The work of a yet to be appointed Anti-Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) will likely take years, with an initial report to be presented at the meeting. 2023 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. , next June.
Marshal Blalockvice-chairman of the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) which recommended the new group, said guidelines were in place to allow up to three years for some of the work.
“We anticipated that the implementation working group would take at least a year, maybe two years, and outside maybe three years,” Blalock said. “We hope that next year will be extremely productive and that (SBC) Chairman (Bart) Barber can have a task force ready to get to work, understanding his responsibilities and being able to see some of these things evolve at a good pace. rhythm.”
Bart Barber plans to name task force members by the end of July after a debriefing by the SATF, he tweeted from his farm in Farmersville, Texas on June 22.
“Once this is complete, I will move quickly to appoint members of this task force and get them started. I expect this to be done before the end of July because it’s just going to take some time to process what the task force is telling me and turn that into recommendations for people to serve,” said Barber said. “Pray for me because this will be one of the most important things I will do this year.”
The new implementation working group, as approved by the messengers, is authorized to work for one year, with a term renewable each year if necessary.
“We originally thought it was going to take over a year because we’ve had nine months and we’ve only just started in some ways. But we don’t know how long that will take,” said Blalock, pastor. principal of First Baptist Church in Charleston, SC “And one of the good things that we’ve already learned is that many of our state conventions are already acting on some of the (challenges and requests) that we’ve made. And l he local church, local fellowships and local Baptist conventions, i.e. the state convention, (have) a more local ability to help affect things at the local level.
The SATF hopes, Blalock said, that local associations, churches and state conventions will help create a culture that empowers people to prevent sexual abuse, policies that prevent crime, a system that provides care and help for victims of abuse and a society where sexual abuse is no longer tolerated.
“We hope this will happen at the local level,” he said. “There’s no way of knowing how long this part will take, but what we’re seeing so far is really good progress.”
The Implementation Working Group is tasked with the work that the SATF has clearly defined in its two messenger-approved recommendations at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, with the additional stipulation that the new Working Group work adheres to ‘best practices’ consistent with Southern Baptist church policy.
The implementation working group should:
- Study Guidepost’s recommendations for feasibility and bring an initial report to the 2023 annual meeting on reforms that could be adopted by the convention and how they should be implemented, including Guidepost’s recommendations for a patient care fund. survivors and a memorial, auditing the Caring Well program and the possible creation of a permanent committee or entity.
- Assist SBC entities in studying Guidepost recommendations and provide advice on the voluntary implementation of reforms relevant to each entity’s departmental mission.
- Serve as a resource in abuse prevention, crisis response, and survivorship care for Baptist agencies who voluntarily request assistance. Such assistance may include providing a list of independent and qualified companies recommended for training and investigation, and will include assistance at state conventions with one of the recommendations chosen by each, when requested by the conventions. of state.
- In consultation with the Credentials Committee, revise the process for assessing and submitting complaints of non-cooperation due to sexual abuse and publish these revisions. For example, when a church acts in a way that is inconsistent with the convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse, such as showing an unwillingness to cooperate in an investigation of an accused individual, then the church must be brought before the committee. accreditation of the SBC for examination in accordance with SBC Regulation 8.
- Work with the SBC Executive Committee (EC) and Credentials Committee to select one or more independent and qualified firms to assist the Credentials Committee in providing factual findings for complaints of non-cooperation due to sexual abuse. The (Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force) will report on any action at the 2023 Annual Meeting regarding this selection. This expense will be funded by the Sexual Abuse Reform Endowment.
In addition, the messengers directed the implementation task force, in coordination with the SBC EC, to establish a Ministry Check website to publicize, process and maintain a record of “pastors, faith workers, ministry employees, etc. ministry and volunteers who have at all times been credibly accused. of sexual abuse, and who have been or are associated with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity.
The Implementation Working Group will work with the Credentials Committee to choose an independent company to maintain the website, with courier-approved website guidelines. The Implementation Working Group will monitor the website annually to ensure it meets the guidelines.
The SATF made its recommendations after receiving Guidepost Solutions’ report on its independent investigation into the EC’s handling of sexual abuse complaints covering the period 2000-21. Guidepost, in its lengthy report after a months-long investigation, recommended several changes to the SBC. The Implementation Task Force may not recommend to 2023 couriers all of the Guidepost Solutions recommendations included in its report, Blalock said.
“Guidepost sent us a long list of recommendations, some of which probably don’t work with how we govern ourselves as Baptists,” Blalock said. “But there may be information out there that the new reform implementation group finds and says, ‘This is a step we think is right to take,’ and they could bring those recommendations to New Brunswick. Orleans in 2023.
“We didn’t give them any particular priorities, we just said, ‘look at all of this and then see what can be done next year, if anything needs to be done next year,'” Blalock said. “What we hope will happen is the two recommendations that we have put in place now, that they can make sure that these actually become reality. We voted for it. We all agreed. Now this group needs to help find the right people to set it up and help work with the executive committee to make sure it gets done.
The work of the implementation working group will be extensive and would benefit from a full-time staff member dedicated to this task, Blalock said, pointing to one of several proposals the SATF has made as “requests accompanying the report’s two recommendations endorsed by the messengers of the 2022 SBC annual meeting.
“That’s one of the demands we’ve made, that the executive committee actually hire someone, that that’s their main focus, at least for the next two or three years. And someone who is trained to understand the trauma of sexual abuse and who understands the legal realities of it, understands the process to help prevent it,” Blalock said. “He is someone from the EC staff who is able to guide this effort and work with the credentials committee as a staff assistant.”
The SATF has made several requests for state conventions, SBC entities, and other related Baptist bodies, forming them as suggestions since the bodies are run by individual boards of directors rather than SBC messengers.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is the Senior Editor of Baptist Press.)