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Ministry Check website expected to be revealed during annual meeting report

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Messengers at the annual meeting should get the first view of the website that will feature two goals in addressing sexual abuse reform. One section of the site will work to provide information toward “prevention, protection and care” and the other that will be a searchable database of those credibly accused of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.

Marshall Blalock, chair of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF), confirmed those details with Baptist Press in a conversation today (June 7).

Blalock will present the ARITF report to messengers at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 13. That report is expected to feature the reveal of the Ministry Check website, the formation of which was approved by messengers at the annual meeting last year.

A priority on accuracy will accompany the database, he said.

“We’re still in the process of vetting names through our legal review,” said Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C. “We want to make sure that all the information that goes on the site is accurate.”

Meetings with state convention leaders over the last year have been “extremely important” in developing a ministry toolbox for churches that will be available in its initial stage, with more resources to be added.

“A lot of the work is done at the state level,” Blalock said. “We want to synthesize that information and put it together to go on the website.”

Every state convention has made strides in addressing sexual abuse reform, he noted.

“Overall, the SBC has done more in the past 12 months to help prevent sexual abuse and protect its churches and survivors than at any time in my recollection. That’s a huge step forward for us and we’re grateful,” Blalock said.

In the ARITF’s most recent update, the group announced that during the site’s initial launch, only the first three criteria in the definition of “credibly accused” will be utilized. Those are:

  1. The individual was convicted of a crime of sexual abuse.
  2. Civil judgment has been entered against the abuser for the sexual abuse.
  3. The individual confessed to sexual abuse in a non-privileged setting.

The fourth criteria has proved to be the most difficult to implement. It requires vetting by “a qualified, independent third party, commissioned by the appropriate local church or SBC entity.”

“The database will be up Tuesday, but we’re still in the process of our legal team reviewing the names of the folks in categories one, two and three. It’s going to take time to have all those ready to go,” Blalock said.

The ARITF exists from year to year, determined by the vote of messengers. Members continue in their work unless they opt to step down. Should they do so, the current SBC president will name a replacement.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that every one of our task force members will be able to serve a second term, but continuity is extremely valuable for this work,” Blalock said. “This group has given sacrificially of their time, expertise and hearts to serve our convention.

“The time and money are worth it,” continued Blalock, a father and grandfather. “They’re worth it when I think about children whose lives will never be touched by sex abuse because churches took the right precautions to prevent it.”