By Diana Chandler
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Associational leaders will vote in June on a document encouraging Southern Baptist associations, state conventions, and churches to proactively address and prevent sexual abuse of minors.
The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) drafted the document, in cooperation with officers of the Southern Baptist Convention Fellowship of State Executive Directors, to serve as a resource and recommendation. Already approved by SBCAL and fellowship executives, the greater SBCAL membership will vote on the statement at the SBCAL annual meeting June 10-11 in Birmingham.
Kevin Carrothers, associational mission strategist (AMS) with the Salem South Baptist Association of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, led an SBCAL three-member task force in drafting the document. “Encouragements to Associations, State Conventions, and Churches Regarding Abuse of Minors” contains information drawn from several published and professional sources, he said, including interviews with health professionals.
“I think this helps raise the awareness and really to say we’re not going to bury our heads in the sand anymore. But we’re going to be proactive in speaking into the life of the church,” Carrothers said, “not in an authoritative way or dictating terms to them, because we know the autonomy issue. But (the statement is) really to encourage our local associations, our state conventions to be proactive in promoting awareness, promoting safety and assisting … our churches to address these issues.”
The fellowship of state executives joined with the initiative the SBCAL began in response to Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study, Carrothers said.
“We wanted to have a spirit of cooperation where it just recognized the importance of the issue and that there’s a consensus,” Carrothers said, “a unity of spirit in doing what we can at all levels to protect the vulnerable in the church.”
The document addresses prevention, protection, awareness, education, ministry care, and healing.
Carrothers described sexual abuse as “a Gospel issue in terms of it’s a sin issue that has to be dealt with. … This impacts many people. Obviously the victim when such things are done, it impacts them. It impacts whole churches when it occurs.”
SBCAL Executive Director Ray Gentry expects the SBCAL membership to favorably receive the document, he told BP.
“I anticipate SBCAL members accepting this statement since our executive team unanimously recommended its adoption,” Gentry said. “The state execs adopted our statement and Bro. Randy (Davis) asked if we would let them make it a joint statement, which we did.” Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, leads the fellowship.
“It is simply offered to remind churches to be vigilant,” Davis has said, “and to help those who may not have anything in place to have some ideas where to start.”
Joining Carrothers on the task force are Matthew Gullion, an AMS with the Northeastern Indiana Baptist Association in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Larry Theisen, AMS of the Keystone Baptist Association in Dillsburg, Pa.
“As organizations, we recognize our respective entities have no authority over any Baptist body,” reads the introduction to the document. “However, our intention is to offer encouragement to associations, state conventions, and churches to diligently guard those whom God has given to us for the purpose of ministry.”
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.