JOIN US MAY 20-21 FOR RESTORE CONFERENCE

Mary
DeMuth

Scot
McKnight

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 1.50.18 PM

Naghmeh
Panahi

Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

SBC Abuse Task Force Plans New Nonprofit To Oversee Abuse Database and Reforms

By Bob Smietana
joshua wester abuse reform task force
North Carolina pastor Joshua Wester, chair of the SBC's Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, with fellow members of the task force, speaking at the SBC Executive Committee's meeting in Nashville, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, announces a new nonprofit that will be tasked with building a database of abusive church pastors and staffers. (RNS photo/Bob Smietana)

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s abuse reform task force announced plans Monday to launch a new, independent nonprofit to host a database of abusive pastors, and to implement other reforms.

They still need the money to run it.

The new nonprofit will oversee a proposed Ministry Check website listing abusive pastors, church employees, and volunteers, which has stalled since a website for the abuse reforms was launched last year. Currently, no names of pastors are included on the website, sbcabuseprevention.com.

Josh Wester, a North Carolina pastor who chairs the SBC’s abuse reform implementation task force, said the new nonprofit, which he called an abuse response commission, will be independent of the SBC’s current structure. He said the job of abuse reform was too big for a task force of volunteers to accomplish on their own. That led to the plan to launch a new organization.

“Given the current legal and financial challenges facing the SBC and the Executive Committee, the formation of a new independent organization is the only viable path that will allow progress toward abuse reform to continue unencumbered and without delay,” Wester told members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee during a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night. “To do this, we have to do this together.”

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George. To donate, click here.

southern baptist convention database reform
Choir members are silhouetted as they get ready for a worship service at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Wester said the Ministry Check website will include the names of Southern Baptists convicted of abuse and those who have had civil judgments against them. The task force has run into legal and financial delays in getting those names published, Wester said in his report.

The commission will also create an expanded “Ministry Toolkit” designed to help churches prevent abuse and to deal with cases of abuse when they happen. That toolkit will give a step-by-step plan for churches to address abuse, members of the task force said at Monday’s meeting. They plan to have video-based training materials for churches available in time for the SBC’s annual meeting.

“We really believe this could be a watershed moment for the SBC,” said task force member Brad Eubank.

During his remarks, Wester recounted the recent history of the SBC’s abuse crisis, including the 2019 “Abuse of Faith” investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio News-Express, a follow-up investigation and report from Guidepost Solutions, and a series of reforms passed in 2022 aimed to help prevent abuse and to care for survivors.

SBC abuse reform Guidepost
Two individuals celebrate the passing of a recommendation from the sexual abuse task force during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim, California, Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Religion News Service)

He said the reforms might lose momentum if Southern Baptists try to move on from the abuse crisis too quickly.

“But after some time passes from these events, we’re tempted to move on,” he said. “We grow fatigued and weary of the issue. In extreme cases, some of us like to pretend like we never really had a problem at all.”

Wester mentioned two recent high-profile cases that show the scope of the problem — the settlement of a lawsuit against legendary SBC leader Paul Pressler, who was accused of decades of alleged abuse, and the recent story of megachurch worship pastor and author Aaron Ivey, who was fired for allegedly exchanging inappropriate texts with men and, in one case, a teenager.

Abuse is not a big church or a small church problem — and not a theology problem, he said.

“It’s heroes from the past like Paul Pressler,” he said. “It’s heroes from the present like Aaron Ivey.”

Wester’s report did not include any plan to permanently fund the new nonprofit. Currently, the task force’s work is being paid for by funds set aside by the SBC’s two mission boards. He did say that Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, plans to ask ERLC’s trustees to contribute to the new group.

He also said SBC president Bart Barber and leaders of the SBC’s national entities have been supportive and he was confident a plan would be in place in time for the SBC’s annual meeting in June.

“We are asking President Barber and other SBC entity leaders to assist the ARITF in securing the financial resources required to launch this new organization,” he said.

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

SHARE THIS:

GET EMAIL UPDATES!

Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore
discussion

2 Responses

  1. That should kick the can down the road for another few years.

    Once the report is finally released they will give it to a committee to study for a year or two and make recommendations.

    Then they will claim that this is all “old news” and “we have changed, so it’s time to move on.”

    1. Chairman of the Task Force seems to agree with you:

      “He said the reforms might lose momentum if Southern Baptists try to move on from the abuse crisis too quickly.

      “But after some time passes from these events, we’re tempted to move on,” he said. “We grow fatigued and weary of the issue. In extreme cases, some of us like to pretend like we never really had a problem at all.”

      So let’s be hopeful this is a serious endeavor

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
 
MOST RECENT Articles
MOST popular articles
en_USEnglish

Donate

Hi. We see this is the third article this month you’ve found worth reading. Great! Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to help our journalists continue to report the truth and restore the church?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George.