A number of Southern Baptists have more questions than answers about how to move forward after a troubling report by independent investigative firm found the SBC Executive Committee badgered and belittled victims that came forward alleging abuse at the hands of Southern Baptist pastors, staff and volunteers.
The 205-page data base was released May 26 after a seven-month investigation. It includes more than 700 entries from cases spanning 2000 to 2019, The Associated Press reported last month.
Tom Ascol, the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, tells AFN says there is a major factor that, so far, hasn't been raised by many.
“Well, we need to follow biblical principles,” Tascol, a candidate for SBC president, says. “They've rushed to judgment and they violated biblical principles in doing so. The Bible talks about things being confirmed by two witnesses.”
In an interview with AFN, Ascol also takes issue with the “Believe All Women” mantra that has been embraced by some in recent years, including by some within the SBC.
“Well,” Ascol says, “that is just foolhardy.”
In its report, Guidepost Solutions recommended the denomination maintain a database of abusers that can checked by churches looking to hire staff. That list would come with guidelines for finding your name on it, including a criminal conviction or another documented admission of guilt.
According to the AP story, the entries include an "admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry."
AFN reported this week, however, that the list of abusers in Alabama resulted in a terrible case of mistaken identity: Charles Brown, a retired pastor, was mistaken for another pastor of the same name.
How the SBC deals with sexual abuse after the Guidepost report will be hotly debated when the convention's messengers meet June 14 in Anaheim, California.
Ascol insists the SBC list moves from the legal understanding of innocent until proven guilty to a “credibly accused” pastor, deacon, or music minister.
“Well, who gets to decide what's credible?” he asks rhetorically. “You can be sure they're not taking that from the Scriptures.”
It should be up to individual churches, Ascol counters, to perform the necessary background check before hiring someone who could be a danger to the congregation.
Regarding a criminal accusations of abuse, Ascol says victims should start with a call to the police.
"The church has not been given by God the responsibility to adjudicate crime," Ascol says. "We are to adjudicate sin."
Ascol addressed the SBC and sex abuse allegations, and what he calls a "moment of reckoning" for Southern Baptists, in an op-ed published at The Federalist.
This story has been updated with a link to Tom Ascol's op-ed published at The Federalist.
Editor's note: The SBC offers two options to report an instance of abuse – by phone at 202-864-5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com. Survivors will be notified of the available options for care and will be put in touch with an advocate. All information will remain confidential.