Lament, repentance for sexual abuse underscore SBC resolutions

Southern Baptists publicly lamented the harm their “actions and inactions have caused to survivors of sexual abuse” in a resolution adopted by messengers to the 2022 SBC annual meeting.

Messengers agreed sexual abuse is an abomination before God, which grieves Christ, abandons the demands of Scripture, violates the image of God and “causes harm to those who are entrusted to the church’s care and protection.”

The resolution said sexual abuse perpetrated by pastoral leaders or church members is a violation of the sacred trust for pastoral leaders, and sexual abuse in the church is a failure of personal and public witness.

Messengers, through the resolution, denounced “in the strongest possible terms every instance of sexual abuse, those who perpetrate abuse” and those who seek to defend or protect perpetrators.

The SBC apologized and asked forgiveness from survivors of sexual abuse for their failure to care well for survivors, failure to hold perpetrators accountable, and failure to prioritize protection and justice for survivors over the “reputation of our institutions.”

“We prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all instances of sexual abuse among our churches,” messengers said.

In another resolution, messengers encouraged lawmakers in every state to pass laws providing consistent definitions and classifications of sexual abuse by pastors.

“Laws and codes of professional ethics in many states prohibit sexual relationships between professionals such as physicians, psychiatrists, attorneys and their patients/clients, even with consent, because the position of authority held by the professional creates an unhealthy opportunity for abuse,” messengers said, adding that pastors should be held to a standard at least as high as secular professionals.

Messengers, furthermore, asked lawmakers to pass laws shielding churches from civil liability when they share information about alleged abuse with other organizations or institutions.

Though local church autonomy is a Baptist distinctive, messengers said it is “important and biblical” to develop a culture of transparency and mutual responsibility between churches “so that it is clear that our churches are not places for predators to hide.”

“We support actions that protect the innocent within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention from wolves in shepherd’s clothing and embrace actions that empower churches to be able to report instances of abuse to appropriate authorities without fear of civil liability,” the resolution said.

Messengers anticipated a historic moment in the pro-life movement surrounding the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by encouraging all Southern Baptists to pray for the overturning of the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.

The SBC implored fellow Southern Baptists “to continue and increase their efforts to serve and support local pregnancy resources centers, pro-life organizations, churches, foster care and adoptive families.”

Messengers committed to stand with and pray for abortion-vulnerable women, and urged state legislatures to enact “pro-life policies that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, including both vulnerable women and children.”

Another resolution addressed the Imago Dei and “helpful content submitted in several resolutions” to affirm the value and dignity of every human being as created in the image of God.

“Rejecting God’s good design for the Christian life and seeking to craft an ethic based on our individualistic will and desires is not only an affront to God but also a grave sin of selfishness, rebellion and pride,” messengers said.

The resolution decried the daily exposure to “countless narratives often at odds with God’s design for sexuality through mass media and various forms of entertainment, like social media, that promote ideologies that run contrary to the scientific and biological realities of the created order rooted in the dignity of every human being.”

Messengers said they will redouble ongoing efforts to “cultivate a heart of wisdom and discernment in the next generation, especially in regard to various forms of entertainment and social media.”

In a final resolution, marking nine total this year, messengers expressed appreciation to the city of Anaheim for extending hospitality and to the California Southern Baptist Convention.

— Erin Roach is a correspondent for the TEXAN magazine, located in Grapevine, Texas.