DURHAM, N.C. (BP)—Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear announced he will form a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group in partnership with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The group—whose members will be announced later—will be a “working study group” with “fluid” membership, according to Greear’s office. It will include outside experts, denominational leaders and local church pastors who will advise Greear “on issues related to sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and related subjects,” according to a public statement issued by his office.
“The group’s purpose will be to consider how Southern Baptists at every level can take discernable action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions,” the release stated.
The group will study how Southern Baptists are engaging issues related to sexual abuse and “develop recommendations in consultation with relevant SBC entities on strategies and resources for ministering to victims and protecting people and churches from predators,” according to the public statement.
‘Refuge for the hurting … safe haven for the oppressed’
“How we as a convention of churches care for abuse victims and protect against vile predators says something about what we believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “Our churches should be a refuge for the hurting and a safe haven for the oppressed.
“Over the next year, I look forward to hearing from this group and partnering with our churches, state conventions, local associations, seminaries and national entities to determine what we can do to equip churches to minister effectively and stand guard against any who would seek to prey on the vulnerable.”
Mandate from SBC messengers
The study group stems from actions of messengers to this year’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
Messengers adopted a resolution condemning abuse in all its forms and encouraging “leaders in our churches and Southern Baptist Convention entities to be faithful examples, through their words and actions, and to speak against the sin of all forms of abuse.”
ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt made a motion calling on the newly elected SBC president to appoint a task force to “assess issues related to sexual assault, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and connected subjects; develop recommendations in consultation with relevant SBC entities on best practices for ministering to victims and protecting people and churches from predators; and report its findings to the messengers of the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.” The motion was referred to the ERLC.
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A motion by Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson that the ERLC study resources to help churches protect themselves from sexual predators also was referred to the ERLC.
ERLC President Russell Moore affirmed the need for a sexual abuse study group.
“Sexual assault and sexual abuse are satanic to the core, and churches should be the ones leading the way when it comes to protecting the vulnerable from predators,” Moore said. “Thankfully, every Southern Baptist pastor I know cares deeply about these issues.
“We as a denomination, though, owe it to our pastors and churches to come together and provide the very best resources and recommendations possible to address this crisis. That’s exactly what an advisory council like this is able to do, and I am eager to work alongside this group in any way possible to serve our churches and minister to those in our pews who have suffered abuse.”