Home Christian News SBC Task Force Believes Database Helped Expose Sexual Abuser Before Its Launch

SBC Task Force Believes Database Helped Expose Sexual Abuser Before Its Launch

ARITF
SBC's Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (L-R) Mike Keahbone, Marshall Blalock, Rachael Denhollendar, and Dr. Heather Evans. Photo credit: Jesse T. Jackson

Earlier this week, nearly 19,000 people converged in New Orleans, Louisiana, over the course of two days for their annual meeting. 12,737 of those in attendance were representatives, called messengers, from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches across the country—a considerable increase from last year’s annual meeting in Anaheim, California, which only reported 8,133 messengers.

During the meeting on Wednesday, which was led by SBC president Bart Barber (who is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas) the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) was given another year to carry out the mandates of SBC messengers in the regard to fighting sexual abuse within SBC churches.

An overwhelming majority of messengers raised their yellow ballots to recommit the denomination to the course of action set last year in Anaheim.

ARITF chairman Marshall Blalock and vice chairman Mike Keahbone, alongside task force advisors Rachael Denhollendar and Dr. Heather Evans, held a press conference after the chairman presented the task force’s report to the messengers.

“This was a historic day,” an emotional Blalock said during his opening remarks. “For many years, it was said that Southern Baptists couldn’t produce a database—couldn’t do what Southern Baptists have done today. So,” he paused, “today is an important day.”

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Blalock commended those who have worked to get the denomination to the place it is today. “But no one has given what many survivors of sex abuse have given,” Blalock said, acknowledging the sexual abuse survivors in the room, who included Tiffany Thigpen and Jules Woodson.

“Our hearts are united to do all we can, by God’s grace [and] God’s mercy, to bless and to care, but also to act on behalf of survivors to keep this from happening again,” Blalock said.

Blalock stressed how complicated the role of the ARITF is because the SBC is a voluntary association of independent churches. “But today, what you saw was thousands of Baptist folks from around this country” affirm the work the task force and express their desire for it to continue. Blalock said, “Let’s keep going.”

The sbcabuseprevention.com website was designed to help churches respond to and prevent abuse by providing best practices.

The database is a work in progress and is currently populated with “dummy names,” Blalock informed. The reasoning for that is “because we are in the process of doing what Baptists expected us to do,” Blalock explained. “And that is to carefully vet every single name, including those names that were put on the website last year, who were apparently convictions in court.”

“We have to make sure, so we’re going back through now to make sure every name has been vetted carefully because we can’t afford to have a mistake on there,” Blalock said. “But they’re going on there.”