“Right now, you’re way over here,” attorney Kimberlee Norris said in Dallas, swinging her arm to one side. “You think there’s a pedophile under every rock.” The alternative, Norris said, swinging her arm to the other side, is to stay unaware and unprepared for the potential for sexual abuse in churches and ministries.
In a couple of weeks, she promised Caring Well attenders, you’ll be back in the middle, neither paranoid nor naïve, but ready to act.
“I want you to take reasonable steps to address a known risk.”
Norris’s words were a balm after two days of horrific stories of abuse, and warnings about how easy it is for predators to gain footing in churches. Even though the cofounder of MinistrySafe had just spent two hours describing danger signs and safer screening processes, she boiled her presentation down to one takeaway for rattled, sobered parents and ministry leaders: take a step.
Or, as she put it in another session, “Don’t do nothing.”
Judging from what was shared at Caring Well and since the conference, Southern Baptists are far from consensus on how to move forward from here. There is much hurt and anger over how allegations were handled in the past, and now. On the other hand, some may be skeptical that abuse is indeed
epidemic, or that churches are as vulnerable as experts say they are.
The numbers, though, are hard to ignore. It’s estimated that 20% of people are sexually abused before they turn 18. A larger percentage experience sexual violence involving physical contact at some in their lives, according to statistics in the report released by the SBC’s sexual abuse study group.
Shepherding was a major theme at Caring Well—Jesus’ call to pastors to lead precious sheep, to care for them, protect them, and love them well. SBC President J.D. Greear noted that the New Testament shepherd in charge of a hundred sheep leaves 99 of them to go in search of the one who’s lost.
Norris’s words weren’t merely soothing amid so much devastating information. They were actionable. When you leave here, take one step toward making children safer at your church. Create an application for ministry volunteers. Institute an interview process. Don’t do nothing.
If it helps one person, it’s a step worth taking.