Ascol expressed that sinful things are sometimes considered lawful by the state, such as chattel slavery and abortion. Conversely, there are things that the state deems illegal yet are not sinful.
“There are certain speech codes today that we’re told if you say these words, you’re in violation of civil authority,” Ascol said. “We were told a couple of years ago that we couldn’t gather as churches. The state said it’s illegal, and churches still gathered, telling the state ‘it’s not your purview to tell us that we cannot gather.’”
After reiterating that churches must deal with sin within their midst, and civil authorities must deal justly with crimes, Ascol said, “So as Southern Baptists, as we confront the unknown that is in this report, we need to remind ourselves that…if crimes are reported, then call the police and report those perpetrators of the crimes to the lawful authority that God has established in the state.”
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“If sins are reported, then call the churches where the guilty parties are members and call upon those churches to do what Christ has said regarding dealing with sin among the membership,” Ascol continued. “We ought to care well for any victims that are made known through this process and recognize that there can be victims of crimes, as well as persons who have been sinned against. And churches are responsible to care for their people who might be victims of both.”
“But above all, Southern Baptists, let’s plead with God for grace. Ask Him for mercy. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him to humble us and to give us the direction we need to pursue justice in accordance with His Word, as we are confident in having a crucified and risen Lord and Savior,” Ascol concluded.
Some lauded Ascol’s statement, including former Executive Committee member and current Conservative Baptist Network steering council member Rod D. Martin, who said, “Wise, pastoral, and much needed.”
Others responded to the statement with criticism, including Georgia pastor Griffin Gulledge, who said, “Tom wants to #ChangeTheDirection on everything, but is that true of how we respond to abuse? This sounds like the exact system we have in place now that has not worked and led to this crisis in the first place.”
“This week we received frustrating, disappointing news of a church deacon ordained while a known abuser. As such, it was clear Willy is not the leader we need right now. Likewise, this superficial non-response from Tom shows we currently do not have a major candidate to support,” Gulledge went on to say.
On Wednesday, Florida pastor Willy Rice announced that he would withdraw his name from consideration for the office of SBC president in light of criticism he received after revealing that his church had ordained a deacon who “committed a sexual sin that could also be described as abusive” in 2005.
Other SBC presidential candidates include former missionary Robin Hadaway and Texas pastor Bart Barber, whose candidacy was announced on Thursday in the wake of Rice’s withdrawal from consideration.