By Tom Strode
NASHVILLE (BP) — Felix Cabrera’s wish for a Spanish edition of a resource for caring for the abused is now a reality among the churches he serves.
The handbook “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused” is newly available in Spanish. The 244-page book is part of the comprehensive training curriculum on preventing sexual abuse and ministering to survivors that also consists of 12 video lessons from experts in a variety of areas.
The curriculum is the result of a cooperative effort by the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group – established by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear in July 2018 – and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in collaboration with LifeWay Christian Resources.
When he learned of the initiative, Cabrera said he requested the curriculum also be in Spanish.
“The Spanish-speaking churches in our convention need to learn how to avoid the abuse but also to create an environment to assist and serve the victims of abuse,” said Cabrera, executive director of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico. That was the reason his office recently made every pastor in the Puerto Rican convention’s 50 churches aware of the Spanish edition and “encouraged them to read it and teach their flocks,” Cabrera said in written comments.
Cabrera described it as “a Gospel-centered tool to educate not only our pastors but also our churches. I’m confident that this curriculum will be a blessing to our pastors and help them serve our congregations more efficiently.”
About 3,500 Hispanic congregations are in cooperation with the SBC.
Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, explained the importance of a Spanish version of the handbook.
“The mission entrusted to the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group by SBC messengers — to combat abuse and care well for survivors — is shared across every demographic of our churches,” Wussow said.
“It is out of that shared commitment that we were eager to translate this resource for Spanish-speaking congregations. ‘Caring Well’ is not a one-time event but a stewardship we all share.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, formed the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group shortly after his first election as SBC president in June 2018. In cooperation with the ERLC, the group received input from hundreds of people, including abuse survivors and their advocates, law enforcement officials, counselors, pastors, denominational leaders and lawyers.
The Spanish edition of the handbook is the latest in a series of resources the advisory group and ERLC have created to address sexual abuse, which has been revealed in recent years to be a significant problem among Southern Baptists. The entities’ multi-faceted effort has sought to combat the failure of some churches to protect and care for hundreds of sex abuse victims and to prevent perpetrators from continuing their abuses.
The resources have included the curriculum, which was published in June 2019, as well as:
— A 52-page report from the advisory group to the SBC in June of last year that included testimonies from several survivors and sought “to begin to educate our churches on the abuse crisis, equip our churches to care well for survivors, and prepare our churches to prevent abuse.”
— The “Caring Well Challenge,” a year-long, eight-step initiative that began in August 2019 to equip churches to prevent predatory behavior and to care for survivors.
— The ERLC’s October 2019 national conference, “Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis,” that was designed to educate churches about abuse prevention and ministering to survivors of such abuse. Videos of the conference sessions are available at erlc.com/caringwell.
— The November 2019 release of “The Introductory Guide to Caring Well: A Resource to Help Churches Care Well for Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Implement Policies and Procedures to Prevent Abuse.”
Messengers to the SBC’s 2019 annual meeting voted to repurpose the convention’s Credentials Committee as a standing panel to make inquiries and recommendations for action regarding incidents of sexual abuse, racism or other issues that call a church’s relationship with the SBC into question.
At the same meeting, messengers approved a resolution that condemned and lamented sexual abuse and called on churches and institutions to establish a safe culture for survivors and to guard against and confront abuse.
The Spanish version of the handbook and other resources are available for free at https://churchcares.com/. While the Spanish edition of the handbook is new, the video lessons previously had included closed captioning in Spanish. The handbook includes all the content in the videos.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.