The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is taking bold new steps to address its alleged mishandling of abuse, and yesterday voted to set up a task force to deal with the issue. At the same time, a leading abuse advocate is raising serious concerns about the firm the SBC Executive Committee has hired to investigate abuse issues—Guidepost Solutions.
In a series of recent tweets, author and seminary professor, Wade Mullen revealed several instances where Guidepost Solutions has not represented the best interests of victims, but instead has protected powerful clients. And as Mullen warned, if an investigation isn’t conducted properly, the result can be worse than the initial situation.
“Churches and ministries in need of independent investigations must take great care when making decisions because their next steps can either bring much needed light, and perhaps healing, or bring more darkness, and worsen the suffering,” Mullen tweeted.
It has not yet been determined whether the SBC’s new task force will take over the Executive Committee’s investigation headed by Guidepost Solutions, or will set up a separate review, potentially with another company.
Ostensibly, the SBC investigation(s) will be designed to listen to the voices of victims, who allegedly have been silenced or minimized by SBC leaders. And well-respected abuse advocate Rachel Denhollander has called Guidepost Solutions a “highly qualified firm” that is capable of reviewing the Executive Committee’s actions and advising SBC leaders.
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Yet Mullen noted that Guidepost Solutions has historically served wealthy individuals and corporations.
They have historically served wealthy individuals and corporations. Here's an interview where one of their leaders discusses how they address "delicate matters" like abuse allegations.https://t.co/SypgzmtzIr
— Wade Mullen (@wademullen) June 14, 2021
Guidepost also advertises itself as tackling private investigations “with the objective of providing the information required to . . . solve problems and protect assets.”
In a 2014 interview with Private Wealth magazine, a Guidepost executive described its “private client protection program” as a combination of investigation, risk mitigation and crisis management “tailored to the needs of high-net-worth and high-profile” individuals or offices. The executive, then-CEO Andrew O’Connell, said Guidepost’s clients are often “already in crisis mode and they just want their problem to go away.”
O’Connell added: “We’re very good at making the problems go away with the least amount of repercussions for the client.”
One of Guidepost’s highest-profile clients is former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Strauss-Kahn was initially charged in New York with multiple charges, including attempted rape, after a hotel maid said he had sexually assaulted her.
In 2011, Strauss-Kahn hired Guidepost to probe the background of the hotel maid.
According to O’Connell, the charges against Strauss-Kahn were dropped, “(b)ased in part on the evidence Guidepost gathered.” The case was settled out of court, but the hotel maid told a French magazine she felt “tricked and betrayed” afterward.
Strauss-Kahn was later accused by a New York journalist of attempted rape in a case prosecutors dropped. He also has been charged and acquitted of allegations he was involved with a prostitution ring.
Guidepost’s connection with the former IMF head “is a major problem,” tweeted Boz Tchividjian, founder of G.R.A.C.E., Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, and a lawyer specializing in defending sexual abuse victims.
This is a major problem if this is the same Guidepost Solutions hired by the @SBCExecComm to conduct an “independent review” of their responses to sexual abuse disclosures. https://t.co/zdjkWojjJl
— Boz Tchividjian (@BozT) June 14, 2021
Guidepost Solutions also was the firm to which convicted rapist, Harvey Weinstein, turned in 2020 to investigate people Weinstein thought were talking to media about his sexual conduct with women.
In his testimony at Weinstein’s trial, Sam Anson, an investigator for Guidepost Solutions, confirmed that Weinstein had called him seeking an investigation. Anson said he had also received an email directly from Weinstein that included specific actions Weinstein wanted Anson to take.
The email reportedly included a list of names, including Annabella Sciorra, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of rape. Anson said that in the email, Weinstein advised Anson, “The red flags are the first to call,” with Sciorra’s name in red.
Anson said he didn’t proceed with the investigation “because he didn’t receive instructions to do so.”
Also concerning are allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Guidepost Solutions’ founder, Bart Schwartz, has engaged in misconduct.
In 2017, the SEC accused Schwartz of failing to disclose a conflict of interest when acting as a court-appointed receiver in a case involving a hedge fund called Platinum Management. As receiver, Schwartz was responsible to disperse what was left of Platinum’s funds to victimized investors.
According to The City, the SEC discovered after Schwartz had been appointed receiver that Schwartz had previously been hired by a law firm, Milberg Weiss, to defend a $6.5 million loan Platinum had made to the firm. This meant Milberg Weiss was a significant debtor in the Platinum case. Yet Schwartz reportedly never disclosed the conflict of interest.
The City also reported that the SEC accused Schwartz of racking up bills. According to a June 2017 filing with the court, the receivership had run up $26.2 million in “operational expenses” from what had started as a $609 million fund.
In addition to hiring outside law firms and accountants, Schwartz also reportedly brought in eight other lawyers and staff from Guidepost Solutions and asked that his requests for fees be kept under seal. (According to a 2011 article in Macleans, Guidepost Solutions normally charges about $700 an hour per investigator.)
Schwartz disputed the allegations by the SEC, but eventually withdrew as a receiver “to assist in an orderly transition.”
Guidepost’s investigation of Loritts raises more red flags
Guidepost Solutions also was the firm hired by the Summit Church, following allegations the church’s executive pastor, Bryan Loritts, had covered up sex crimes at a former church.
Guidepost’s investigation failed to answer key questions about the case like what happened to the phone containing evidence that Loritts’ brother-in-law had secretly recorded women, and potentially minors, in bathrooms.
Loritts first claimed he gave the phone to elders at his church, Fellowship Memphis. But he later changed his story and said he gave the phone to a Fellowship Memphis pastor. That pastor, Bill Garner, refused to participate in Guidepost’s investigation and no one has taken responsibility for the missing phone.
In addition, a victim of Loritts’ brother-in-law and Greg Selby, a former insider at Fellowship Memphis, told Guidepost that Loritts and other pastors engaged in a cover-up.
Yet in its report, Guidepost Solutions effectively exonerated Loritts, stating, “Through our interviews, reviews of documents and reviews of communications, we found no convincing evidence that Loritts was involved in a cover up.”
When Guidepost’s report published, Selby told The Roys Report that he believed Guidepost found only what they were looking for.
“They had a very narrow scope of what they were interested in,” Selby said of the investigators he spoke with. “I don’t think they were trying.”
He added that investigators told him weeks before the investigation concluded that “nobody was going to be happy with this report” and that the firm wouldn’t find any conclusive evidence.
“So, I felt like it was a foregone conclusion,” Selby said.
Another Christian organization that has recently hired Guidepost Solutions is Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).
After Miller & Martin delivered its devastating report, showing not only that Ravi Zacharias had abused multiple women, but that RZIM leaders had silenced whistleblowers, RZIM announced that Guideposts would “conduct a thorough evaluation of RZIM.”
That was in February. To date, there have been no updates on Guidepost’s investigation. RZIM also has been unwilling to state whether Guidepost’s report, once complete, will be made public.
Sarah Einselen contributed to this report.
18 thoughts on “Red Flags Surface About Firm Hired to Investigate SBC’s Handling of Abuse”
This is a very important post. It raises questions, especially whether victims will get a fair shake from this group.
Since these are issues of sexual abuse which are criminal offenses, why aren’t the police being called to investigate?
The current investigation concerns how SBC leaders handled abuse allegations, not necessarily the actual abuse allegations themselves.
Julie, thanks for explaining this, as I had the same question as Mr. van Halteren. Let’s hope that any investigation includes mention of whether SBC leaders and/or churches promptly alerted law enforcement after allegations were made. If cases involve minors, failure to notify police is itself a violation of the law in those American states where schools, counselors, houses of worship, and other organizations are mandated to report suspicions of child abuse.
A corrupt organization investigating a corrupt organization. God’s judgement is indeed starting, although the SBC can hardly be called the house of the Lord. Just more “American Christianity”.
As a member of an SBC church, this deeply concerns me. Does anyone have a reputable organization that they’ve used in the past? I like G.R.A.C.E, but for reasons I’d like to not debate in public forum, I’d like to have a few other options in my files. I’d appreciate any suggestions.
is anything ever good enough for you people? Wade, Boz and Julie will never be satisfied no matter what people do, just constantly moving the target, never actually recognizing progress, even if small.
I can understand the frustration. I feel it myself. But I’m curious… When you hire a contractor to work on your house, do you check reviews and references? If you discover that a contractor has 1- and 2-star reviews, and some say he’s actually damaged their home and run up their bill, would you still hire him? To say we should just be satisfied regardless is really short-sighted. As Wade noted, if the investigation is done poorly, the end result can be worse the initial situation.
The point is that there’s still time to get a new investigator. The new task force can commission a separate investigation with a different firm. I hope and pray they read this and take it to heart.
I think your example has merit, but I feel like in what started in the church culture as a desire to give a larger voice the “1 and 2 star reviews” for the sake of protection against people using power for evil, has morphed into the equal and opposite error. Now the “1 and 2 star reviews” are the only voice that matters and no one who has any of those review on their behalf can do anything. That’s where I think the moving target is, there is no clear path for people who have gotten “bad reviews”, legitimately or not, to actually do anything for God. I think there is an aspect of what you do thats needed, but I’m afraid that this entire blog has just become an outlet for Christian Cancel Culture.
Jon, I am wondering if you are an SBC pastor with a Masters Degree from Southern Seminary? If so, you can and should do better.
I’m not a pastor at all. I’m just a regular person trying to keep up with some of the news and I come here to read sometimes. I’m not even defending Guidepost, I just think that a lot of what I read here from the writers and mainly from the comments is just the christian version of cancel culture and I think its really unhealthy and actually damages the church, not reforms it.
Hiring a firm with a history of protecting perpetrators rather than victims says loudly that it is business as usual for SBC leaders. Their goal is to preserve their own power structure, no matter how many of the “least of these” are harmed.
It is incredibly disrespectful to the >70% of SBC messengers who overruled the SBC Executive Committee and demanded that the sexual abuse scandals be investigated.
I really don’t think the intent of these churches and members was to “deal with the sexual abuse scandal like Dominique Strauss-Kahn did.” Guidepost Solutions should not be leading this investigation.
It’s probably just me seeing a picture of Bart Schwartz for the first time, but he instantly reminds me of the character played by Wilford Brimley in the movie “The Firm.” The character’s name was Bill DeVasher and he was the corrupt law firm’s chief of security and “problem” solver (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, if you know what I mean). Looks don’t always correlate with character, but this similarity is uncanny.
yes, that’s it! I couldn’t place it, but yes. the hitler mustache was off-putting, but yes, Wilford Brimley’s character in The Firm is exactly who I was trying to remember.
On June 11, 2021 Rachael Denhollander Tweeted:
“Guidepost is a highly skilled and qualified firm and I have confidence in their ability to do what the SBC needs. HOWEVER, the ability to do what they are capable of will depend on the EC letting them do their job.”
Additionally, in another Tweet on the same date Rachael Denhollander stated:
“Guidepost is a truly independent, international firm that specializes in policy and cultural analysis and ethical compliance, with leaders that have a strong background in religious dynamics. I’ve been aware of their work for several years and been very pleased.”
Rachael is a well respected advocate for those who have been sexually abused. I am wondering if, in light of what Wade Mullen has revealed about Guidepost Solutions, she still stands by her endorsement?
Thank you, Mr. Wilhelm. I have the same concerns. You express your point with admirable restraint, and allow for the possibility that Rachael Denhollander has simply been underinformed. I hope that’s all it is. But if not, and if she still stands by her endorsement, then the time has come for earnest confrontation and a parting of ways. Something is seriously, seriously wrong here. It is not possible to read carefully every word of this article and still trust Guidepost Solutions. (The interview under the link “Delicate Matters” is jaw-dropping! I wish everyone would read it. These men are evil. Their own words condemn them. How can anyone not see that?) Let’s hope that Denhollander rescinds her endorsement immediately. If she does not, then I would urge those who are involved in these matters not to consult her any more, because while there’s no denying the great good she has accomplished in the past, her judgment now has become woefully suspect and compromised.
I have read this piece a few times through and am unable to find the link you’re referring to with the interview with the words, “Delicate Matters”. Am I missing it, or has it been removed?
I’d very much like to read this interview.
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