“People reading the report may not realize that I supported the independent investigation. I also hired GuidePost to do it even before the 2021 Convention. Our fiduciary duties also required due diligence to understand the implications of “waiving attorney-client privilege.” This was never an effort to resist or obstruct the investigation, but responsible governance. Not only do I support appropriate reforms, but from the beginning of my term as executive committee president, I helped guide the Convention to establishing the credentials committee and leading the effort to pass the amendment to the SBC Constitution focused on sexual abuse. May God lead the 2022 Convention to take the appropriate actions including the implementation of reforms.
Separately, I would also remind you of what I wrote in September when I resigned, “I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about ‘the system.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a Task Force was commissioned to investigate sexual abuse within the Convention. Yesterday, the Task Force released its report. I am grateful for their diligence and depend on their expertise as we move forward. We grieve and lament the findings.
In 2006, a Bellevue staff member made me aware of abuse he had committed 17 years prior. When I was informed, I believed that it was being properly taken care of and did not know my obligation to report it to the authorities. I now know that I did not handle the situation properly. A thorough investigation was done at the time and there were no other incidents of abuse reported.
Since then, our church has implemented training on how to identify and report any suspected case of abuse. This training is required annually for all staff and leaders at our church and is made available for all members.
My desire is to lead and shepherd our congregation with grace and biblical integrity. We do not and will not tolerate abuse of any kind and desire complete transparency and accountability.
Bellevue is committed to supporting survivors, working to prevent abuse, and making our church a safe place for all people to experience salvation and Christian growth.
It is time for us as a Convention to move forward with great humility as we repent and seek the guidance of the Lord. Pray for our Convention, that we will act decisively on this report in June at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim.
May the Lord lead us forward in grace and humility.”
“As an abuse survivor, I grieve with all Southern Baptists over every incident of sexual abuse. At the same time, it is disappointing to see real concerns mingled with false accusations. Further, it is sad these erroneous charges warrant clarification at a time when Southern Baptists should have been allowed time to prayerfully consider the weighty matters before us.
The allegation that I knowingly assisted a sexual abuser in Georgia (page 77) is demonstrably false. While I did speak to church leaders dealing with an issue with their pastor in the Fall of 2019, the first I ever heard of alleged sexual misconduct came on March 24, 2022, in the GuidePost interview. I stated this unequivocally to Guidepost.
On January 12, 2022, I offered, in writing, to provide documentation for any question GuidePost had as we prepared for my March 24 interview. No request for documentation was ever made in this matter. Yet to them, this allegation warranted a full page of the report and the libelous accusation in Baptist Press that I have “protected or even supported abusers.”
At the proper time and in the proper forum, I will most likely provide the documentation and objective Southern Baptists will be able to see the truth for themselves. For now, let me be clear. I have never and would never knowingly support a church retaining a pastor in sexual misconduct.
As Southern Baptists move forward, I pray we can discern the truth and be committed to take every wise and needful step to train our churches and care for those most vulnerable.”
This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.