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Barber says sexual abuse hotline worth the cost

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NEW ORLEANS (BP) – In a video posted to his Twitter account Tuesday (Jan. 17), SBC President Bart Barber said “the cost of doing nothing” to combat sexual abuse far outweighs “the cost of doing something.”

Responding to multiple requests to reveal the monthly costs associated with a hotline to report incidents of sexual abuse that occur within Southern Baptist churches, Barber noted “there’s not a flat monthly cost for the hotline.”

He explained the costs of the hotline vary based on call volume but did not share any specific expenditures.

“And of course, the first few months of the hotline came when we’d never had anything like that before and because we’d never had anything like that before, there’s a backlog of people waiting to call in,” he said.

The hotline was established by the SBC Executive Committee on May 25, 2022, in response to a report released by Guidepost Solutions outlining alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the SBC EC over two decades.

It is managed by Guidepost and was in the news earlier this month when accusations were made that the information shared to the hotline was not being kept confidential.

Barber allowed that the hotline is expensive but countered the high costs by suggesting that it would cost more in the long run if Southern Baptists do nothing to address sexual abuse.

“For all of my adult lifetime there have been occasions where sexual abuse took place and the (Southern Baptist) Convention was sued and we’ve been paying that expense,” Barber said in the video.

“The only way to make the expense go away is to make the abuse go away. And I firmly believe that anything that we can do to prevent sexual abuse in our churches, anything that we can do to aid survivors and help them is money well spent and reduces our expenses in the long run.”

He added there is more to the cost than just dollars.

Referring to the actions of messengers at the 2021 and 2022 SBC annual meetings, he said, “I think the main thing that has motivated us is the human cost. If we don’t care about the human cost of abuse, then we’re in the wrong business and we’re serving the wrong master.”

Barber recorded the video, which runs for almost seven minutes, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting will be held in June. In it, he also discussed an abuse-related court case in Houston that he has been attending over the past few weeks.

The case Barber is referring to is a civil suit against Paul Pressler, which is currently being heard in the Harris County District Court. The charges in the case date back to the 1980s.

Pressler, a former SBC Executive Committee member, former SBC first vice president (2002 and 2003) and former Texas legislator and judge, is being sued by Gareld Duane Rollins. In the suit originally filed in October 2017, Rollins alleges Pressler raped him in 1980, when Rollins was 14 years old and attending a Bible study at Pressler’s church. According to the affidavit, Pressler continued to rape Rollins, “over the course of the next 24 years or so” as Rollins progressed into his 30s.

Barber said despite the high costs, he believes having the hotline is the right thing to do.

“I think according to God’s economy and according to the way that accountants look at the economy,” he said, “it’s a good investment for Southern Baptist to do everything that we can, even if it costs some money to do it, everything that we can to assist our local churches to prevent abuse and to comfort those and provide support for those who are survivors of abuse.”

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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