Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced the names of those who will lead and serve on the SBC Abuse Response Implementation Task Force, Baptist Press reported Monday (Aug. 8). Among those named to the committee is Alabama’s Melissa Bowen.
Bowen currently serves as vice chair of the Alabama Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force. She made the motion approved by Alabama messengers during the 2021 state convention annual meeting to review policies and practices of Cooperative Program-funded entities and the State Board of Missions. Bowen is a member of First Baptist Church Prattville.
Blalock, Keahbone to lead Task Force
The news follows the early August announcement that Marshall Blalock will chair the task force and Mike Keahbone will serve as vice chair. Both men will help guide the group to implement the list of recommendations approved by messengers during the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, in June.
Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, served as vice chair of the Sexual Abuse Task Force that brought recommendations concerning the investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases to the June meeting. Keahbone, pastor of First Baptist Church Lawton, Oklahoma, serves on the Executive Committee and also served on this year’s resolutions committee.
“Both of these pastors are well-respected by Southern Baptists, by survivors of sexual abuse, by state convention leadership and by their peers,” Barber told Baptist Press. “I’m delighted at their willingness to serve and optimistic about the solutions that they will lead [ARITF] to propose.”
‘Making the reforms a reality’
In an interview with The Alabama Baptist, Blalock noted that ARITF is “charged with the essential task of making the reforms a reality.”
“Having served on last year’s task force, I know firsthand how much we need God’s guidance and the prayers of Baptists from across our Convention,” he said. “We have much to consider, and we are desperate for the wisdom of God at every point.”
The task force’s first step will be to “orient ARITF to the findings and recommendations of the original task force, then to begin work on the motions the messengers passed in Anaheim,” Blalock said.
“The creation of the Ministry Check website will be one of the first major challenges,” he added. “It’s a priority because it will enable churches to identify sexual predators in order to stop them from going from church to church to abuse others.”
He noted, “In the end, the goal is for our churches to have the biblical and practical resources necessary to prevent sexual abuse and to have an authentic Christlike compassion to minister to survivors.”
Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, noted that ARITF includes “survivors of clergy sexual abuse, pastors, lawyers, educators and one person who was the object of a false accusation of sexual abuse in the past,” Baptist Press reported. He noted the the group will be “assisted in their work by a few consultants, whose names will be released later.”
Other members of the team include the following:
Todd Benkert, pastor and lead elder of Oak Creek Community Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Brad Eubank, pastor of Petal First Baptist Church in Petal, Mississippi.
Cyndi Lott, member of Catawba Valley Baptist Church in Morganton, North Carolina.
Jon Nelson, pastor of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Jarrett Stephens, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.
Gregory Wills, member of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He also is a professor of church history and Baptist heritage and dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.