Independent experts assisting the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in its review of sexual abuse policies and procedures praised the state convention for having a “strong framework” in place to address issues related to abuse.

Independent experts assisting the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) in its review of sexual abuse policies and procedures praised the state convention for having a “strong framework” in place to address issues related to abuse.

Following a recent conference call about the policy review, representatives from Guidepost Solutions told state convention leaders that “North Carolina Baptists have a strong framework in place. You are moving forward to make sure best practices and strong protocols are in place to assist churches and associations.”

BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker shared Guidepost’s remarks with the executive committee of the state convention’s board of directors during a regularly scheduled meeting held Tuesday, April 26.

Unzicker and other N.C. Baptist leaders are working with Guidepost on a comprehensive review of the state convention’s existing policies, procedures and materials related to sexual abuse awareness, prevention and reporting, as directed by the executive committee.

The committee unanimously passed a motion last November that directed Unzicker to conduct the review in consultation with N.C. Baptist leaders, abuse survivors and subject matter experts. Earlier this month, N.C. Baptist officials announced that the state convention had partnered with Guidepost Solutions to assist with the review.

“Working with an outside group of leading experts on the review takes away any suspicions and ensures trust in the process,” Unzicker said.

Convention leaders have already shared policies and documents with Guidepost for their review. The review includes all state convention ministry areas, which includes Fruitland Baptist Bible College and the camps and conference centers owned by the convention. Those include Caraway Conference Center and Camp, Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center, and Truett Camp and Conference Center.

While N.C. Baptist churches are not part of the review, convention officials are considering utilizing a survey to determine what sexual abuse policies, procedures and protocols churches currently have in place. Based on findings from the review and any data collected from churches, convention officials plan to offer additional resources and training to churches and associations related to sexual abuse prevention and caring for victims.

Convention leaders are also exploring nontraditional ways to address sexual abuse issues, which include the potential of applying for federal grants for organizations working to end sexual abuse and domestic violence as well as the possibility of exploring various legislative options.

Unzicker will present a final report on the review along with any recommended actions to the board of directors this September and to messengers at the N.C. Baptist annual meeting this November.

“I’m sure they are going to find things that we need to address,” Unzicker said. “I assured them that N.C. Baptists are going to be transparent, we’re going to be open and we’re going to fix whatever needs fixing.”

“There are victims out there. As Christians, we need to help them heal and not be scared to step forward.” — Janet Demeny

Several executive committee members thanked Unzicker for the review update and reiterated the importance of ministry leaders taking proactive measures to prevent abuse and minister to survivors.

James Harrington and Terry Stockman, who serve as associational mission strategists in the Chowan and West Chowan Baptist associations, respectively, both said they regularly work with pastors and churches in their associations to help develop, enhance or implement proper policies and procedures to prevent abuse. They also emphasized the need for ongoing training and education.

“I appreciate your attention to this issue,” Stockman said.

Janet Demeny, a member of Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville, N.C., said the church should be a place that’s free from the threat of abuse and welcoming for survivors of abuse.

“There are victims out there,” Demeny said. “As Christians, we need to help them heal and not be scared to step forward. Churches of all places should have the right practices, regulations and policies in place. This should never happen in what should be a haven. This should not be on our watch.”

In other business, the executive committee heard a financial report, an update to proposed changes to the state convention’s articles and bylaws that are in development, and took action on several other items.

Financial report
Cooperative Program giving from N.C. Baptist churches totaled more than $6.8 million through the end of March, and giving to two of the three special offerings were higher than through the same time period as last year.

Giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) totaled more than $312,000 through March, which was up more than 6.5% year over year. NCMO is historically emphasized in September, and the offering goal is $2.1 million.

Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled about $596,000, which was down about 1.2% from last year, but the total did not include receipts from offerings collected on Easter Sunday.

Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions totaled approximately $10.1 million, which was up nearly 7% year over year.

New board members appointed
The committee also voted to fill four vacancies on the board of directors for unexpired terms of board members who have resigned. Those elected to serve are:

  • Chris Aiken, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, who will fill the 2024 unexpired term of Jody Yopp.
  • Erik Harris, pastor of Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, who will fill the 2022 unexpired term of Jordon Willard.
  • Brooke Medina, layperson at The Summit Church in Durham, who will fill the 2023 unexpired term of Carlyle Hall.
  • Besty Bolick, layperson at Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, who will fill the 2022 unexpired term of Travis Suits.

Articles & bylaws updates
John Butler, director of convention operations and staff liaison to the Articles and Bylaws Committee, provided executive committee members with an update to a series of proposed changes to the state convention’s articles and bylaws that are currently in development.

Due to the significant number of updates, Butler said the Articles and Bylaws Committee hopes to have a draft of proposed changes to share with the full board of directors at its May meeting. The board will consider the proposed changes before they are presented to messengers for consideration at November’s annual meeting.

Scholarship allocation
The committee also authorized the transfer of $250,000 from convention reserves to the N.C. Baptist scholarship program that is administered by the N.C. Baptist Foundation. The $250,000 transfer is in keeping with an agreement by the convention to consider an annual contribution to the scholarship fund when the foundation assumed oversight of the scholarship program from the convention in 2015.

Remote work policy
The executive committee also approved a remote work policy for convention staff members. The policy permits remote work arrangements for convention staff where permissible and at the discretion of their respective supervisor.

The policy modifies and formalizes an emergency remote work arrangement that was instituted in the spring of 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy was also developed out of a desire by convention leaders to cultivate and foster a stronger workplace culture, as well as promote work/life balance.

Next meeting
The executive committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, May 24, at Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center in conjunction with a regularly scheduled meeting of the full board of directors.