Priorities established to fight sex abuse in next year

  |  Source: Baptist Press

Bible teacher and sexual abuse survivor Beth Moore (left) participates in a panel discussion hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Commission called "Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention" at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the night before the start of the 2019 SBC annual meeting. (BP Photo / Van Payne)

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NASHVILLE (BP)—Southern Baptist churches, entities and leaders will continue to receive guidance in the year ahead from a convention partnership leading the fight against sexual abuse.

The Sexual Abuse Advisory Group and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission released Nov. 11 the priorities for the next year in the effort to prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors. The document outlines the resources the partners will make available in a multi-faceted endeavor that began more than two years ago in response to reports of abuse among Southern Baptist churches and entities.

“We recognize the need for a widespread change and understand that a cultural shift takes years of effort,” the document states.

The advisory group and commission pledged to raise awareness and train churches how they can help prevent sexual abuse and “make churches safe for survivors.”

“When it comes to the moral witness of the people of Jesus Christ, there should be no greater priority than standing up to the depravity of sexual abuse within the church,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. “The Sexual Abuse Advisory Group is committed to calling churches to integrity on these matters and equipping churches on how best to do so.”

Priorities include:

  • Promote the Caring Well Challenge, a year-long, eight-step effort that began in 2019. In its first year, more than 1,000 churches participated in the challenge, which was relaunched in September.
  • Develop new resources, including guides on recruiting Vacation Bible School workers and camp counselors, as well as updated versions of instructions on reporting abuse and responding to disclosures of abuse.
  • Advocate at the federal and state government level for laws and regulations that will safeguard children and hold perpetrators accountable.
  • Create a series of “white papers” on state policy issues, including mandatory reporting and statute of limitations. The first white paper, published Oct. 30, offers guidance on enacting state laws to protect churches and other nonprofits from civil liability when they report sexual abuse allegations to a former employee’s current or potential employer.
  • Continue to make available videos from the ERLC’s 2019 Caring Well Conference and a recommended calendar for viewing the talks and questions for discussing them.

“This is not the end of our work on this subject, but only the beginning,” the document states. “We will continue to advance this important work, supported by Southern Baptists because we must do everything we can to protect the vulnerable and care for the survivors among us.”

Travis Wussow, ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, said: “Through our work over the last two years, we recognize that while we have taken important steps forward, there is much left to be done. As Southern Baptists, we must continue to push forward in order to prevent the pain and devastation abuse creates and to help those who have experienced abuse find healing through the power of the gospel.

“Over the next year, the ERLC, in partnership with the advisory group, will continue our efforts to prepare churches, promote convention-wide action and protect the vulnerable through public policy advocacy.”

SBC President J.D. Greear established the advisory group shortly after his 2018 election. In cooperation with the ERLC, the group of experts in a variety of fields received input from hundreds of people, including abuse survivors and their advocates, law enforcement officials, counselors, pastors, denominational leaders and lawyers.

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Other resources already produced by the SAAG and ERLC include:

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