Updated with additional state convention statements June 10, 2022|
A Twitter post by Guidepost Solutions in support of LGBTQ+ causes brought controversy among Southern Baptists as well as discussion on the merits of a working relationship between a secular company and faith-based institution.
On June 6 the Guidepost Global account tweeted its commitment “to strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion” as an organization that welcomes employees to “bring their authentic selves to work.” It further positioned the company as “an ally to our LGBTQ+ community” accompanied by the image of a rainbow flag.
Guidepost Solutions was contracted by the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) last year to investigate allegations that SBC Executive Committee leadership mishandled sexual abuse claims during a 20-year span. The group delivered a 288-page report on May 22 that included correspondence among EC leadership disregarding or stonewalling sexual abuse advocates. The report also revealed new allegations of sexual abuse, such as in the case of longtime Southern Baptist pastor and leader Johnny Hunt.
Critics, including Southern Baptists, cited a disconnect between the positions held by Guidepost regarding LGBTQ+ causes and that of the SBC, which has historically adhered to a biblical account of sexuality and marriage as between one man and one woman. That criticism extended to the act of funding such a group.
A June 7 article from the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, released a statement Tennessee Baptists, that said he “shares the concerns of countless other Southern Baptists” regarding the Guidepost Solutions tweet.
“I firmly believe those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community have value and worth, especially to our Lord,” he continued. “However, that is a completely separate thought from hiring a firm to investigate the issue of sexual abuse. I do not believe the Southern Baptist Convention should be connected in any fiduciary way to any organization that is consulting with us on such an important topic yet does not share our biblical perspective of human sexuality.”
At the conclusion of his statement Davis said he “respectfully ask[ed] all SBC entities receiving Cooperative Program funding to immediately break ties with Guidepost Solutions.” Read the article and entire statement.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) announced June 8 it cut ties with Guidepost Solutions. According to Kentucky Today, the Kentucky SATF had been working with Guidepost to prepare a resource for Kentucky Baptist churches on sexual abuse prevention, response, and care.
KBC President Harold Best said the relationship with Guidepost Solutions could not continue considering Kentucky Baptists’ biblical stand on sexuality and gender.
“Realizing that Guidepost’s priorities are not aligned with the values of Kentucky Baptists, it was necessary and appropriate to sever our relationship with them,” said Best. “However, the work of the KBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force will go forth with the same urgency.”
The net payment to Guidepost has come to $1,948,121 through April, according to the EC’s Convention Finance office. That amount reflects a $1,157,032 professional courtesy discount.
In preparation for the SATF recommendations to be voted on by messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting next week in Anaheim, EC trustees voted June 2 to clear up to $5 million of any overage in the 2021-22 budget to go toward the initial funding of sexual abuse reforms. A second recommendation would allocate $4 million in the 2022-23 budget for the continuation of those reforms.
It’s important to note that Guidepost itself will not be presenting the recommendations before messengers in Anaheim, said SATF chair Bruce Frank.
“The recommendations put out last week are from the SATF,” Frank told Baptist Press. “Guidepost provided a very valuable service, but the requests are from the Task Force.”
More information, including Scripture, can be found on the Task Force’s FAQ page, he said. The SATF recommendations based on Guidepost’s report are scheduled to be presented at 1:45 on Tuesday, June 14.
“Slight revisions” are being made to the recommendations before they are brought before the SBC next week, Frank said.
Task Force vice-chair Marshall Blalock called the controversy “an excuse not to deal with sexual abuse and mistreatment of survivors within the SBC.”
“Guidepost is a multinational secular company that specializes in corporate investigations,” he said. “They are not a Christian company although they routinely work for Christian organizations. The SATF chose them for their expertise and capacity to complete the investigation in time.
“We would have preferred to choose a Christian company, but no other firm had the capacity to do this work. We published [a request for proposal] open to all, but other companies pulled their proposals when the scope and time constraints were presented.”
Blalock added that Guidepost assigned Christians, most of them Baptists, to lead the investigation.
“They operated with integrity, they respected our faith and values, they even ate a significant amount of the cost because they wanted to help us discover the truth and assist us to be more Christlike in how we respond to sexual abuse,” he said.
Guidepost Solutions also led the investigation and chronicled the sexual abuse committed by evangelist Ravi Zacharias. And it was secured by the EC in June 2021 to conduct an independent review of the EC’s handling of sexual abuse cases. That move was rendered moot less than a week later when messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting moved to form a task force to oversee a third-party investigation of the EC. Guidepost stands by its ability to conduct fair investigations regardless of cultural positioning.
“Guidepost Solutions is a secular organization with over 200 employees,” spokesperson Montieth M. Illingworth told Baptist Press. “Our integrity is not in any manner compromised by the recognition of LGBTQ+ month. We have worked closely with numerous faith-based communities who have been deeply grateful for the work we have done to support their missions and to help advance their ability to live their beliefs and values. We believe our anti-discrimination position only strengthens our ability to conduct independent, fair and bias free investigations like our SBC investigation.
“Moreover, our work for faith-based organizations seeks to be consistent with faith principles and practices. In the Guidepost Solutions SBC EC report, we consulted with four Baptist polity experts to ensure that our recommendations were consistent with Baptist polity and practice.”
The Guidepost report’s findings are not diminished in light of its professional relationships, said EC interim president and CEO Willie McLaurin.
“Southern Baptists will undoubtedly have strong opinions about Guidepost’s support of LGBTQ+ advocacy,” he said. “Marketplace companies like Guidepost support many issues, which is nothing new in secular organizations.”
Southern Baptists were represented in the process through SBC President Ed Litton’s formation of the Sexual Abuse Task Force that ultimately contracted with Guidepost, McLaurin said.
“Southern Baptists should trust that the SATF engaged Guidepost Solutions with the highest level of confidence to complete the investigation and provide a reliable report,” he said.
On Twitter, Frank pointed out that Guidepost’s investigatory role had concluded though it will continue to provide a hotline resource for survivors. He acknowledged that though “many Christ-followers [are] working there, contracts will now need to be evaluated.”
– Baptist Press, with additional reporting from the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Kentucky Today