support, your insight and your help to say to our convention of churches, to every South Carolina Baptist, that we will not sit by and simply respond reactively,” Horton said.
“We will be proactive to be better together at loving the lost of our state and caring for the believers we are called to disciple, and doing so in such a way that any sin, even the darkest sins, the sins of sexual abuse or harassment, that these sins are rooted out and that we deal with them redemptively, firmly and graciously,” he said.
Requesting the prayers and insight of South Carolina Baptists, Horton announced the creation of an email address to communicate directly with the SCBC’s task force: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We know sin is real, and we want to be counted as a group of people who took it seriously and led out redemptively,” he said.