[Author’s note: SBCV is a collection of opinions by various people. While folks are free to classify, categorize, and criticize the blog as they wish, it has always been the case that differing opinions are now and have always been offered. I suspect that my opinion as stated below (and often going back years and years, since I’ve been attuned to the issues for a couple of decades now) is not shared by most, likely all, of my colleagues here.]
The issue on abuse has almost always been dominated by this question: In our collection of cooperating but autonomous congregations, what can be done with the pastor, staff member, or volunteer who has committed abuse but where there is no determination by our courts. For years victims and advocates have been calling for a database of abusers created, funded, and maintained by or through our SBC Executive Committee. They also have consistently insisted that the database include “credibly accused” abusers. I’ve always had difficulty seeing how this would work. I’m unaware if the system has been implemented on the scale of our almost 50,000 autonomous churches.
The convention voted to create this. We’ve spent a couple of years and many millions of dollars on two task forces moving this concept (and other measures) forward. We are going to have a database soon but it will not include “credibly accused” individuals.
The ARITF is composed of very smart people and I have enormous respect for the chairman, Marshall Blalock. They work hard. Unlike many SBC blue-ribbon task forces in the past, they listen to actual Southern Baptists.
The convention voted to implement this database to include four categories of offenders. From the update:
- Confession in a non-privileged setting
- Conviction in a court of law
- Civil judgment rendered
- Determination by an independent third party according to a preponderance of evidence
The fourth category (not so labeled but these would be the ‘credibly accused’ offenders)
The ARITF statement:
As we prepare to launch the Ministry Check Website, we are convinced category four requires further study and consideration. We are continuing to consult with a deep and broad pool of experts in the field to ensure we fully address the unique legal, ecclesial, and functional questions related to this category. However, we believe that delaying the implementation of the Ministry Check Website in light of the challenges presented by category four is both unwise and unnecessary. Therefore, to fulfill the messengers’ mandate we are preparing to launch the Ministry Check Website utilizing only categories 1-3 at this time.
It has always been impossible for me to see how the SBCEC could create and maintain a database without the assumption of responsibility for abuse in churches. I’m a layperson on legal matters. I don’t have any comfort level with categorical statements about non-liability.
Some of the problems are obvious.
If abuse is reported to the database administrator. The church is contacted but denies and/or is unwilling to hire independent people to investigate, then what? The EC hires someone to investigate the individual and the local church. How is that not the case that the EC accepts some responsibility for the matter? No one at the EC hired, failed to supervise, fired or not the accused. All that is at the local church level, as is every hiring decision and supervisory decision for every local church pastor, staff, or volunteer in each of the churches.
The SBCEC has no power here, save for being able to exclude the church from being on the SBC church list and being able to seat messengers at the annual meeting. So far as I understand, any church can call itself Southern Baptist for the most minimal of contributions and affiliations. The SBCEC cannot change that by unilateral action.
I’ve always said that I’m open to a database if it can be show to be effective. I just don’t see how it’s going to work.
This matter is prominently put forward by one of our SBC presidential candidates. Were I to attend the convention (I’m not) I’d vote for Bart Barber having a second term.. Even if Mike Stone is elected, he will not be able to do anything more than he is doing now, which is to talk about it. I agree with him up to a point on this but have quite a number of issues with him on the matter.
We will have a database. No church has to use it. It will not include credibly accused individuals.
This is (need it be said?) my own opinion. No one else here was consulted. They have their own opinions.
If the ARITF has spent almost a year on this and hasn’t come to a conclusion, then it’s understandable that a blog post of 800 words on the matter can’t cover all the complications, difficulties, and issues.