In keeping with his commitment to exposing abuse in the Church and protecting victims, SBC President J.D. Greear announced the creation of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group as a collaboration with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. (h/t Baptist Press)
According to a press release:
The group’s purpose will be to consider how Southern Baptists at every level can take discernable action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions. This group will study both how Southern Baptists are currently engaging these issues and develop recommendations in consultation with relevant SBC entities on strategies and resources for ministering to victims and protecting people and churches from predators.
… This presidential study group will consist of outside experts and Southern Baptist leaders who will advise Greear on issues related to sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and related subjects.
Group members haven’t been announced yet, but the membership is said to be “fluid,” with a combination of outside experts, leaders of the SBC and pastors of local churches.
Greear went on to say: “How we as a convention of churches care for abuse victims and protect against vile predators says something about what we believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our churches should be a refuge for the hurting and a safe haven for the oppressed. Over the next year, I look forward to hearing from this group and partnering with our churches, state conventions, local associations, seminaries and national entities to determine what we can do to equip churches to minister effectively and stand guard against any who would seek to prey on the vulnerable.”
During the SBC’s annual meeting in Dallas, the ERLC’s executive vice president Phillip Bethancourt made a motion “that a task force be appointed by the newly elected SBC president that will (1) assess issues related to sexual assault, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and connected subjects, (2) develop recommendations in consultation with relevant SBC entities on best practices for ministering to victims and protecting people and churches from predators, and (3) report its findings to the messengers of the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.”
ERLC President Russell Moore agreed that the group was necessary, calling sexual assault “Satanic to the core.”
He went on to say:
Churches should be the ones leading the way when it comes to protecting the vulnerable from predators. Thankfully, every Southern Baptist pastor I know cares deeply about these issues. We as a denomination, though, owe it to our pastors and churches to come together and provide the very best resources and recommendations possible to address this crisis. That’s exactly what an advisory council like this is able to do, and I am eager to work alongside this group in any way possible to serve our churches and minister to those in our pews who have suffered abuse.