HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (BP) – A North Carolina pastor is calling Southern Baptists to join him in praying and fasting for the next seven days as discussions continue among the officers and staff of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the Sexual Abuse Task Force appointed by SBC President Ed Litton and Guidepost Solutions, the third-party firm the task force has selected to investigate the SBC EC’s handling of sex abuse claims.
“I believe God is working to expose the darkest areas in our convention,” Ronnie Parrott told Baptist Press. “Our enemy thrives in darkness around issues like race issues and sexual abuse. I believe prayer and fasting is the way to move towards unity and effective execution of our mission. There are many opinions, but only what God says matters. We must bring these issues before the Lord.”
Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C., has created a Google form allowing people to sign up to participate in the weeklong movement.
On Tuesday (Sept. 21), the SBC Executive Committee approved a motion to allocate up to $1.6 million in Cooperative Program money for Guidepost to conduct its investigation, which spans from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
The motion set a deadline of Sept. 28 for the EC, the task force and Guidepost to “flesh out” the waiving of attorney-client privilege.
A spokesperson for the Executive Committee told Baptist Press in a statement that the EC recognizes “there are diverse perspectives on the recent meeting of the SBC Executive Committee meeting this week, and we appreciate these diverse points of view. From our point of view, the Executive Committee has demonstrated yet again its support for an effective and independent review and the Executive Committee still does not—and has not—oppose in principle the fundamental questions at issue, including requests to waive privilege when appropriate and in coordination with the third party commissioned to conduct the inquiry.
“This week, the Executive Committee fully funded the review—in effect beginning the formal review process—and moved the critical discussions further in a spirit of unity and cooperation even if some substantive issues remain unresolved. We ask Southern Baptists to pray, especially over the next seven days, that the ultimate outcome of this process strengthens and unifies our Convention as it relates to this independent review but especially as it relates to our collective concern for survivors of sexual abuse.”
Parrott told BP that messengers have “spoken clearly that they expect full cooperation.”
“In the SBC, it’s vital that we remember that the local church is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Parrott said. “In June, the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly adopted a motion directing the Executive Committee to fully cooperate with an independent third-party investigation into its handling of sexual abuse over the past 20 years.”
In the Google form, referring to the waiving of attorney-client privilege, Parrott said, “It is our desire to see the Executive Committee follow the will of the messengers for the sake of transparency and credibility.”
“We are praying that there would be a waiving of attorney-client privilege within the scope of this investigation,” he said, “That the task force, Guidepost, and the Executive Committee officers would come to a unifying agreement on accepting the motion in full so that the truth can be found without further hindrance.”
Parrott is calling participants to commit to prayer and fasting between “sundown on Wednesday, September 22nd to lunch on Wednesday, September 29th.”
He lists three specific issues of concern.
- Pray for the meetings between the Sexual Abuse Task Force and the Executive Committee Officers.
- Pray for full adoption of the motion presented by the messengers at the 2021 SBC in Nashville.
- Pray for unity around the Gospel and the Great Commission to prevail through this whole process.
He also suggests various ways to fast, which include:
- Abstaining from all food, observing a juice and water fast only
- Abstaining from all meats and sweets, having only vegetables and other foods
- Abstaining from one meal a day
- Abstaining from all social media, “because it can dominate us if we are not careful,” he wrote.
Through the adoption of a motion coauthored by Parrott and Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines, messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting asked the SBC president to name a task force to commission a firm for a third-party investigation. The task force is to “ensure that the third-party review includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives.”
The motion also said, “We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.”
The task force was given the date of 30 days prior to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting to make public a written report.