The Sexual Abuse Advisory Task Force of the Alabama Baptist State Convention gave its final report Nov. 14, announcing a new website with resources churches can utilize to help prevent abuse within their congregations.
“This assignment was a monumental task, perhaps bigger than any of us realized when we accepted the invitation,” said task force chair Craig Carlisle, director of missions for Etowah Baptist Association. “We are grateful for all of your prayers, encouragement and acceptance of all that we have shared with you.”
Carlisle said he has received numerous calls over the past two years from churches seeking advice on how to best address abuse allegations and help victims and survivors. Three calls have come within the weeks leading up to the convention meeting, he said.
“All of the calls we have received have served as confirmation that our work was needed and not in vain,” Carlisle said.
Front lines of helping victims
Reporting abuse allegations to civil authorities is mandated in Alabama when the survivor is a minor or vulnerable adult, Carlisle noted, and churches must be on the front lines of helping victims and preventing abusers from acting again.
Serving with Carlisle on the task force were pastors Daniel Atkins, D’Linell Finley, Blake Kersey and Daven Watkins; attorney Melissa Bowen; retired marriage and family therapist Kaye Farrow; and layperson Abigail Jackson.
Carlisle focused on two tools produced by the task force:
- The Local Sexual Abuse Prevention Symposium, a meeting that can be convened in any county utilizing local leaders such as law enforcement, counselors, district attorneys, etc. to talk about specific action steps to take at the local level when suspicions of sexual abuse are reported. Several associations have already hosted symposiums, Carlisle said.
- A new website, safe.alsbom.org, which includes a number of prevention steps churches can take during the hiring process for new employees or while training new volunteers, along with information and action plans to help churches respond if and when allegations of abuse occur.
“Please do not let up,” Carlisle urged messengers. “The goal of the church’s response to abuse is to care for the survivors and ultimately to integrate them into the church body for continued healing and growth.”
Messengers to the 2021 Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting approved the establishment of the Alabama Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force. The eight members of the task force were appointed by Buddy Champion, convention president.
The task force delivered its first report to messengers during the 2022 state convention annual meeting following a year of research and interviews with Cooperative Program-funded entities and auxiliaries in Alabama.
In January 2023, Champion announced his appointment of the same group to a new Sexual Abuse Advisory Task Force, whose purpose was to put together resources to educate churches in awareness and prevention of sexual abuse and caring for sexual abuse survivors.