Last week, I posted an article about the problems at Trinity Baptist in Ashburn, Georgia. In that article, I mentioned that the pastor of that church, Rodney Brown, claimed to have received support from not only the Executive Committee staff, but from the Georgia Convention and from his association. This was upsetting, that Baptist entities would support a church that had a known pedophile openly serving in leadership.
The Christian Index published a statement from Thomas Hammond, the new Executive Director of Georgia Baptists, that demonstrated real leadership. He admitted that he had acted without understanding the situation and apologized for his actions. He clarified his stands and explained his priorities.
It was an act of admirable leadership from the head of Georgia Baptists. Here is a lengthy excerpt from his statement.
J.D. Greear and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group are taking bold new steps to address the scourge of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention and providing leadership to bring about change. In Georgia, strong efforts have been underway for several years; I am continuing that resolve and pursuit.
Before describing the ongoing efforts being pursued by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board over the last seven years, I must first address the recent matter involving Trinity Baptist Church in Ashburn, Georgia.
Like many, I learned from media reports of ten Baptist churches that warranted inquiry related to sexual abuse issues. Two of those churches were in Georgia. I reached out to both churches to open a communication line while gathering the information related to each.
To begin my fact-gathering about Trinity Baptist Church, I reached out to Pastor Rodney Brown. In the midst of that, I made a mistake, and I’d like to take the opportunity to address it. Hopefully, this will clarify any confusion for victims or Southern Baptists who are rightly concerned that we address the devastation of sexual abuse with unflinching resolve.
In my initial contact with Pastor Brown, I expressed my desire as executive director to initiate a line of communication between my office and his church. In the midst of that conversation, I told him I was praying for him, the church, and that I was sorry for the way this came about. I realize now this wording has been rightly received by survivors and concerned Southern Baptists as insensitive and inappropriate. They’re right; it was. For that, I ask forgiveness, and to anyone who has suffered at the hands of abusers, I want you to know my resolve to address this issue in our churches and my openness to hear from you. I should have been more careful not to leave the impression that I was more concerned about a church or a process than the priority of one abuse victim.
I want to apologize for the confusion I have created.
With respect to Trinity Baptist, Pastor Brown confirmed to me yesterday what he’d stated to Baptist Press: that a staff member admitted to being a sexual abuser, and furthermore, remained in a leadership position at Trinity. Today, I also learned from the pastor that the perpetrator has been dismissed and instructed not to return. It is my expectation that there is more work to be done at Trinity and more healing to be experienced by the victims; I am committed to both efforts.
I agree wholeheartedly with the calls to action from President Greear and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group recently unveiled, as well as the sentiment our president expressed earlier this week, saying that “churches who face accusation should be eager to demonstrate that they are above reproach in their commitment to protect the vulnerable and expose abusers.” Any sexual abuse in our churches must be rooted out with the most tenacious determination possible. To that cause, I want to reiterate my strongest possible resolve, which has only been strengthened over the last several weeks.
He went on to outline actions the Georgia convention has taken to deal with this sexual abuse in recent years.
In the statement:
- Hammond explained his actions clearly and concisely, with no effort to hide the mistakes he made.
- He admitted to errors he made and apologized for them.
- He expressed support for Greear and his efforts to stem the tide of abuse in SBC churches.
- He outlined genuine steps the convention is taking to deal with the issue.
We see this so often. He took responsibility, pointed no fingers, made no attempts to paint himself as a victim. This was, in this blogger’s estimation, real leadership.