SBC DIGEST: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina Baptists to review handling of sex abuse cases

Florida Board approves plan to examine sex abuse policies, survivor care

By Barbara Denman/Florida Baptist Convention

LAKELAND, Fla. (BP) – A recommendation to create a special committee “to examine all policies and procedures governing sexual abuse allegation reporting, sexual abuse survivor care and sexual abuse prevention within the Florida Baptist State Convention” was approved by the State Board of Missions during its meeting Monday (Nov. 8) prior to the FBSC meeting in Lakeland.

The action, if adopted by the messengers, authorizes the committee to review policies and procedures of the State Board of Missions, Florida Baptist Children’s HomesLake Yale Baptist Conference CenterThe Baptist College of Florida, and Florida Baptist Financial Services – including any subsidiary organizations of each ministry.

With the approval of the recommendation by messengers attending the FBSC, the newly-elected FBSC president will be directed to appoint a special committee composed of nine individuals — four pastors, four female laypersons — including one who is a sexual abuse survivor, if willing to serve, and the president who will serve as ex-officio voting member of the special committee.

FBSC messengers will consider the recommendation during its Tuesday  (Nov. 9) business session during the state convention meeting.

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Georgia Baptists create special committee to recommend sex abuse prevention measures

By Roger Alford/Christian Index

JONESBORO, Ga. – The Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee has voted to create a Special Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse “to make recommendations for developing programs, best practices, and policy guidelines for preventing sexual abuse.”

“I want to make clear that we as Georgia Baptists have zero tolerance for sexual abuse,” said W. Thomas Hammond, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “While we have done much in the past to train our churches and state entities to create safer environments, there is still more to be done. It’s important for all of us to do our due diligence to ensure that Georgia Baptist churches are safe places for everyone.”

The committee’s action was taken in response to allegations that the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee had mishandled sexual abuse complaints at the national level.

Under the motion approved on Tuesday, the president of the Georgia Baptist Convention will appoint one member from each of the state’s regions to serve on the nine-member special committee.

The three other members will be the convention president, the chairman of the executive committee and, as an ex-officio member, the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. The convention president will chair the special committee.

“The recommendations will be shared with and may be utilized by Georgia Baptist churches, associations, institutions, and entities,” the motion said. “The desired outcome of the committee is to encourage and strengthen ongoing efforts in Georgia Baptist life aimed at preventing sexual abuse.”

Hammond said the recommendations would be utilized by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as well.

Under the motion, the special committee is directed to present its recommendations next November to both the executive committee and messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention, under a timeframe that gives members a year to complete their work.

“This draws an important line in the sand, speaking clearly that Georgia Baptists take this issue very seriously,” said Tommy Fountain Sr., chairman of the Executive Committee and pastor of 1025 Church in Monroe, Ga. “Anyone who crosses that line – whether they be a pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher or anyone else – must be held accountable for their actions.”

Read the full story here.


North Carolina Baptists direct state leaders to review sex abuse policies

By Chad Austin/BSC Communications

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP) – The executive committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s board of directors unanimously approved a motion directing state convention officials to conduct a comprehensive review of existing policies and procedures related to sexual abuse awareness, prevention and response.

The motion, made by state convention president Micheal Pardue, pastor of First Baptist Church Icard in Connelly Springs, N.C., came during the executive committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday (Nov. 8), which was held in conjunction with North Carolina Baptists’ annual meeting at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center.

The motion directs the convention’s Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker to conduct a review of the state convention’s “policies, procedures and materials related to sexual abuse awareness, prevention and reporting.” The review will include all state convention ministry areas, as well as Fruitland Baptist Bible College, Caraway Conference Center and Camp, Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center, and Truett Camp and Conference Conference Center. Fruitland, Caraway, Fort Caswell and Truett are all owned and operated by the state convention.

Under details of the motion, Unzicker will conduct the review in consultation with subject matter experts, abuse survivors and a cross section of North Carolina Baptists, which will include convention and board officers, pastors, church leaders and lay people.

The motion also calls for the findings of the review, along with details about any actions taken or proposed recommendations, to be presented to the state convention’s board of directors during its regularly scheduled meeting in September 2022. Findings of the review will also be presented in a report to messengers at the 2022 annual meeting.

Pardue said that while he is not aware of any instance in which the state convention has mishandled any cases of sexual abuse, the internal review is a proactive step to show that the entity takes sexual abuse issues seriously.

“This is not an issue that we can slack on,” Pardue said. “This will show that we are being proactive and ensure that we are doing everything we can to address this issue. We want to be very open to our convention and make sure that we are doing the best we can to protect people in our churches and hold people accountable.”

In directing Unzicker to conduct the review, Pardue called him an advocate on issues related to sexual base and a leader on the issue at a national level.

Unzicker thanked Pardue and the committee for approving the motion and called its passage “historic.” Unzicker pledged to be open and transparent throughout the process as he works with statewide leaders and outside experts during the review.

“Thank you for leading with clarity, conviction and compassion on this issue,” Unzicker said. “If our churches do not see us as a convention being proactive in this, mistrust will happen. This is not in relation to any other convention or what’s going on there. This is about North Carolina Baptists.

“We want your churches and other churches to know that we take this issue seriously, and that we also want to be a resource to churches and associations.”

Read the full story here.

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