Blalock, Keahbone to head Abuse Response Implementation Task Force

Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced the names of those who will lead and serve on the SBC Abuse Response Implementation Task Force, according to a Baptist Press release.

The news follows an announcement that Marshall Blalock will chair the task force and Mike Keahbone will serve as vice chair. Both men will help guide the group to implement the list of recommendations approved by messengers during the SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in June.

Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., served as vice chair of the Sexual Abuse Task Force that brought recommendations concerning the investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases to the June meeting.

Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lawton, Okla., serves on the SBC Executive Committee and also served on this year’s Resolutions Committee.

“Both of these pastors are well-respected by Southern Baptists, by survivors of sexual abuse, by state convention leadership and by their peers,” Barber told Baptist Press. “I’m delighted at their willingness to serve and optimistic about the solutions that they will lead the Implementation Task Force to propose.”

In an interview with The Baptist Paper, Blalock said, “Having served on last year’s task force, I know firsthand how much we need God’s guidance and the prayers of Baptists from across our convention. We have much to consider, and we are desperate for the wisdom of God at every point.”

The first step will be to “orient the ARITF to the findings and recommendations of the original task force, then to begin work on the motions the messengers passed in Anaheim,” Blalock said.

“The creation of the Ministry Check website will be one of the first major challenges,” he added. “It’s a priority because it will enable churches to identify sexual predators in order to stop them from going from church to church to abuse others.”

He noted, “In the end, the goal is for our churches to have the biblical and practical resources necessary to prevent sexual abuse and to have an authentic Christlike compassion to minister to survivors.”

Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, said the task force includes “survivors of clergy sexual abuse, pastors, lawyers, educators and one person who was the object of a false accusation of sexual abuse in the past,” Baptist Press reported. He noted the group will be “assisted in their work by a few consultants, whose names will be released later.”

Other members of the team include the following:

• Todd Benkert, pastor and lead elder of Oak Creek Community Church, Mishawaka, Ind.
• Melissa Bowen, member of First Baptist Church, Prattville, Ala.
• Brad Eubank, senior pastor of Petal First Baptist Church, Petal, Miss.
• Cyndi Lott, member of Catawba Valley Baptist Church, Morganton, N.C.
• Jon Nelson, lead pastor of Soma Community Church, Jefferson City, Mo.
• Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
• Gregory Wills, member of Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, as well as professor of church history and Baptist heritage and dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Baptist Paper contributed to this story.