By now many of you have likely heard at least something about a scandal within our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
The purpose of this letter is to inform you about what has happened and how it affects Poquoson Baptist Church. As a Baptist church, we are an independent church that associates with other churches for kingdom causes. One of the ways we do this is through are partnership with the SBC. Methodist, Episcopal, and Catholic churches are examples of denominations where everything is controlled and owned from the top down. As a Baptist church, we answer to no outside organizations. All of the authority in churches like PBC rests with the congregation, guided by the elders. Therefore, for churches cooperating with the SBC there is no outside control or structure that dictates what happens in a local church.
Like in many churches of various denominations and associations, churches that cooperate with the SBC have also faced acts of sexual abuse by pastors and others in leadership positions. Without a central controlling organization to address these issues, many abuse survivors and advocates have reached out to an organization called the Executive Committee of the SBC to seek help and to call for ways to prevent abusers serving in pastoral roles from moving around to different churches.
Over the last 20 years no real action on these calls took place and many survivors and advocates were not treated well in their pleas for help. Therefore, at last year’s Annual Meeting of the SBC, the messengers of the Convention overwhelmingly approved the creation of the Sex Abuse Task Force (SATF) to investigate the actions of the Executive Committee over the last 20 years. Two messengers from PBC (Hopson Boutot and Sterling Tollison) joined the vote to create the Task Force.
The SATF engaged the services of Guidepost Solutions to conduct the investigation and their report was released on Sunday. The report addresses three main areas:
First, the actions of the SBC Executive Committee. The investigation confirmed that a few staff and attorneys were involved in either not addressing the concerns raised by survivors and advocates or even actively working against efforts to address concerns. Most of this was done under the guise of legal protection and the limitations that come with the non-hierarchical structure of the SBC.
Second, the report addressed the work of what is called the Credentials Committee of the SBC. They were established in recent years to investigate churches that covered up abuse and/or continued to allow abusers to stay in power. The investigation found their work to be substandard and stymied by outside influence.
Third, the report revealed a credible and corroborated accusation against a well-known retired SBC pastor that took place around the time he served as President of the SBC. All of the findings are deeply concerning and do not honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Annual Meeting of the SBC is taking place on June 14th & 15th in Anaheim, CA and PBC will once again be sending a messenger to vote on our behalf. At the Annual Meeting, the messengers will hear more about the work of the SATF, recommendations on how to move forward, and the chance to vote on these recommendations.
Our church cooperates with 47,000+ other churches within the context of the SBC. Mainly this cooperation is for missions, church planting, and theological education. The churches cooperating together that make up the SBC have another opportunity to cooperate together. It is for the support of abuse survivors and to help prevent further abuse within churches. All of this with a goal to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This release of the report from the SATF is being discussed on various media and social media platforms. Therefore, we want you to be informed. Please pray for wisdom for the messengers attending the SBC Annual Meeting in June. While the nonhierarchical structure of the SBC has caused some difficulties in addressing this matter, we are thankful that the same structure allows grassroots efforts to affect change rather than just a few at the top being able to perpetuate and cover up wrongdoing.
Perhaps you’re wondering, should PBC still partner with the SBC given the severity and scope of this scandal? That’s an important question to ask. At this point, we believe our answer to that question will likely hinge upon how the messengers respond in Anaheim. Our hope and prayers are that Southern Baptists will lament this evil and take appropriate actions in keeping with repentance. Time will tell.
Regardless of what happens in the SBC, our primary responsibility is to care for the flock that is among us (1 Peter 5:2). In God’s providence, the elders have been devoting ourselves over the past few months to understanding abuse dynamics and how best to care for victims and the vulnerable. In weeks ahead we will be reviewing our own safety measures to ensure we’re doing all we can and should to protect the vulnerable from abuse. Lord willing, we will present updates to you from these efforts during our August Members Meeting.
As your Pastors, we believe that all humans are created in the image of God and abuse of any form is a horrific sin against both the person and our Heavenly Father. May we grieve with those who are grieving now, especially those who have been victims of abuse of any kind.
As children of the King, may holiness be our pursuit, Christ’s glorious Gospel our message, honoring each other be our aim, and supporting those that are hurting be our heartbeat.
The PBC Elders