NASHVILLE (BP) – The Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) announced it has made a recommendation to the SBC Credentials Committee to utilize Guidepost Solutions in establishing and maintaining a “Ministry Check” website database for those credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Contract negotiations are underway, according to ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock. He gave the task force’s update to the SBC Executive Committee at it’s meeting in Nashville Monday night (Feb. 20).
SBC messengers at the 2022 Annual Meeting in Anaheim charged SBC president Bart Barber to appoint members of the ARITF and for one of the group’s top priorities to be the creation of the database.
Blalock told the EC he knows “some Southern Baptists will immediately have concerns about our choice.” Those concerns are connected to a Guidepost tweet last June during gay pride month.
“Like many of you, I was disappointed with a message conveyed in one of their tweets last June. But I’m pleased to say that Guidepost has not only altered their social media engagement so this will not be an issue going forward,”
In an interview with Baptist Press, Blalock pointed out that Guidepost had not posted anything to its Twitter account since Oct. 14, 2022, when negotiations between the ARITF and Guidepost began.
Blalock told BP he estimates the cost will be $1.5-2 million to build the site and get it off the ground. The ARITF was given $3 million by Send Relief to accomplish the work mandated by the messengers.
“They have established a faith-based division of their firm called ‘Faith Based Solutions’ which is led by a veteran attorney and Southern Baptist lay person,” Blalock said.
“We are actually opting for one of our own to spearhead this initiative,” he said.
Blalock told the EC Samantha Kilpatrick leads the new division. Kilpatrick graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and helped create the SBC’s Caring Well curriculum.
“She is godly, capable, and trustworthy person. I could not be more grateful that she is willing and available to come alongside us in this process,” he said.
The database will maintain a public record of “pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse and who have been or are associated with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity.”
A footnote to the approved recommendation defines those “credibly accused” as a “pastor, denominational worker, or ministry employee or volunteer … who has confessed to sexual abuse in a non-privileged setting, who has been convicted in a court of law, or who has had a civil judgment rendered against them.”
He said since the task force’s appointment in August, the group has been working with the selection of the firm as their main priority. After months of taking in suggestions, the ARITF narrowed its search to 18 firms for consideration and evaluation.
The firms were examined using 11 different categories, and three different firms made in-person presentations to the task force.
The 11 categories include:
- being licensed in all 50 states
- having cyber security proficiency
- having the legal expertise required to certify investigations
- determining whether the report meets civil court standards.
The evaluation of the firms is listed in a chart as part of a seven-page update now available on the ARITF website.
“Vulnerable people, adults and children, are being targeted by predators in churches all across our country,” Blalock said.
The ARITF unanimously made its recommendation to the Credentials Committee, which unanimously accepted the recommendation.
In his remarks, Blalock envisioned a future where abuse no longer stains the convention.
“Oh, that there is a day when every SBC church is the safest place on the planet, for little boys and girls, adults and people from all across the spectrum to hear the good news of our Savior,” Blalock said.
“That’s our goal and that’s our heart.”