Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the study group on sexual abuse launched last summer by J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is currently focused on assessing needs and reviewing ways to prevent abuse and care for survivors.
Bethancourt outlined “phase one” of the group’s three-part effort and signaled plans for the future in an article published at the ERLC website on Jan. 14. The study group was formed by Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., in conjunction with the ERLC and the SBC Executive Committee.
“The purpose of this phase is to review existing organizations, strategies, experts, and resources in order to better understand the landscape of needs and opportunities when it comes to sexual abuse,” said Bethancourt.
The group has asked for input from a range of sources, including commissioning a survey on abuse by LifeWay Christian Resources. Plans for the project’s next phases – development and implementation – are already taking shape, according to Bethancourt.
Forthcoming resources will include “church-based strategies, seminary and higher education practices and training, and resources to be utilized at every level of the SBC” as part of a “wide-scale, comprehensive effort.” More information will be released at the SBC annual meeting, June 11-12, in Birmingham, Ala.
Bethancourt encouraged churches not to wait until the study group finishes their work to begin preventing abuse and caring for survivors.
“Even now, churches should implement basic, common-sense initiatives such as background checks and ‘two deep’ policies that require two adults to be present when working with minors,” he said. “Although the study will highlight how there is much more that can be done, we encourage churches to take action now.”
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