After months of criticism and pressure, the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has indicated it may back away from partnering with Guidepost Solutions. In an April 4 update, the ARITF did not mention Guidepost by name but said task force members recently voted to “consider alternative pathways” in a “spirit of unity and cooperation.”
That move comes shortly after Florida Baptists passed a resolution saying they would withhold part of their Cooperative Program giving unless the SBC cut ties with Guidepost. Other SBC churches and pastors also have spoken out, and the ARITF indicated it has “engaged in numerous and extensive conversations with local, state, and national leaders across our Convention to address concerns.”
Task Force Will Seek Partner(s) That ‘Share Our Values’
Faith-Based Solutions, a subsidiary of Guidepost, was selected to build a Ministry Check database of SBC church leaders credibly accused of sexual abuse. But in light of the fact that Guidepost, a secular company, tweeted support for the LGBTQ community last June, calls have arisen for the task force to seek assistance elsewhere.
According to the ARITF statement, task force members met on March 27 and decided to consider “dividing the work among smaller firms which share our values…[and] meet our qualifications for the highest professional standards.”
In its update, the ARITF expressed gratitude to church leaders and abuse survivors for patience while members have worked “toward a unifying solution.” The task force also reaffirmed its “unwavering commitment to the SBC messengers’ mandate to establish a reliable and trustworthy Ministry Check website and to advance true and effective abuse reform across our Convention.”
An addendum to the ARITF update encouraged Southern Baptists to maintain the “current process” for the denomination’s Sexual Abuse Hotline. “Hundreds of unique submissions” of a “sensitive and confidential nature” have already been logged, according to the statement. And if the hotline were to switch to another provider “at this critical time, the SBC would forfeit the trust of survivors and hinder our efforts to make our churches the safest place to encounter the gospel.”
Did the Task Force Cave to Critics?
Reaction to the task force pivot has mostly been along ideological lines. Some conservatives, who say the problem of sexual abuse within the SBC has been overstated, continue to express concerns about possible false accusations. On April 5, former SBC Executive Committee member Rod Martin tweeted a screenshot of an AI response to the debate, captioning it “Even WokeGPT thinks what the Task Force is doing is fatally flawed.”
Others contend that the task force is giving in. In an article at BaptistNews.com, Mark Wingfield wrote that “anti-gay critics…appear to have won their campaign” by beating “the drum of opposition.”
Chris Davis, an SBC pastor in Virginia, called the ultimatum from Florida Baptists “misplaced outrage.” On April 4, he tweeted: “As one of many young men who experienced the sexual predation of Paul Pressler I find it disingenuous that many of the same Florida Baptist leaders who still speak approvingly of Pressler want to cut ties with Guidepost because of their LGBT support.”