SBC messengers expected to debate abuse reform at annual gathering

SBC messengers expected to debate abuse reform at annual gathering

SBC messengers expected to debate abuse reform at annual gathering

When messengers meet in June to discuss looming issues confronting Southern Baptist churches, they will return for the second time in two years to deal with the terrible topic of sexual abuse.

Last year, after a seven-month investigation, Southern Baptists learned not only were pastors and lay members abusing fellow church members, the report accused SBC leaders of badgering abuse victims who came forward, AFN reported.

Beyond the sad and sensitive issue of abuse, one issue facing the SBC is how to address it. That’s because approving rules for SBC-affiliated churches is difficult since each local church is independent and does not follow orders from SBC leaders. So how those messengers act and react will be closely watched by abuse victims demanding reform and by a hostile national media watching the country’s largest evangelical gathering air its laundry.

‘Ministry Check’ and ‘credibly accused’

As part of that investigation, a controversial database of names was released that includes more than 700 entries from cases spanning 2000 to 2019.

The database known as “Ministry Check” remains controversial a year later partly because the company overseeing it, Guidepost Solutions, is a pro-homosexual business. So that partnership will likely end next month.

Ministry Check is also controversial because its list of names includes people accused – but not convicted – of heinous crimes. That category is referred to as “credibly accused” within the SBC, and to say that is a hotly debated issue is an understatement.

“I am not in support of a database of those that are merely accused,” Georgia pastor Mike Stone, who will be candidate for SBC president next month, tells AFN.

Stone is challenging current SBC president Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who has championed steps to prevent further abuse. He has also publicly defended the SBC’s standards for designating a pastor or lay member “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.

Those four standards, which can be read here, were approved by an abuse reform task force whose formation was approved by SBC messengers last summer. Those messengers also approved a plan for create the database of abusers.

Regarding an alternative to the “credibly accused” category, Stone says law enforcement should always be involved to investigate. Doing so, he says, lowers the chance an innocent person’s reputation is ruined in a politically motivated attack.

Stone has already accused Barber and the SBC Executive Committee of failing to show financial leadership in a previous AFN story. In that story, Barber acknowledged the finances have taken a terrible hit but cited one-time expenditures from the abuse scandal as the reason.

Editor's note: This article is the fourth in a series leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, being held this year in New Orleans, June 11-14.