SBC Executive Committee approves funding for sexual abuse advisory study

SBC Executive Committee approves funding for sexual abuse advisory study

An initiative by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear to address sexual abuse in the church will be funded by the first $250,000 in Cooperative Program (CP) overage for 2017–2018, by a vote of the SBC Executive Committee (EC).

In appropriating money for Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Study, an initiative in conjunction with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the EC acted on behalf of the SBC “to provide two years of funding … to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context,” according to a recommendation approved by the EC at its Sept. 17–18 meeting in Nashville.

The funding will be drawn from an anticipated $5 million overage from the 2017–2018 CP Allocation Budget.

The remainder of the overage will be distributed among SBC entities according to the convention’s formula for overage distribution. At the conclusion of Greear’s initiative, any unused funds also will be distributed according to the 2017–2018 overage distribution formula, which designates 53.4 percent to the International Mission Board.

The EC’s officers were authorized to approve additional funding for the sexual abuse study up to $50,000 if necessary.

The study’s proposed reports, recommendations and resources must be presented to the EC no later than Feb. 1, 2020, according to the recommendation.

Three phases

A budget proposal submitted to the EC by the ERLC projected the study will include three phases:

  • Assessment of what facets of sexual misconduct need to be addressed
  • Development of partnerships with seminaries, state conventions and churches
  • Implementation of the study’s recommendations.

The assessment phase will include a survey by LifeWay Research on Protestant churchgoers’ views of sexual misconduct and abuse. The EC’s Business and Finance Committee also urged the ERLC to work closely with Baptist associations to ensure all churches have ready access to resources developed.

Three SBC seminaries — Gateway Seminary in Mill Valley, California; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas — reported to the EC they are strengthening efforts to train students, faculty and staff to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.

Last year Gateway Seminary began a partnership with the MinistrySafe sex abuse prevention organization, president Jeff Iorg said, to add sexual abuse and harassment prevention training to the seminary’s curricula. Training will begin this year and be fully operational by the 2019–2020 seminary calendar as a required course in all master’s degree programs.

Southwestern Seminary will initiate a new MinistrySafe program for all students in the spring of 2019, interim president Jeff Bingham told the EC. Bingham said the seminary also plans to “increase and improve the harassment training that all of our employees must take.”

Southeastern Seminary is revamping an existing orientation course for students to ensure “a designated time of training … on the legal, moral and biblical responsibilities” in preventing and reporting sexual harassment, president Daniel Akin said. Faculty and staff are already required to go through training to identify and prevent sexual harassment, Akin said.

Growing awareness

A LifeWay Research study released Sept. 18 found that Protestant pastors are thinking more about the effects of sexual and domestic abuse on their congregation members.

Two-thirds of pastors say domestic or sexual violence occurs in the lives of people in their congregation. And many pastors believe the #MeToo movement has made their churches more aware of how common sexual and domestic violence are.

More pastors say they are addressing these issues from the pulpit. Still, half say they lack training in how to address sexual and domestic violence.

EC chairman Mike Stone said the study is “the next step in a trajectory we’ve been on for a while” to address sexual abuse.

“There’s never, in my estimation, been a hesitancy about addressing these issues” in the SBC, Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, said. “We see in the culture and in the media an increased emphasis on this issue of sexual abuse. So I think it’s time for us to take that next strategic step.” (BP)