On Sunday, May 22, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) plans to release a highly anticipated report from Guidepost Solutions. The 300-page document will detail an extensive investigation into alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the SBC’s Executive Committee since the year 2000.
Ahead of the report’s release, abuse survivor Tiffany Thigpen took to Twitter to suggest next steps for the denomination at “this historic moment.” Those include the need for a database of sexual offenders, especially due to the SBC’s autonomous structure, plus a leadership code of conduct that is spelled out rather than “assumed.”
Abuse Survivor Tiffany Thigpen: Next Steps Are Key
Thigpen tweets excerpts from a recent Houston Chronicle article that describes how the SBC is “bracing” for the report. That newspaper played a key role in uncovering alleged sexual crimes—and their mishandling—via its 2019 investigation “Abuse of Faith.” Thigpen thanks the outlet and its reporters “for the thorough coverage & cost of reporting our stories.”
Then she writes: “The need for a database is step #1 as we’ve always asked for. The next point I feel strongly about is the need for a ‘Code of Conduct’ for [ministers]. Written, spelled out, Biblical, not assumed. By not assumed, meaning we all ‘should’ know what is required Biblically, but having it spelled out in your BFM [Baptist Faith & Message faith statement] & ‘in good standing’ policies/expectations. There is none currently and it is VITAL. These things shouldn’t be left to interpretation nor assumed. #Standards”
Implementing safeguards is essential, Thigpen says, because “abuse by a minister lasts a lifetime, twists scriptures as weapons, damages your soul, body, spirit. Makes ugly what God meant to be beautiful.”
Tiffany Thigpen Pens Letter to Task Force Members
With her tweet thread, Thigpen includes a letter she wrote to the SATF members. It details her “personal thoughts” behind recommending a database and code of conduct. “There is a code of conduct for most jobs, why not more so for Pastors?” she writes before posting her letter.
“There is an overwhelming need for a ‘Code of Conduct’ for ministerial duties and requirements that is scripturally based and thorough,” Thigpen states. “It is not enough to point to the Bible, to quote scriptures at random which apply to given situations, as it is far too easy to skirt the issues by this form of cherry picking and using grace.”
Without agreement about following certain principles, she adds, “when things go awry…the church is poorly equipped to call out the sins as Matthew 18 further requires.” The tendency, she says, is for church leaders “to assume ‘God will handle them and it isn’t our place.’” Yet that’s “problematic” because “these same Pastors have no problem calling out sin they see in others, often publicly.”
Thigpen writes that though most Southern Baptists likely “would agree that there is a higher calling on sin and discipline of ministerial people than on a lay person,” in actuality “what is witnessed and meted out…looks completely different from what is right, approved, and instructed by God.”
Merely issuing “a new resolution stating the obvious knowledge of what is required and resolved” is insufficient, she says, indicating that it merits “zero change or accountability.” Resolutions among to “a lot of pretty words, though scripturally sound, with very little action or bite. Hypocrisy in print.”
The Bible, writes Thigpen, is clear about disciplinary matters for religious people. And because Southern Baptists “pride themselves on the inerrancy of scriptures,” she asks, “shouldn’t we also use the scriptures that apply to leadership and service, especially concerning our own Pastors?”