Eight people who have survived abuse at the hands of leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have published a joint statement calling for several “immediate actions” ahead of the SBC’s annual meeting. But Monday morning, the SBC Executive Committee (EC) decided not to consider a motion that presents some of the SBC sexual abuse survivors’ very requests.
“We come now collectively, as SBC sexual abuse survivors, to make our wishes known in regard to the ongoing crisis of the sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention,” says the joint statement. Jules Woodson, whose abuser, Andy Savage, recently started his own church, is one of the signees. She posted the statement on Twitter on June 13, saying, “I want to make sure every #SBC21 messenger and leader knows exactly where #SBC survivors stand! If you want the pdf file to print copies and pass out in Nashville, please DM me.”
SBC Sexual Abuse Survivors ‘Strongly Urge’ Several Steps
The SBC sexual abuse survivors’ statement is not long. It references what seems to be one of several motions to be presented to messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting, which will take place June 15-16 in Nashville, Tenn. Say the survivors, “Together, we strongly urge that these immediate actions are taken.” Those actions are:
- All SBC messengers support the motion of Todd Benkert for the hiring of an outside organization to audit and assess abuse and mishandling of abuse within the denomination.
- The scope of the Guidepost investigation into the Executive Committee is broadened to include the Credentials Committee and all paid, appointed, elected or volunteer staff or leaders of the Convention, the Executive Committee and the Credentials Committee.
- The Executive Committee waives all privileges, allowing Guidepost complete and full access to all data and information.
- The Executive Committee commits that any final report of the Guidepost investigation will be made public in full, without redaction or revision, except for the firm’s protection of the personal identifying information of abuse survivors.
- Any future investigations or audits regarding sexual abuse within the SBC which are approved, include the services of GRACE [Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment].
The eyes of many in the evangelical world are on the SBC this week to see how its leaders respond to such requests. After the Houston Chronicle published an exposé in February 2019 detailing hundreds of stories of sexual abuse within the SBC, the denomination took some steps address those allegations and the systemic brokenness they indicated. However, many believe the SBC’s response has fallen significantly short of a true reckoning and still reveals patterns of self-protection instead of a love of victims and the truth.
Two leaked letters from Dr. Russell Moore, who recently resigned as the president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, describe serious failures of members of the SBC Executive Committee in this regard, including SBC presidential candidate Mike Stone and SBC Executive Committee president and CEO Dr. Ronnie Floyd.
The EC issued a press release on June 11 announcing that Floyd had engaged Guidepost Solutions to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations against the EC. The release stated Floyd had asked Guidepost to do the following:
-Review these recent allegations against the SBC Executive Committee of mishandling sexual abuse cases and mistreating sexual abuse victims; the allegations of a pattern of intimidation; and
-Review and enhance training provided to SBC Executive Committee staff and its board of trustees related to these matters, as well as its communications to cooperating churches and congregants in cooperating churches.
On the morning of June 14, the EC held an on-the-record meeting, which was reportedly standing room only. During the meeting, Jared Wellman, an EC member and pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, asked the committee to consider discussing a motion that would expand the independent investigation.
Wellman’s motion requests an independent task force, whose members would not be involved in the investigation; the task force would receive the full report from Guidepost. The motion expands Guidepost’s investigation “to include all paid, appointed, or elected leaders or staff, previous or current, of the Executive Committee, Convention, and Convention entities in this commission; there should be no limit to who can be interviewed.” The motion also states that Guidepost should get access to “all data and information” and says there should be a public report that the EC does not vet or edit.