BCM/D Executive Director Michael Crawford and Kris Buckman, who serves on the BCM/D’s Sexual Abuse Taskforce, shared an update from the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, primarily focusing on the issues regarding sexual abuse. Click here to watch the broadcast!
Sharing overall highlights of the meeting, Crawford referred to Cooperative partnership, with CP funds supporting IMB missionaries; $11 million dollars given to SEND Relief for Ukraine relief; 9,000 churches planted over the last decade; the ERLC efforts regarding Roe vs.Wade; and standing with victims of sexual abuse and clarifying that position through the approval of recommendations.
Buckman asked Crawford about the overall feel of the meeting, especially considering it was highly anticipated. There was a lot of talk leading up to it, and emotions were expected to be running high.
Crawford said, “It was great. There’s nothing like being in a room full of thousands of people.” Obviously, he said, the SBC has great challenges ahead. “If you go off of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you would expect everyone to be morose,” Crawford said, but it wasn’t like that. “The tales of our demise are greatly exaggerated. There was worship, there was joy. There was clapping. On the issue of standing with victims of sexual abuse, there were standing ovations. It was cool and very exciting. I was really impressed.”
Buckman asked if the vibe changed when members were asked to vote on the sexual abuse resolutions.
“No, there was a great resolve to get the work done and move forward,” Crawford answered. He said there were debates, amendments, and objections, but they weren’t against protecting the vulnerable, just the way we went about it. Crawford said, “The SBC Annual Meeting messengers were resolved to take steps forward in the right direction. That was clear, and nothing was going to stop that.”
Crawford asked Buckman to provide clarity concerning the details and fine points regarding the Sexual Abuse Task Force recommendations. Buckman detailed the two recommendations that were passed by the messengers. Complete wording can be found on the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force Website.
Buckman clarified that Cooperative Program dollars would not be used to fund these recommendations the first year. Instead, $4 million will come from Send Relief, with $1 million designated for survivor care and $3 million designated toward the creation of a Ministry Check site, new staff or independent contractors to help with survivor care and church assistance, CC’s use of an independent firm to conduct inquiries for factual findings, and grants for churches to get independent inquires.
Buckman also shared 5 challenges for state conventions from the national SATF and how BCM/D’s task force is addressing those challenges:
- Consider hiring a designated trauma-informed trained staff person or an independent contractor to receive calls regarding allegations and provide initial guidance to both survivors and churches, and assist submitters in filing an allegation report. Buckman said, “Our task force has discussed the possibility of working with other local states to ‘share’ a staff person for this.”
- Add questions to ACP (Annual Church Profile) regarding background checks and sexual abuse training. Our state is currently calling every church asking general ‘health‘ questions under the direction of the new executive director. Among those questions are those relating to background checks and abuse prevention measures.
- Maintain a list of professional, Christian, trauma-informed counselors in our state for churches who choose to voluntarily seek assistance in ministering to survivors. Dr. Bergina Isbell (BCM/D task force member and a Christian trauma-informed counselor) has already compiled a list, not only for our two-state convention but for nearly all 50 states, of Christian trauma-informed counselors. We are sharing that with all state conventions.
- Establish a self-certification program for churches, including best practices in survivor care, hiring, investigatory protocol, and prevention training. We are in discussions regarding training entities and resources, as well as amending our bylaws regarding what constitutes a church in good standing regarding protecting the vulnerable.
- Provide abuse prevention and survivor care to denominational workers and background checks as part of orientation and selection of new hires. Pathways events encourage churches to implement higher standards of vetting employees and volunteers, including but not limited to prevention training and background checks. We also are offering to assist churches financially in making this happen.
Crawford shared he is proud of BCM/D’s task force. He asked Buckman if a pastor is watching this and thinks, ‘I don’t know if we have what we need?’ How should they contact the task force or BCM/D to get equipped and trained?
Buckman said regarding the national task force, sataskforce.net is a great place to get more information. In Maryland/Delaware, the BCM/D is open to phone calls for assistance. Also, she said, a dedicated web page is being developed that will have resources for survivors, families, and churches, including sample documents and links to organizations for training, background checks, and discounted services. Buckman said the task force is also available to present a condensed Pathways event to provide training to churches in protecting the vulnerable.
Online questions included the following:
Question: I personally know of cases where persons have been falsely accused of sexual abuse and later proven innocent. Is there a safeguard to keep people’s names off this list until there is proof of guilt?
Buckman said she too has some concerns but was reassured after more research. After looking into it, she said, there are several layers to get on the list — either a conviction in court, a civil judgment, a confession in a nonprivileged setting, or an inquiry by a third party that has found someone to be, by a preponderance of the evidence (the legal standard), credibly accused. Buckman said Guidepost’s requirement was “credibly accused.” The SBC Task Force increased that to “preponderance of the evidence.” Having these requirements in place will likely eliminate false allegations from making the list. There will be an appeals process for those who feel wrongly accused, and the Ministry Check site will be audited annually. Systems similar to this are already in use by the Catholic church and several sports governing organizations.
Question: When I Google “Southern Baptist sexual abuse issue” I get a raft of lawyers offering their services. How will our mission gifts be kept out of lawyers’ pockets?
Crawford said the national SBC has counsel, and the BCM/D has Jeffrey Agnor (with Davis Agnor, Rapaport, Skalny, LLC ) on retainer. We have no desire to be embroiled in senseless and fiscal irresponsibility in regard to lawsuits. One of the ways we keep ourselves out of that is by having the good counsel we’ve had for many years with Jeff, who is very wise. It keeps us safe and prudent.
Referring back to sexual abuse, Buckman said in response to third-party inquiries, “This is not in lieu of reporting to the authorities, it’s in addition to. Sexual abuse suspicions and allegations should always be reported to the proper authorities outside the church. It’s not a pastor or church’s job to investigate. The Ministry Check site is simply an additional tool for churches to provide another layer of protection in vetting employees and volunteers.”
In closing, Buckman said if there are any questions to call. “We are more than happy to share what we’ve been learning. It’s a learning process for us all.”
Crawford encouraged listeners to show up at annual meetings and at local meetings and participate in local opportunities and challenges.