Nice compilation by Baptist Press’ Tobin Perry of the actions taken by various state conventions this fall on the issue of sex abuse.
After the national SBC voted for a Sex Abuse Task Force many of the state conventions followed by appointing their own. These are reporting to their respective states.
I count 21 state conventions in this article, the ones from: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland/Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, New England, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (SBT), West Virginia, and Wyoming. That’s over half of all state conventions (there are 41 such conventions in the greater SBC).
It’s a long read, but a good summary of a lot of reports by task forces and committees in these states. I’m not sure what exactly triggered the use of “historic actions” in the BP headline but I’m open to being shown.
Here’s my take on it all and I’ve been watching this issue in Southern Baptist life for 25 years or so:
- Local church autonomy is a clear winner. It’s the reality on the ground. There is little any state convention can do about a specific church or church staff except exclude from membership. Churches ordain clergy. Churches hire, supervise, and fire clergy. Churches report or do not report abuse in their churches. It’s rare, but churches de-ordain clergy. Local church autonomy is the reality on the ground. There is little the states can do. Expel the errant church if necessary. That’s about it.
- State conventions, particularly the larger ones in the traditional Bible belt where 90% of all SBCers have their membership and where over 90% of all offerings are collected, have for years had abuse resources. They have required protection and preventive measures for their staffs. They have required the same where they could (e.g., for state sponsored camps etc.). Many of the measures reported were enhancements of these measures. Providing resources to churches is their job. They can do a better job but it is a passive abuse prevention measure. My state, Georgia, cannot oversee the abuse protection policies for almost 3,500 local churches.
- Private sex abuse training organizations benefited from these task forces. Several states indicated an intent to use MinistrySafe in their states. My state has provided free MinistrySafe training for years. It’s up to the churches to use the service.
- There was no scandal exposed in any of the states on the level of the investigation of the SBC Executive Committee.
I’m curious of the reaction of my colleagues who live in any of these 21 states. Good? Bad? Meh?