Alabama Baptist State Convention president Buddy Champion has selected eight members to serve on the new Sexual Abuse Task Force charged with reviewing policies and practices of Cooperative Program-funded entities and the State Board of Missions. And he will serve as an ex-officio member.
The task force was established following a motion approved by convention messengers Nov. 16 during the annual meeting at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.
“This team represents a cross section of Alabama Baptist life,” Champion shared with The Alabama Baptist. “Each member of the team has expressed a passion to serve so that the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, the entities and our churches are prepared to respond and protect the victims of sexual abuse.
“We appreciate the entities embracing this process and look forward to partnering with each one to accomplish the task at hand,” he said. “We are confident that after a thorough and exhaustive review that our processes will be improved and we will all be better equipped.”
Task force members include:
•Craig Carlisle, director of missions for Etowah Baptist Association, who will serve as chair.
•Daniel Atkins, pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church in Montgomery.
•Melissa Bowen, retired attorney and author of the motion. Bowen is a member of First Baptist Church Prattville.
•Kaye Farrow, retired Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and member of Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster.
•Abigail Jackson, 2019 graduate of Samford University, attends First Baptist Church Birmingham and is account manager for The Lollar Group in Birmingham.
•D’Linell Finley, pastor of Southlawn Baptist Church in Montgomery and professor at Alabama State University.
•Blake Kersey, pastor of First Baptist Church Decatur and immediate past president of the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference.
•Daven Watkins, pastor of First Baptist Church Pelham.
“The task force will spend the weeks between now and the end of the year getting organized and preparing for the reviews starting in January,” Champion said, noting regular updates will be provided by the group as it works through the review process.
With the executive director’s office of the State Board of Missions serving as a resource for the task force, Champion asks that any media or other inquiries be directed there during the organizational period these next few weeks.
The motion reads that “the newly elected president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention name a Sexual Abuse Task Force of at least seven members with the newly elected president being an ex-officio member. The purpose of this task force would be to review the policies and practices of our Cooperative Program-funded state convention entities and auxiliaries, including the State Board of Missions, related to sex abuse. Reviewing members of the task force will not include paid staff of the entities, auxiliaries or State Board and will report back to the 2022 Convention. The executive director of the State Board of Missions will serve as a resource for the task force. Expenses of the task force will be covered by the State Board of Missions.”
The CP-funded entities and auxiliaries which partner with the State Board of Missions include: Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, Alabama Baptist Retirement Centers, Alabama Citizens Action Program, Alabama WMU, Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, The Alabama Baptist, The Baptist Foundation of Alabama and University of Mobile.
Support for the review
Leaders of each of the groups mentioned indicated to The Alabama Baptist they support the proposal for a review.
Rick Lance, executive director of the State Board of Missions, said, “We at the State Board of Missions welcome an opportunity to have our policies and practices reviewed by the task force. We affirm the process and pledge to cooperate with them. We desire any input that will help us assist churches.”
Joe Godfrey and Greg Davis of ALCAP and American Character Builders also said they welcome “this important review. Protecting children, young people, women and anyone else from those who might seek to disrespect individuals or harm them in any way (sexually or otherwise) is what these two ministries are all about.”
Shocco’s Russell Klinner shared his appreciation for the opportunity outlined by the motion because of the seriousness in which they seek to care for all who participate in camp and conference activities as well as all who work at Shocco.
“We welcome the transparency and are glad to cooperate with a task force review,” he said.
Rod Marshall, president of the Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, also noted an “utmost concern for the well-being of the children in our care.”
“We support this motion and look forward to the opportunity to meet with concerned Baptists to examine our policies and practices to ensure we are exercising due diligence to continue to protect, nurture and restore children and families through Christ-centered services at a level that is beyond reproach and will protect our children and our ministries for many decades into the future,” he said.