Grant Gaines, pastor of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., presented a motion calling for a task force to oversee a third-party investigation into allegations of mishandling abuse claims at the SBC Executive Committee. (Baptist Press photo/Karen McCutcheon)
By Roger Alford
NASHVILLE – A task force will be set up to oversee an independent investigation into whether the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee improperly handled sexual abuse allegations.
Messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville approved a motion by Grant Gaines, pastor of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to establish the task force.
The vote Wednesday ensured that the Executive Committee wouldn’t have oversight of the review, which many of the messengers considered a conflict of interest.
“In order for this investigation to be truly external, independent and unbiased, we can’t have the Executive Committee setting the terms of the investigation themselves,” Gaines said. “They can’t be the ones to hold themselves accountable.”
Members of the task force are to be appointed within 30 days by newly elected SBC President Ed Litton. They could oversee the independent review already initiated by Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd, or they could begin a separate third-party review.
The goal is to investigate “any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives.”
Floyd, who had announced last week the hiring of Guidepost Solutions to conduct an independent investigation, didn’t object to motion to create the task force.
An internal investigation had been called for amid controversy over allegations made by former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore that various Southern Baptist leaders had stonewalled calls to address sexual abuse within the SBC.
The allegations came in two letters by Moore that were leaked to news media in the days leading up to the Annual Meeting.
Under the terms of the approved motion, all EC members and staff serving from January 2000 to June 2021 are subject to the investigation. The motion also calls for an audit of the “procedures and actions” taken by the SBC Credentials Committee, which was formed two years ago to address allegations of sexual abuse in churches.
“This might seem like too much trouble to some, but I assure you it is the least we can do for abuse survivors,” Gaines said.
In a statement, the SBC Executive Committee thanked the messengers “who invested so much righteous energy into this important cause.”
“It has always been our intention to be forthright and transparent in this process,” the statement said. “Today’s decision, in whose outcome we are confident, will have the ultimate blessing of removing all doubt in the minds of our community of Southern Baptists allowing us to chart a more confident future, together.”