The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) voted on September 20 to add a sexual abuse awareness day — “Caring Well Sunday,” to the SBC Calendar of Activities. The calendar addition is a result of a motion by Keith Myer, who serves as the pastor of
Harvest Baptist Church of Salisbury, and as interim director of the Eastern Baptist Association. Additionally, Myer is a member of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Sexual Abuse Task Force.
During the June 2022 Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California, Myer moved that a day be added to the SBC Calendar to raise awareness of “abuse of any kind.”
Myer is thankful the motion was carried forward and acted upon. He shares his vision for bringing forth the “Caring Well Sunday” motion:
“In Anaheim, I asked that ‘a day be added to the SBC annual calendar of events dedicated to raising awareness regarding the effects of and prevention of abuse, including sexual, physical, and spiritual abuse, that we might pray and work to eliminate all forms of abuse from our churches.’
“As a young pastor, I was unprepared to minister to people who had been traumatized. Through the years, I’ve had to educate leaders in churches who believed that protecting the vulnerable was important, but they struggled to understand the effects of abuse or why a church needed a consistent protection policy. Some churches scoff at the expense, effort, or demands of training and simply refuse to take any steps at all. Some pastors know they need to do something, but they don’t know what to do.
“Wade Mullen, in his book, “Something’s Not Right,” points out that if we want to disrupt the intentions of abusers, we must learn to decode abusive behavior (p.4) by learning the language and tactics of abuse. To effectively address the problem of abuse in our churches, we must be willing to name it and then educate people on how abuse works while encouraging strategies that limit opportunities for individuals to harm others for their own purposes (p.2). As many have stated, background checks are important but have limited effectiveness — church leaders and members must be aware of the tactics used to coerce, manipulate, or overcome the defenses of the vulnerable.
“The abuse problem is not limited to the SBC or churches. We’ve seen this at every level of society and in every institution. Abuse can manifest in the home, church, or workplace. It can affect minors, adults, the elderly, and the special needs community, and it affects both men and women
“When I proposed ‘Abuse Awareness & Prevention Sunday,’ I envision the convention using that day to educate both leaders and the people in our pews about the dynamics of abuse, the effects of trauma, how abusers cultivate their victims, and proper responses to disclosures. I believe it is important that we educate believers to become advocates for those suffering harm and become agents of healing and transformation in every place that we work and worship.
“I envision working with our agencies to provide sufficient educational resources — videos, posters, bulletin inserts, a bibliography of helpful reading, and any other tools that can help to promote awareness and prevention of abuse in our churches, homes, and workplaces.
“While skepticism always runs high on Twitter, I believe in the messengers and our national and state convention leaders. I believe in our associational and church leaders. When made aware, our people care deeply about abuse prevention. What they need are education and resourcing.
“It is true that we want to see an end to sexual abuse and coverup in our churches, but this is insufficient. I believe that we want to see ethical, godly, christ-exalting, compassionate shepherding in our churches as we become sources of hope and life for those in our communities who have suffered at the hands of others.”
One of those Southern Baptist entities expected to develop resources for Caring Well Sunday is the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which has been active for the last four years in helping the convention and its churches attempt to combat sexual abuse. In a Baptist Press (BP) article by Tom Strode, ERLC’s newly elected president, Brent Leatherwood, in written comments for BP said, “The church should be known as a place that epitomizes the phrase ‘caring well,’ and our hope is that churches across our convention will recognize and participate in Caring Well Sunday.
“So many of our congregations have taken proactive steps to prevent abuse and to care for survivors through initiatives like the Caring Well Challenge that taking a day to recognize and participate in this vital work only furthers the culture of care our churches are already establishing,” he said.
The dates for the emphasis in future years after 2023 are Sept. 29, 2024; Sept. 28, 2025; Sept. 27, 2026; and Sept. 26, 2027.
(feature photo: Adobe Images)