Did you gloss over this paragraph (emphasis is mine) of the SBC Caring Well Report?
One final note: This report has required collaboration and cooperation from many Southern Baptists this year, and we pray that this first step will help Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches move forward. But we acknowledge that this report is a first step of many. Significant developments have occurred on a number of important items that are outside of the scope of this report to address, such as strengthening screening for abuse in the ordination process, potential enhancements to the Annual Church Profile, possibilities regarding a database solution, and ways for churches to publicly indicate the positive steps they have taken. Work is ongoing in each of these areas and others, and we will continue to provide updates in the future.
Note the four areas that are outside the scope of the report just released but which are still being considered and evaluated. Updates are promised in the future for these four. I have listed them below:
- “Strengthening screening for abuse in the ordination process”
- “potential enhancements to the Annual Church Profile”
- “possibilities regarding a database solution”
- “ways for churches to publicly indicate the positive steps they have taken”
These are all important, particularly the third one. A few comments on these:
Ordination process and abuse. It’s not an insignificant fact that the SBC nor any of her entities (seminaries in particular) ordain any minister. Churches in friendly cooperation with the SBC perform ordinations. This is a fact lost on many people, even people in our churches. There is no listing of all ordained “SBC” clergy. I doubt it would be possible to make a list of all people ordained by SBC-affliliated churches. Denominational leaders cannot dictate to churches whom, how, when, and anything else about ordination. Churches may ordain a ham sandwich if they wish. Neither can anyone demand that a minister’s ordination be revoked. It’s up to the church.
Perhaps a set of best practices for ordination could be produced. Perhaps churches could be encouraged to require some abuse training before they ordain. It would be possible for the SBC at some level to create a voluntary list of ordained clergy who have stated that they have completed some level of abuse training. No church could be required to use it. But, let’s see what the Sex Abuse Advisory Group comes up with.
Annual Church Profile. Churches could be asked to answer questions about abuse and abuse policies and training. No church would be required to answer it, though. Only about three fourths of churches complete the ACP anyway.
The Database. The ForSuchATimeAsThisRally organizers list three objectives. The most concrete and specific of the three is,
A clergy abuse offender database must be established for the SBC. This database should include those who plead guilty or were convicted of abuse, as well as those who were credibly accused.
The database has been a goal of all of the victims and victim advocates for years. Generally (there may be some differences among the advocates on this, I haven’t read them all), the database would be created and funded by the SBC Executive Committee but administered by third party experts. The panel would receive and evaluate reports of abuse and maintain records of the same. The SBC EC and state conventions already link databases which include those convicted of abuse. There are parts of the category of those who “plead guilty” that I may not understand. The last category, those who are “credibly accused” is the big problem. Even the Chronicle/Express-News, as thorough as the series is, did not name all those with credible accusations. Let’s see what the SAAG does with this.
I think it is safe to say that we will hear about the SBC not agreeing to the database at the forsuchatimeasthis rally.
Ways for churches to publicly indicate the positive steps they have taken. My church uses MinistrySafe and that is featured in every Sunday’s bulletin handout. I’d guess that the SAAG would find other ways to indicate that this church or that church has kept abreast of current best practices to protect members and attendees from abuse.
Some have implied that the SAAG report is just a repeat of the SBC studying the database a decade ago. There are vast differences in both scope and product. I am pleased that the Sex Abuse Advisory Group is not in the usual SBC mode of hammering out a nice report and then disappearing. Work will continue. Good.
The ERLC’s Phillip Bethancourt has an informative article, Top 10 takeaways from the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group Report. I would add the important point that the group continues to work.
The “no database, no deal” presumes that all that could happen from the floor of the convention is a resolution to examine this and it’s already being examined. The SBC in session cannot create this nor direct the Executive Committee to do so.