Alabama Baptist State Convention leaders responded today (June 2) to the suggestions appearing in the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force’s latest communication, released yesterday (June 1). The information publicized by the task force includes a list for state conventions to consider going forward.
While the task force can only make suggestions, the list of items to consider are referred to as “challenges.” Southern Baptists across the nation are studying the suggestions to determine potential next steps. Many have been releasing statements, updates and proposals that will be brought up for future votes within their respective bodies of messengers and boards of trustees.
Alabama’s team working through the suggestions include Rick Lance, executive director of the State Board of Missions; Buddy Champion, president of the state convention; Greg Corbin, chairperson of the State Board of Missions; Craig Carlisle, chair of the Alabama Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force; and Melissa Bowen, vice chair of the Alabama Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force.
They released their assessment and response in a joint statement. It reads:
Our own Alabama Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force is taking its responsibilities seriously. We are seeking diligently to do our best to assist our churches in helping hurting people. We call for all Alabama Baptists to fervently pray for the meeting of the SBC in Anaheim.
We have received certain suggestions for state conventions from the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force (SBC SATF). Prior to receiving these suggestions, Alabama Baptist entities, including the State Board of Missions, had already implemented safeguards.
The following are the SBC SATF suggestions (in bold paragraphs below) and the responses on behalf of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions:
#1: We request that state conventions consider having a designated, trained staff person or independent contractor to receive calls regarding allegations of sexual abuse and provide initial guidance. We request this person be trained in trauma to be able to assist both survivors and churches, and will be able to assist submitters who may need help in filing an allegation report with the appropriate party.
Resource personnel already assigned and available include:
- State Missionary Mark Wakefield — a chaplain who is trained in trauma response and a certified trainer in Critical Incident Stress Management.
- State Missionary Ken Allen — director of LeaderCare, who is the designated staff person to receive any communications from individuals and churches related to concerns about sexual abuse.
Referrals for counseling services are available through State Missionary Mike Jackson, associate executive director. These resources include:
- Pathways Professional Counseling — a prolific network of highly qualified counselors in partnership with associational offices throughout the state. This decades-long ministry is an arm of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, which is led by Rod Marshall who joined ABCH&FM in 1995. Rod oversaw the development and growth of Pathways Professional Counseling, helping it become the effective ministry it is today.
- In addition, other trained counselors are available through the associate executive director’s office even beyond our partners at Pathways.
#2: We request that state conventions, in consultation with Lifeway and the Executive Committee, add a series of questions on the Annual Church Profile regarding background checks and sexual abuse training.
The State Board of Missions will continue its partnership with MinistrySafe in providing Alabama Baptist churches with sexual abuse training that encourages the use of best practices such as background checks and sexual abuse training.
The SBOM remains committed to helping our churches become safer places. We are offering scholarships for 1,000 churches that will avail themselves of the first year of training with MinistrySafe.
Of course, Alabama Baptist churches may want to consider other possible sources of training.
We are open to any addition to the ACP which asks questions of churches related to training in sexual abuse prevention and protection.
#3: We request that state conventions maintain a list of professionally trained, licensed, trauma-informed Christian counselors in their respective states for those churches who voluntarily seek assistance as they minister to survivors.
For decades, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions has been facilitating counseling services through Pathways Professional Counseling and other trained counselors as noted above.
#4: We request that state conventions establish a self-certification program for churches, including “best practices” in survivor care, hiring, investigatory protocols, and training for prevention.
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions remains committed to helping our churches to become safer places by encouraging these best practices through background checks and sexual abuse training opportunities through MinistrySafe or other sources.
#5: We request all state [convention] entities and committees provide training regarding sexual abuse prevention and survivor care to their denominational workers, as well as background checks, as part of their orientation and selection.
All employees and trustees of the State Board of Missions as well as Alabama Baptist entities have undergone background checks. This is now a requirement for employment and to serve on trustee boards. All State Board of Missions employees, both current and future, are required to undergo MinistrySafe training for prevention of sexual abuse in the workplace and beyond.