By Sharon Mager
BALTIMORE, MD—In light of a recent report by the Houston Chronicle documenting sexual abuse within some of the 47,544 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches, a local Baptist association with 83 churches, has taken a bold step forward to help their churches be proactive in protecting children.
The Baltimore Baptist Association (BBA) leadership team unanimously approved $25,000 to provide free criminal and sex offender background checks for each one of its member institutions. In addition to this financial measure, the BBA is assisting member churches with updating their child safety policies and procedures and reinforcing a zero-tolerance policy
regarding mandatory reporting of suspected sexual misconduct. Should a church be unwilling to adhere to background checks for all leadership and childcare personnel, the leadership team will take actions necessary to remove the church from BBA membership.
The Houston Chronicle reports: “In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct…” This conduct brought harm to over 700 people, most of whom were children at the time of the crime.
The BBA leadership team believes that victims must be heard, potential crimes must be reported, and offenders must not be in a position to harm again. Tally Wilgis, the pastor of Captivate Church, Baltimore, and Executive Director of the BBA, says that the commitment of $25,000 toward background checks is designed to ensure that there are no obstacles for any affiliated churches to do what is right when it comes to protecting children.
“As we discussed our commitment, there is unanimity among our leadership team. None of us are aware of any member churches where common sense approaches are not currently being undertaken with regard to background checks. However, we want to ensure that no SBC church in Baltimore City or Baltimore County has an excuse remaining for allowing predators in their midst,” Wilgis emphasized. “The abuse of one child is unacceptable.
“Jesus reserved His harshest rebuke for people who would cause pain to children – it involved a millstone necklace and deep water. We pray that our actions today ensure at least 83 safe places where people can come to learn about God’s redemptive love through Christ. God’s love is for everyone and it’s our responsibility to love everyone well, especially the least of these.”