Dear church family,
As your interim pastor I want to make you aware of a major development in the Southern Baptist Convention. Like others, I knew that the report commissioned by the Executive Committee (EC) on Sexual Abuse was coming out. I think most of us knew that there were problems that would need to be addressed, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for what was reported. I have been both shocked and angered by some of the things I have now read in the report. The following is a summary of my thoughts over the last week as I have discussed it with several others and as I have tried to process the information.
As a point of information, the following is a brief description of the EC. The Southern Baptist Convention only meets for two days each year. During the rest of the year, the EC handles all the administrative and fiduciary duties for the convention. This group is made up of three parts. One part is a body of representatives from each state. These members are called the EC Board of Trustees. They meet as a body three times each year and some of the standing committees within this larger group meet additional times to carry on the work of the SBC throughout the year. The second part of the EC is made up of executive staff. The executive staff consist of the President/CEO and various Vice Presidents that make up his cabinet. The most recent president was Ronnie Floyd. The third part is made up of professional staff that cover a wide range of duties under the executive staff, such as receiving and distributing monies given by Southern Baptists and that are used to support denominational ministries. They also perform other task such as planning/organizing the annual SBC meeting, public relations and news services, staff accountants, technical services, and ministry assistants associated with the various ministry areas. The investigation was tasked with looking into all areas of the EC.
In June of 2021 the Southern Baptist Convention called for a complete investigation into allegations of sexual abuse, and the mishandling of reports submitted by survivors to the EC. In order to complete the task, messengers at the SBC voted to form a task force, the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF), and ultimately Guidepost Solutions was commissioned to conduct a thorough investigation. Guidepost Solutions completed their report and it was released last Sunday afternoon. The report was 288 pages long and it revealed shocking information about sexual abuse as well as the failure of the EC to properly handle reports by survivors or to minister to the survivors. The report also highlighted the failure of SBC leadership to take responsibility for failures or to put adequate measured into practice in order to prevent future abuse.
I believe that our first response as a convention of churches must be to repent of our failures and respond properly to the survivors of the abuse. No acceptable excuse can relieve us of our responsibility to care for the abused or to protect others from abuse in the future. We must ask God for His forgiveness, own up to our failures, and ask the survivors for their forgiveness.
The SBC is taking the first step in this process right now. It is under new leadership and that leadership is committed to admitting past failures, seeking God’s forgiveness, apologizing to and working to minister to survivors, as well as changing our policies and procedures to prevent future abuse. This is a monumental task. Some steps must be taken immediately while others will take time. Regardless of the time it will take, we must be diligent to complete the tasks. As a part of the first step, the SBC has already made a public apology. Dr. McLaurin, current Interim President of the EC, and others in SBC leadership did so almost immediately. The report had also spoken of a list of known offenders that past SBC leadership had created over a period of years. The list had been provided to Guidepost Solutions on 2/28/2022, as a part of its investigation. Following the release of the report Dr. McLaurin promised to release the list as quickly as possible and he went on to state that the EC expected to release it by the 26th of May. True to its word, the EC was able to release the list to the public in the evening on 5/26/2022. The EC has also stated that these actions are only the beginning of the process. Their promise is that much more will be done to right this wrong.
I believe that the steps that will be taken by the SBC in the coming days are critical because they will impact the SBC’s ability to serve member churches as well as the support it will receive from those churches. These steps will also demonstrate the truthfulness of the SBC’s repentance, its resolve to care for survivors, and they will protect others from future abuse.
All of this brings us to a very important question. How should this news and these actions effect the relationship between Calvary Baptist Church (CBC) and the SBC? I still believe that the SBC is the best way for the local church to impact the world with the gospel. But I think that you, the members of CBC will agree that in order to continue that partnership, the problems brought to light by the SATF report must be fixed. As I stated above, I believe the process is off to a good start. But much more needs to be done.
There has already been a major change in the leadership and our annual meeting is scheduled for June 14th and 15th. The messengers made their voices clear last year in starting the process. Based on the action taken in June we will get a clear indication of what the SBC will do in the future. I think that CBC needs to watch and note how the SBC handles the report leading up to, during, and immediately following the SBC annual meeting. Early indications are that the SBC, including its leadership and member churches, is serious about rooting out the problem and protecting against such failures in the future. I do not believe that the messengers will accept simple virtue signaling. They will demand commitment with action. CBC must not ever tolerate sexual abuse and it must protect against sexual abuse in the future. If the SBC is going to serve CBC it must do the same.
Finally, I want you to know that I am here and I am committed to walking with you at CBC as you seek to understand what this all means for your future with the SBC.
Randy Williams, Interim Pastor CBC