Among the most notable items of the recent SBC Annual Meeting was the passage of a motion by Ronnie Parrot and Grant Gaines that directed the SBC Executive Committee to “transfer oversight of the independent third party review into handling of sexual abuse to a task force” appointed by the SBC President.
The new president, Ed Litton, has named the Task Force which has seven members and two advisors.
The Executive Committee had earlier secured Guidepost Solutions for an independent review of its handling of sexual abuse issues; thus, an outside outfit will be doing an “independent review” of how the EC handled aspects of some sexual abuse cases and another outside group composed of Southern Baptists will have oversight of that, the latter group to be advised by a couple more experts in the relevant areas. None of these cases (at least the ones I am familiar with) involved members of the EC staff or trustees abusing anyone but rather the actions after abuse came to their attention or on their agenda.
The final language reads,
Said task force shall ensure that the third-party review includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives. The investigation shall include actions and decisions of staff and members of the Executive Committee from January 1, 2000 to June 14, 2021. This investigation should include an audit of the procedures and actions taken by the Credentials Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was formed at the Convention meeting in Birmingham, AL, June 11-12, 2019. The review shall be funded by allocations from the Cooperative Program.
A few observations and questions:
- The review specifies that the investigation covers actions going back over twenty years.
- Is one to presume that this motion directs the EC to ensure that Guidepost Solutions work covers this period of time, rather than the Task Force itself? The language of the motion was changed before adoption. Is it the assumption that Guidepost Solutions will be doing the investigation, interviewing EC staff, abuse victims, and EC members and that the Task Force will not be doing any of this?
- The investigation covers “resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives.” I am aware of resistance, for good reasons. It has never been a secret that the EC has resisted initiatives such as the creation of a database. I have no fear of an open debate on the issues.
- Whatever great hopes were felt for the 2019 solution of enhancing the Credentials Committee so that they could more quickly exclude offending churches seems to have dissipated. Guidepost Solutions is charged with doing an audit of this committee.
- The Parrot/Gaines motion directs the Task Force to “agree” to certain things including “the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege…” Does this include both current and former EC staff and members? Is it possible for any Task Force, SBC staff, or third party to demand that Executive Committee members, elected by the SBC and in volunteer, unpaid positions, relinquish this? Seems complicated. Someone can explain why it is not.
- The end product of the Task Force’s work is to include “suggestions…for actions to be taken by our convention.” That could be interesting.
I don’t know that any of this is objectionable. I’m just interested in the process.
Some of my colleagues here at SBCV are far more knowledgeable about this than I. I welcome some clarification.
The Task Force includes four pastors, one attorney, one Licensed Social Worker, one CEO of a children’s service organization. The two advisors include one attorney and educator involved in abuse issues and one pastor (Christian and Missionary Alliance), author and counselor.
Task Force and advisors includes six males and three females.