Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear announced July 26 he will appoint a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group to advise him on issues related to sexual abuse and assault.
The announcement followed months of discussion in the Southern Baptist Convention about how SBC entities and churches are handling allegations and instances of abuse.
“How we as a convention of churches care for abuse victims and protect against vile predators says something about what we believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. “Our churches should be a refuge for the hurting and a safe haven for the oppressed.”
Greear is partnering with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to create the study group, whose members will be announced at a later date, Baptist Press reported. The team will include outside experts, SBC leaders, and local church pastors, according to Greear’s office.
“Over the next year, I look forward to hearing from this group and partnering with our
churches, state conventions, local associations, seminaries, and national entities to determine what we can do to equip churches to minister effectively and stand guard against any who would seek to prey on the vulnerable,” Greear said.
In June, messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting in Dallas approved a resolution condemning abuse and encouraging leaders in churches and entities “to be faithful examples, through their words and actions, and to speak against the sin of all forms of abuse.”
Also in Dallas, two motions related to abuse were referred to the ERLC. One urged the creation of a task force to address issues related to abuse and recommend best practices for ministering to victims; the other motion asked the ERLC to study resources that will help churches protect themselves from sexual predators.
Southern Baptists have been living what Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler called the denomination’s “horrifying #MeToo moment” since comments about domestic abuse by former Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson resurfaced earlier this year. Patterson, who was terminated by his trustee executive committee prior to the annual meeting in Dallas, also allegedly failed to report allegations of sexual assault while serving as president of Southeastern Seminary.
In July, former International Mission Board missionary Mark Aderholt was arrested in Texas and charged with sexual assault of a minor under the age of 17, charges which stem from alleged incidents in 1997. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported the IMB investigated charges against Aderholt in 2007, and did not report the allegations to authorities (see story at right).
“Sexual assault and sexual abuse are Satanic to the core, and churches should be the ones leading the way when it comes to protecting the vulnerable from predators,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. “Thankfully, every Southern Baptist pastor I know cares deeply about these issues. We as a denomination, though, owe it to our pastors and churches to come together and provide the very best resources and recommendations possible to address this crisis.
“That’s exactly what an advisory council like this is able to do, and I am eager to work alongside this group in any way possible to serve our churches and minister to those in our pews who have suffered abuse.”
-From Baptist Press reports