Recently, you may have seen announcements and promotions featuring a new initiative called “Pathways: Prevention and Protection” (Pathways). I want to take some time to introduce this new initiative to you and explain how it can help you as a pastor, youth minister, or children’s minister.
During the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) Annual Meeting in November 2021, messengers unanimously supported a sexual abuse survivor resolution. At BCM/D’s General Mission Board meeting on Dec. 7, I presented a motion requesting immediate attention to the resolution by creating an ad hoc committee. This motion was referred to the Administrative Committee and the result of that motion was the creation of an action team.
The members of that task force are:
- Kris Buckman, BCM/D children’s and youth ministry consultant
- Dr. Bergina Isbell, board-certified psychiatrist
- Keith Myer, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church and director of missions for the Eastern Baptist Association
- Brad O’Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer
- Tom Stolle, BCM/D associate executive director
We began the process of ensuring that the requests made by the resolution are faithfully executed and during that process, we developed the Pathways initiative. Our team recognizes that this effort deserves more than a simple report at the upcoming Annual Meeting. We know that the work to protect the vulnerable and prevent sexual abuse within BCM/D churches will demand more than a few meetings. We have a desire to see BCM/D become a national leader among state conventions in how we minister to survivors, equip church leaders, and partner with associations in this God-honoring endeavor.
We chose Pathways as the initiative’s name, because this title communicates that all churches seeking to protect the vulnerable and prevent sexual abuse are on a journey and we never fully arrive at a place where we can stop actively seeking to move forward. It also recognizes that we are a convention of autonomous churches and each church may choose one of many wise pathways to ensure the vulnerable are safe in their local churches. Even the logo developed by our team, with the assistance of Reginald Davis, BCM/D creative director, is designed to communicate that this initiative is the partnership between three separate groups: local churches, associations, and the state convention.
The Pathways initiative will continue to grow and develop over time. Our goal is that 100% of BCM/D-affiliated churches be on a clear pathway to protection and prevention. We realize that the process can feel overwhelming, so our team is working on gathering resources as well as identifying trusted partners to offer assistance. We are also working on identifying ways that we can work together to reduce costs for background checks as well as training. Additionally, we are striving to identify ways to eliminate the costs for background checks for any partner churches that may have difficulty in covering the costs on their own. Over the next few months, we will be developing a webpage with more resources and information to help guide your church on a pathway to address this important issue.
The first Pathways event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Greensboro Baptist Church. You’ll hear from professionals regarding how to develop safety systems for youth and children’s ministries, understand trauma, create cultures of concern, and also have a Q&A time with members of the task force. This is the first of three events that will cover the same material and occur in various locations so as to be accessible to all of our partner churches. We hope you will consider registering for this event as you seek to ensure that your church is on the proper pathway toward protection and prevention.
For more information, visit bcmd.org/pathways.
Brad O’Brien serves as the pastor of JOR and as a member of the BCM/D’s sexual abuse task force.