(RNS) — A Southern Baptist task force has asked the denomination to set up a “Ministry Check” website to track abusive pastors, church employees and volunteers and to spend millions on reforms to prevent abuse and care for survivors.
Most of the suggested reforms are voluntary. Some could involve years of study and preparation, prompting a skeptical response from some abuse survivors and advocates.
Those requests for reforms, released Wednesday (June 1), would also include hiring a national staff person who would receive reports of abuse and forward them to church leaders for a response; increasing training for churches; doing background checks on the trustees who oversee Southern Baptist entities; and encouraging state conventions to consider hiring staff to respond to abuse allegations.
Those requests are part of a series of recommendations from the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse task force, which oversaw a recent investigation into how leaders in the 13.7 million-member convention have responded to abuse.
That investigation found that leaders of the SBC’s Executive Committee had shown callous disregard for abuse survivors — often demonizing or ignoring them — while working at all costs to protect the denomination from liability.
In response to the report, the task force has proposed two sets of recommendations.
The first set of requests — made to the Executive Committee, state conventions and other Baptist entities — are voluntary. That may make them ineffective, said Christa Brown, an abuse survivor and longtime activist, who called the task force’s recommendations disappointing.
“I don’t give much credence to suggestions and requests because they are toothless,” she said.
The task force will also ask local church representatives, known as messengers, to approve an abuse reform implementation task force during the SBC’s annual meeting in June. That task force would study abuse reforms recommended by Guidepost Solutions, the firm that ran the abuse investigation, and then report back in 2023. Among the Guidepost suggestions is creating a fund to care for survivors.
“They are kicking the can down the road,” said Brown. “I am gutted.”
If approved, the task force would serve for three years and would act “as a resource in abuse prevention, crisis response, and survivor care to Baptist bodies who voluntarily seek assistance.”
The task force would also work with the SBC’s Executive Committee and Credentials Committee, which has the power to kick churches that mishandle abuse out of the SBC.