Establishing a database of those credibly accused of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches is important. Just as much is making sure it’s done right.
Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force pointed that out to Executive Committee members on Monday evening, Sept. 18.
“We do not have a projected date for when the original set of names will appear on the ministry check website,” said Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lawton. “However, we anticipate sharing the launch date for ministry check very soon.”
Speaking with Baptist Press at the conclusion of the evening’s session, Keahbone repeated the importance of the website being accurate as well as timely.
“We’ve got to do this right. What happens if the wrong name gets put on that list the first time we launch it? The damage that could cause to the individual and damage to our convention would be astronomical,” he said.
“So, we’ve got to be careful. We’re vetting and re-vetting and making sure it’s done right. Whatever timeline that is, we’ve got to accept it. But we’re working diligently to get it done, and it will be within the next few months.”
Names of those who have been convicted in court of sexual abuse and those who have had a civil judgment rendered against them are expected to be the first to be added to sbcabuseprevention.com. The other two criteria requiring more time are those who have confessed the abuse in a non-privileged setting and those defined as credibly accused according to a preponderance of evidence that has been examined by an independent third party.
While the responsibility is weighty, he told trustees, it has not been burdensome.
“The Lord could have picked anybody on the planet to walk through this time and season, but He chose us,” said Keahbone. “That has been such a blessing, and it’s helped me to see all of you not just as people I get to serve with but brothers and sisters, as family.”
And while addressing that abuse reform has brought disagreements, he added that “when it comes to abuse in any form, we have united to say that it is absolutely wrong.”
Keahbone applauded the work of state conventions, national entity partners, and pastors in abuse reform efforts.
“Our team has been working alongside [them] to continue to build tools and resources … in our ministry tool kit,” he said.
Those resources are helping make sbcabuseprevention.com “the central hub for abuse reform in Southern Baptist churches” to provide critical information for churches in addition to policies and tools.
The ARITF is currently working on bringing forward a recommendation for a long-term home for abuse prevention and reform.
“Given the gravity of our assignment and current needs of our convention, we unanimously recognize the need for a long-term solution to resource and assist churches to prevent and respond to abuse and to oversee the ministry check process,” Keahbone said.
— Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.