As I have followed and read about abuse in SBC churches, the subject of “the SBC” funding some level of compensation for survivors has often been discussed. The Guidepost report calls this a “Survivor Compensation Fund Program” and has a recommendation in this regard, page 268:
Establish a Survivor Compensation Fund Program: We recommend a Survivor Compensation Fund Program be created, to be overseen by the Commission and administered by the Administrative Entity (if created) with the assistance of an independent Fund Administrator or Special Master to direct the compensation of funds to SBC clergy sexual abuse and related misconduct survivors for abuse related medical and psychological services.
Recommended principles for this fund include the following:
• The intent would be that survivors would not be required to use SBC recommended providers;
• In determining the amount of payment, the Administrative Entity with the assistance of the Fund Administrator/Special Master will establish written criteria, including but not limited to factors such as severity of abuse, duration of abuse, age of the victim at time of abuse, prior efforts of the survivor to report the abuse, and prior harm-magnifying institutional responses to the survivor; and • We recommend that the compensation program be supported by a dedicated permanent fund established and replenished with Cooperative Program dollars and/or the selling of SBC assets and be prioritized by the SBC EC.
I have some questions about this:
- Does the Sex Abuse Task Force intend to make a motion to the Convention in this regard? [Update: I’m told the SATF will say tomorrow what motions they will bring in Anaheim] The question is, will this be immediately established by Messengers in Anaheim, or, is this a matter to be studied by the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force to be appointed by the SBC president who is elected next month, followed by some motions or recommendations in 2023?
- Is the outcome and meaning of this that the SBC Executive Committee accepts financial responsibility for all “clergy sex abuse and related misconduct” that has occurred in all SBC churches and other entities in the past and for the future?
- Since the recommendation specifies “clergy sexual abuse and related misconduct” does this limit to clergy or clergy and all volunteers?
- Would this recommendation, if enacted, relieve all local churches of compensation responsibilities related to medical and psychological services resulting from abuse in their local church?
- If responsibility is accepted by the Executive Committee in this manner for abuse that occurred in local churches how would that impact survivors expecting compensation for other damages through litigation?
- The fund, as recommended, would be established by sale of assets and/or Cooperative Program funding. Again, if a line item in the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget is added for “Survivor Compensation Fund Program” is this an admission of responsibility for all abuse?
- The criteria to be established would “include but not be limited to the severity of abuse, duration of abuse, age of the victim at time of abuse, prior efforts of the survivor to report the abuse, and prior harm-magnifying institutional responses to the survivor;” I’m a lay guy reading this but is this line about punitive damages to survivors. Other terminology may be better than “punitive” and I’m open to having this explained.
- If the fund is established and the Independent Fund Administrator rapidly depletes the fund to claimants, does the Administrator have authority to order the replenishment of the fund or do others in line wait for next year’s budget?
In 2019 SBC seminary professors Keith Whitefield and Malcolm Yarnell wrote a related article which we published here, Addressing Abuse in the SBC: A proposal. One item in that article was “…the Southern Baptist Convention, through the Executive Committee, should develop a fund to help when the resources of a church are not sufficient or when a church fails to provide reasonable support to a survivor.” At the time I thought that to be a reasonable approach. The Guidepost recommendations seem far beyond that. Someone might take a different view. If so, please explain.
There are a number of recommendations in the Guidepost report. This one and the recommended Offender Information System (fancy name for the database) are the ones most likely to receive the most attention. But, I view these things from some distance. I defer to my colleagues here who are genuine experts in the matters.