Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force changes course, divides website work

In response to recent concerns regarding the selection of Faith-Based Solutions to develop the “Ministry Check” website that will track sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, the SBC’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force has announced a decision to “consider alternative pathways” and move away from the division of Guidepost Solutions to create the database.

Meeting in Atlanta March 27, ARITF members voted to divide the work of establishing and maintaining the Ministry Check website among smaller firms that share the values of Southern Baptists. “The ARITF is sourcing and evaluating additional firms to assist with the Ministry Check process who meet our qualifications for the highest professional standards,” the statement reported.

“Since our first meeting, the ARITF has sought to serve the churches of our Convention in furthering the work of abuse reform. Over the last month, members of the ARITF have engaged in numerous and extensive conversations with local, state, and national leaders across our Convention to address concerns about the proposal for the Ministry Check website,” said ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock in an April 4 statement from the task force.

“While we believe that Faith-Based Solutions  — under the direction of Southern Baptist church member and attorney Samantha Kilpatrick — respects our values and is the best option for a single firm to assist with the establishment and implementation of the Ministry Check website, we have also endeavored to listen carefully and thoughtfully respond to those who have raised concerns,” the statement said.

Task force members had continued to hear concerns about Faith-Based Solution’s parent company, Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, told The Courier April 5, adding, “We have been seeking the wisdom of God to help us lead in a way that could unify us all.”

Blalock said, “We came to the conclusion that the only way to get everyone on board was to find another option, which led to the decision to find some smaller companies who could combine to create and manage the whole. There are many advantages of one firm, which is why for months we have operated with that concept. However, we concluded last Monday (March 27) those advantages are outweighed by the need for widespread participation and support to make the website effective.”

Noting that their goal is “to help every church become the safest place on earth to hear the gospel,” Blalock said the task force was already contemplating an independent legal review panel to make decisions concerning names that should be placed on the database.

“We are hopeful that this decision does not slow the process. That is one of the biggest concerns we have heard this week,” he told The Courier. “This step in reform is long overdue, and we cannot delay any longer,” he added. “I can speak for us all, we live with the urgency of this work every single day. I think of the child who will be harmed if we don’t get this done. What will we say to that child if we could have done something to stop it, but failed?”

In February, Blalock had announced that the ARITF and Credentials Committee had jointly and unanimously selected Faith-Based Solutions to establish and maintain the Ministry Check website in fulfillment of their mandate from the convention.

Some Southern Baptists spoke out against the task force continuing to use Guidepost Solutions, or its subsidiary Faith-Based Solutions, to lead its efforts in establishing policies to handle sex abuse allegations in SBC churches. Guidepost Solutions, they said, had made statements publicly supporting the LGBTQ movement.

Florida Baptists’ State Board of Missions unanimously approved a resolution March 31 expressing “deep concern” with the utilization of Guidepost Solutions, instructing its convention staff to withhold the state convention’s Cooperative Program support unless the decision was rectified.

The Board of Missions issued a statement, which read in part: “The Florida Baptist Convention has always striven to associate with like-minded individuals and firms; those that share a solidly biblical worldview. We would strongly encourage the Executive Committee (or any other arm, agency or group of the Southern Baptist Convention) to do likewise.” Convention leaders said the state convention had been inundated by concerned pastors and churches.

In the ARITF’s statement, members expressed sincere gratitude to local, state, and national leaders, as well as abuse survivors “who have not only engaged in productive dialogue with us, but have patiently allowed the ARITF and Credentials Committee time to consider these concerns and work toward a unifying solution.” (For full text of the ARITF statement, click here.)

“The Ministry Check website is a vital tool in combating abuse,” Blalock noted. “The ARITF possesses an unwavering commitment to the SBC messengers’ mandate to establish a reliable and trustworthy Ministry Check website and to advance true and effective abuse reform across our Convention.

“We are grateful for the significant investment that Southern Baptists have made in the work of abuse reform,” he continued. “Caring well for the vulnerable and abused is critical to fulfilling both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. It is our prayer that leaders in our Convention will choose to work together as we move forward in a manner that is both unifying and effective.”

(This is a developing story. Check back here for further updates.)