NASHVILLE (BP) – Following the release of the findings of Guidepost Solution’s investigation of the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims, Southern Baptist entity leaders are weighing in with reactions and calls for response. Statements from each entity’s president or executive director are below.
Brent Leatherwood, interim president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
“This is a truly devastating report. I am grateful for the tireless work of the Task Force and Guidepost in producing it.
I would urge all of my fellow Southern Baptists to read and take in this report about the gross injustices committed against survivors, whose courage in the face of all of this is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Much work lies ahead and I will be praying for wisdom for our messengers heading to Anaheim.”
Rolland Slade, chairman, SBC Executive Committee and Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO, SBC Executive Committee
“To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks, and to respond to the will of the messengers in Anaheim next month.
This is the beginning of a season of listening, lamenting, and learning how to address sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.
God has blessed the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost with His wisdom in developing this report and offering insight into how we call can take steps to eliminate sexual abuse within the Convention. In striving for this goal, we recognize there are no shortcuts. We must all meet this challenge through prudent and prayerful application, and we must do so with Christ-like compassion.”
The full statement from Slade and McLaurin can be found here.
Jeff Iorg, president, Gateway Seminary
“The final report from the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force was released this past Sunday. The body of the report and two appendices total almost 400 pages. It took me 7 hours to read through the material the first time. This week, I am reading it again as part of forming a measured response.
My first impression, however, was profound sadness. Aspects of the report are tragic, gut-wrenching, and despicable. While some of the report rehashed former incidents, there were new situations – at least to new to me – that were heart-rending. The victims’ stories call for compassionate, definitive action to humbly chart a serious path forward. Nothing else eclipses that immediate need right now.
My other initial impressions touch a range of concerns – from polity, to finance, to organizational design; from leadership selection, to legal matters, and missional focus. As you would expect, the suggestions for the seminaries were of particular interest to me. But those concerns are for another day. We all need much more time to digest what we are reading, consider the options presented in the report, reflect on the proposed changes, and make some reasoned and prayerful decisions about the best path forward.
Given the scope of the report and the short time frame until the convention, the best immediate result may be the creation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. The current Task Force has suggested it will recommend this group be appointed by the next SBC president to assist with the implementation of reform initiatives over the next three years.
At the Anaheim convention, we need God’s guidance to make decisions with long-term positive implications – which none of us can really foreshadow or foresee. We need more than our combined insight. We need an intervention – a spiritual infusion of God’s grace, direction, and superintending power. We also need an intentional, definitive path forward. Let’s pray and work toward those outcomes.”
Hance Dilbeck, president, GuideStone Financial Resources
“All of us at GuideStone are saddened by the details in the report. We are committed to supporting our churches as they care for the victims of sex abuse, and we continue to pray for the victims.”
Paul Chitwood, president, International Mission Board
“The release of our denomination’s Sexual Abuse Task Force report on Sunday, May 22, 2022, marks an opportunity for our denominational family to lament the pain and devastation of abuse. Scripture teaches us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Within the report, Guidepost has made recommendations to the denomination’s executive committee that will help the overall denomination forge a pathway forward to best practices in abuse prevention and response. We provide the following information and links regarding our organization’s posture to the report, and to abuse and response issues addressed in the report.
The seriousness of the work regarding the prevention of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) is what prompts our organization to require every employee, both overseas and stateside, to complete comprehensive training on these topics each April. Since our organization’s external examination on these topics in 2018-2019, the value of this work has undergirded our addition of the role of Prevention and Response Administrator to our organization, and Somer Nowak provides compassionate, trauma-informed care to each victim. If you have information about a personal situation and would like to connect with Somer directly, please email her at [email protected].
We encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse by our organization’s personnel or others affiliated with our organization to report it to authorities. In addition, we invite any victims to contact us on our confidential hotline at (855) 420-0003 or email [email protected] so that we can provide compassionate care to that victim and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of others.
We commit to continuing our prayers for the victims of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault), and we continue our commitment to diligently demand the highest standards to respond to incidents of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault), including seeking trauma-informed care for victims.”
Ben Mandrell, president, Lifeway Christian Resources
“I’m saddened and find myself in a posture of deep prayer as I review the Guidepost findings. Lifeway is committed to examining the task force recommendations so we can help churches prevent abuse and care for survivors. Let’s pray that healing and change are on the horizon.”
Jason Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“I’m reading & processing the SBC SATF report, but this much is clear: we have much, much work to do. The emotions range from shock & anger to disappointment & heartbreak. Though painful, I’m thankful for this report. Sometimes truth hurts—but it’s essential for healing & hope.”
Jamie Dew, president, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
“Reading the task force’s report is heartbreaking & saddening. Praying & trusting that Southern Baptists will stand together in doing everything possible, in Anaheim and beyond, to prevent such things in our convention of churches. Our Lord and our people deserve better than this.”
Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board
“The work of the Task Force is important for our convention and for the healing of survivors. The details in the report, which we are just now beginning to process, are egregious and deeply disturbing. We honor the courage of the survivors who came forward. We are praying for survivors and their families, for our churches, for wisdom, for discernment, and for the humility to use this report for God’s glory.
On Friday, May 13, prior to my knowledge of the report’s detailed allegations, Johnny Hunt resigned from NAMB as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership. His resignation was effective immediately.
Out of respect for the investigation of the SBC Executive Committee, we chose not to speak publicly about this resignation until after the Task Force report was released.
Prior to May 13, I was not aware of any alleged misconduct on the part of Johnny Hunt. I learned the details of the report today along with the rest of our Southern Baptist family.”
Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“SEBTS leadership has read the report released by the Sexual Abuse Task Force. The report is heartbreaking in what it exposes and brings to light. We must carefully weigh what is in it. I pray that Southern Baptists act decisively on the report when we meet in Anaheim. We are also aware that Dr. Johnny Hunt, who has a close relationship with SEBTS, was accused of sexual abuse in the report. Dr. Hunt’s name is associated with a variety of programs and other items on campus. We have begun serious internal discussion as to the proper steps that we need to take in response to the report’s findings. SEBTS is committed to supporting survivors, working to prevent sexual abuse, not allowing it to go unexposed, and using our ministry assignments to equip our students to do the same. Our Lord Jesus is full of Grace and Truth. May all of us seek to walk in His footsteps.”
Albert Mohler, president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“The first truth that must be spoken is the heartbreaking fact that many precious individuals made in God’s image have been victimized by pastors, ministers, teachers, volunteer leaders and others within the context of the local church and denominational ministries.
Women, children, and young people have been particularly harmed. Some of their stories are included and their accusations are documented in the report. One of the recurring revelations in the report is the resistance on the part of many leaders to seek sexual abuse as abuse and all abuse as sin that may well reveal a theological problem rooted in a neglect of the Bible’s teachings on sin and its deceptiveness.
Every single one of these sex abuse survivors deserve protection, but experienced predation. Every cry for help deserved to be heard, but many were not heard. Worse, some were denied and uninvestigated. Shockingly enough, at least some staff members were compiling a list of offenders. Evidently, they did nothing with it. Among at least some officials, there was an organized attempt to suppress the truth or to deny it. All, this is now documented for anyone to read.
Southern Baptist must see this report as part of a reckoning that will reveal God’s wrath, but also as mercy each in rightful proportion. Some see this report as an opportunity to condemn the Southern Baptist Convention and to castigate its churches, members, and leaders, as implacably opposed to dealing with this challenge with grace, truth, compassion and with the power of the gospel.
I don’t believe that is so. It was after all the SBC that demanded that this investigation be done. Truth is, the report shows Southern Baptists in the worst light. We have to face that fact, but I must move ahead with the confidence based in long experience that faithful Southern Baptist lay people, pastors, and denominational leaders will do the right thing once they know what that right thing is.”
Mohler’s full statement can be found here.
Adam W. Greenway, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“The findings of the Guidepost Solutions investigation are deeply troubling, and while the revelations contained therein are indeed painful to read, the truth must be confronted. Southwestern Seminary awaits the messengers’ consideration of and action regarding the recommendations of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force. Our institution is committed to a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse and to maintaining an environment that is inhospitable to such sinful behavior.”
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer, Woman’s Missionary Union
“The appalling findings exposed by the report are heartbreaking. Yet what would be infinitely more horrific is failure to enact strategic initiatives that eradicate sexual abuse within Southern Baptist churches and systems. In the days and weeks and months ahead, may the Father give us all strength and courage and resolve to do what is right.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brent Leatherwood’s statement has been updated in this version of the story.