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Georgia's Thomas Hammond, other state Baptist execs, respond to Guidepost report

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State executives in the Southern Baptist Convention have expressed strong emotions, including grief  and heartbreak, in the wake of an independent investigation that found the denomination’s Executive Committee tried to cover up instances of sexual abuse. Here are responses from some of them:

Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr.:  “We are all grieved by the findings of the Guidepost Solutions investigation. The report submitted through the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force revealed disturbing and egregious acts committed on some of our most vulnerable.

"We recognize the courage of survivors who continued to share their stories and bravely pursue action from their leaders. We must pray for God to provide strength and healing for all survivors as well as wisdom for everyone dealing with abusive situations. 

"Let us commit ourselves to doing all we can so every place of worship is a safe place for everyone. The Special Committee on Sexual Abuse appointed by GBC President Kevin Williams will bring recommendations at our state convention in November to assist Georgia Baptists with safety policies, guidelines and procedures.

"As we walk through this difficult time together as Southern Baptists, may we completely depend upon the Lord for wisdom and courage while carefully weighing the recommendations and considering our next steps. We appreciate the hard work invested by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force. May the report submitted provide the clarity and instruction needed to move forward."

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Mississippi Baptist Convention Board Executive Director Shawn Parker: “
Mississippi Baptists grieve the reality of sexual abuse in any setting, but especially abuse that occurs in the context of the church. We affirm that sexual abuse must not be tolerated in any form, and every measure available should be utilized to prevent individuals from abusing those who are vulnerable. We also offer our deepest concerns and prayers for those who have experienced abuse of any sort, and we are committed to ministering with Christ’s love to the needs of these individuals.

“Although it is difficult and heartbreaking to receive the Guidepost Solutions report, we are thankful that Southern Baptists have taken action to expose and deal with abuse that has occurred within our denomination. Mississippi Baptists have been and continue to be committed to give this issue the needed attention it demands as we support the work of our churches in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

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Louisiana Baptists Executive Director Steve Horn:
I, like many of you, read the report from Guideposts and experienced an array of emotions. We must do better. We must be better. Those affected by sexual abuse deserve better and certainly, our devotion to our Lord demands better.

“As promised during our Annual Meeting last November, we will seek to listen to, and support, those who have suffered abuse. In addition, we will be proactive in implementing strategies that endeavor to eliminate all incidents of sexual abuse among our churches.

“During our May Executive Board meeting, I updated our trustees on what’s been done since our November gathering. We will continue to review the report from the SATF and discern what recommendations can and should be adopted among our convention of churches.

“I urge Louisiana Baptists to pray this moment brings us to a place of acknowledgement of sin which leads to repentance and makes way for the fruit of repentance.

“For about a year now, we have been calling people to introspection, consecration, intercession, and decision through the personal revival guide, Change Me. Today, more than ever, we need to be praying, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. Lord, change me.” 

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Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director John Yeats: "
Sexual abuse grieves the heart of God and invites His wrath. It should break the heart of every Missouri Baptist, as well, and spur us to a prudent response that features compassionate care for victims, swift and decisive action against predators, and clear steps to prevent abuse in our churches.

"The Sexual Abuse Task Force report is heartbreaking to read and painful to acknowledge. But it must not be the end of the story. Contrition, confession, and repentance must necessarily follow in order to begin healing where possible and accountability in every step going forward. 

"The release of the Guidepost report must mark the beginning of a season of grieving and learning how to biblically address sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches and our SBC structures. Genuine grief requires a godly response, and I ask all Missouri Baptists to join me in praying first and foremost for all victims of sexual abuse; second, for those within the SBC who have committed or covered up any form of abuse; and third, for all messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, who will help us take deliberative action to address our failures and chart a new course for Southern Baptists.

"When abuse strikes a local church, it does great damage to Christ’s name, His mission to redeem the world, and His people’s ability to credibly share the gospel. Every Christian should feel the pain Jesus feels when those who often seem the least among us become objects of ridicule, violence, or wrongful pleasure.

"Missouri Baptists have long advocated for the protection of the most vulnerable through the ministries of the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, as well as through a network of advisors and trainers who specialize in helping churches become the safest possible places on earth for any person.

"We appreciate the work of GuidePost Solutions—the breadth, depth, and speed of their work. Further, we look forward to officially receiving the recommendations of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force in anticipation of the SBC Annual Meeting June 14-15, where messengers from churches across all 50 states meet to discuss, finalize, and receive the report and its recommendations.

"Finally, we are grateful for the wisdom of Missouri Baptists in establishing a Sexual Abuse Response Team, which is poised to act decisively and wisely on the recommendations.

"One of the great strengths of Southern Baptists is the voluntary cooperation of nearly 48,000 autonomous churches. Together, we send thousands of full-time missionaries to the ends of the earth; train the next generation of Christian leaders at our universities and seminaries; care for the most vulnerable among us through ministries for children and the elderly; speak truth about the sanctity of life and religious freedom in a hostile  public square; rush in to provide relief for survivors of natural and manmade disasters; and willingly wrestle with tough challenges.

"We grieve together over our sins, repent individually and collectively of them, and rise from our knees in the transforming power of the Spirit. Truly, we are better together. And together we will improve our care for abuse victims, hold abusers accountable, and equip our people so that abuse of any kind cannot happen easily in our churches. This is our great privilege, and our sacred duty.

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South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Director Gary Hollingsworth:
“We are grieved by the results of the Southern Baptist Convention Sexual Abuse Task Force report.  Foremost, we are grieved for the survivors that have been overlooked, unheard, or dismissed. We lament the actions and abuses that have brought us to this point.

“In the midst of this grief, we are not without hope.  At the South Carolina Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in 2022, we commissioned our own Sexual Abuse Task Force to respond and apply the results of the national report to our own internal processes as well as the resourcing of our 2100 South Carolina Baptist churches. 

“We take this report seriously, and as we move forward with the work of the Great Commission, we look forward to serving each church and every life with the hope of the Gospel realizing that we are in challenging days, but we are called to be salt and light in these times. 

“An email address has been established at the request of our Task force because they want to hear from you.  If you have questions, thoughts or suggestions that will help the task force with their work, please use the following email address taskforce@scbaptist.org.

“Here in South Carolina we are committed to take the necessary steps to protect the vulnerable and care for the abused and do our part to lead the way.”
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Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia Executive Director Brian Autry:
“After reading the 300-page report to the Sexual Abuse Task Force of the Executive Committee of the national Southern Baptist Convention based in Nashville, TN, I would like to share a statement with you.

"When I think of Southern Baptists, I think of folks who sit in the pews, ministers serving, people who attend our SBC of Virginia conferences, go on mission trips, serve on Sunday, and go to work on Monday – folks like the people where I preached on Sunday – people coming to worship the Lord and seeking to serve the Lord. People who invest trust in their leadership both in the local church and in the national fellowship of churches. May God give Christian leaders wisdom and strength in these days for the task ahead.

"I can’t begin to imagine the hurt and grief of survivors whose trust in leadership has been broken. It grieves me to see more leaders failing to finish well or serve as God intends. It is heartbreaking, sobering, grieving, and challenging beyond words. We, indeed, must humble ourselves, learn, and seek solutions to serve and care better for people. 

"Over the last year, our state convention launched a Caring Well Task Force to provide safe resources and information for survivors, churches, and individuals seeking to learn best practices for how to navigate the subject of spiritual and sexual abuse and domestic violence. This task force meets on a regular basis and has a regularly scheduled meeting this week.

"Let us continue to pray together. I know we must find solutions. I also know that we are dependent on God to be our deliverer. May God bless us as we walk with Christ and seek to serve faithfully.

Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Executive Director Todd Unzicker: “Today’s release of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report marks a time for our family of churches to grieve, repent, reflect and respond.

“We recognize that the contents of this report will cause survivors of abuse to relive painful experiences and memories. I applaud the courage of abuse survivors who came forward to share their stories. We must demonstrate compassion and care to everyone who bears the pain of abuse.

“In the days ahead, we should follow the counsel found in the book of James and be ‘quick to listen’ and ‘slow to speak.’ The findings of this report should humble us before God. How we respond to sexual abuse speaks volumes about the gospel we proclaim.

“People won’t trust our gospel if they don’t trust that they can be safe in our sanctuaries. As we pray for the gospel to bring healing and hope to everyone affected by this heinous sin, we must also be proactive in preventing abuse and taking the necessary actions to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

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