J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG) released its initial report today (June 8) as part of an ongoing process to assess current needs and develop recommendations for Southern Baptist churches regarding sexual abuse.
The 52-page report, described as a “first step,” includes first-hand accounts from survivors of sexual abuse, as well as calls to “illuminate the evil” and “lament the wrong that has been done.”
Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worked with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in 2018 to launch a two-year study in response to revelations of sexual abuse in the SBC.
The group admits specific failures among Southern Baptist churches:
- “Failing to adequately train our staff and volunteers – on the national, state, and congregational levels – to be aware of and respond appropriately to abuse;
- “Using church autonomy improperly to avoid taking appropriate action;
- “Failing to care well for survivors of abuse;
- “Failing to take disclosure seriously and to believe the survivor;
- “Failing to report abuse to civil authorities;
- “Recommending suspected perpetrators to new employment;
- “Promoting political, institutional, and congregational leaders whose language and behavior glorifies mistreatment of women and children.”
The document highlights “key findings,” including the need to place survivor care as the “top priority” and the value of best practices for recognizing and preventing sex abuse. It also addresses specific topics such as clergy abuse.
“Moving forward, we must determine to no longer allow our church structure or its leadership to hinder justice or healing for survivors of sexual abuse,” the report said. “We, instead, must utilize our Convention to encourage policies and practices that protect the vulnerable, ‘maintaining the witness of Christ in the holiness and safety of his church.’”
The SAAG urged all Southern Baptist congregations to participate in the “Caring Well Challenge,” an eight-step program to equip churches to be environments that are “safe for survivors and safe from abuse.”