Southern Baptists were shocked and dismayed one year ago this month after the Houston Chronicle printed a series of articles titled “Abuse of Faith.”
These articles reported that numerous sexual abuse cases with teens and children had occurred in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches. In some instances, these heinous acts were repeated over the course of several years. Sometimes, abusers moved to different ministry contexts, often unchecked, allowing their patterns of sexual abuse to continue.
Even though some people may question the reality or even doubt the extent of this reported abuse, I am convinced that we need to ask how must we address and respond to this issue?
It is a reality.
If we have learned anything this past year, it should be that thinking this kind of sexual abuse could never happen in your church is just not true. Sexual abuse can happen during numerous church-related activities at any sized church when you least expect it to occur. It can happen by individuals you would never expect to behave like that. Those who think otherwise are uninformed or not taking this issue seriously.
It must be exposed.
We should take every allegation of abuse seriously. Pastors and church leaders should not be the ones determining whether or not allegations of abuse are credible, nor should they be the ones conducting investigations into those claims. Those matters should be left to the local authorities.
It can be prevented.
We should also do everything in our power to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. This includes having documented policies and procedures in place regarding children and volunteers that fit your ministry context. At the very least, all volunteers should be screened with a background check.
As a state convention, we have responded to the abuse crisis over the past year by providing resources and training events for pastors, church leaders and laity, and we will continue to so. The issue of abuse may be out of the headlines, but it should never be out of our consciousness. Our churches should be safe places from abuse and safe places for those who have been abused.
As part of our ongoing efforts to assist and equip the local church, we are providing a new series of trainings that will take place across our state beginning later this month. These events, titled “Safety and Security in Your Ministry Context,” are scheduled for 11 locations throughout the state from Feb. 27 to Dec. 11.
Several state convention ministries have come together to offer this training, and it will address topics like preventing sexual abuse, recognizing the grooming process, creating and enforcing policies, and much more.
Each location will offer two training times to accommodate as many people as possible. Registration is just $10 per person and includes lunch or dinner, depending on the training time you choose. You can learn more and register at ncbaptist.org/safetyandsecurity.
I hope you will make plans to attend the training nearest you. Creating safe and secure ministry environments for our children and the vulnerable is a responsibility we all share.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6 (NASB)
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