Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said that the course would be free. Although the course is mandatory, the article has been updated because there will be a fee associated with the course.
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – In an effort to ensure that students are equipped to prevent and respond to abuse in their ministry contexts, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced the launch of a mandatory sexual abuse prevention and response course starting August 2022.
“Sexual abuse in any form should not be tolerated. It is a sinful act against fellow image bearers and an affront to a holy God,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “Southeastern is committed to preventing sexual abuse and training students to respond well to survivors with proper care and advocacy.”
Undergraduate, graduate and advanced students will be required to complete the course on sexual abuse prevention and response during their programs at Southeastern. The mandatory training course will provide an overview of practical strategies for preventing and responding to sexual abuse and will clarify biblical and theological foundations for caring well for survivors of abuse.
“As an institution, we recognize that fulfilling the Great Commission means teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word,” Akin said. “It means teaching disciples of Jesus to obey the second great commandment of neighbor love.”
In addition to contributions from Akin and from Southeastern Provost Keith Whitfield, instructors for the course include Bradley Hambrick, SEBTS assistant professor of biblical counseling, and Samantha Kilpatrick, attorney in the Kilpatrick Law Group and instructor in the Meredith College paralegal program.
Students in the course will receive a biblical and theological foundation for protecting the vulnerable as well as instruction on how to recognize vulnerabilities in ministry. The course is designed not only to inform students about proper responses to sexual abuse, but also about prevention and creating a culture of prevention and open communication. Instructors will also address implementing protective policies and reporting processes, understanding legal obligations and navigating spiritual and interpersonal challenges relevant to sexual abuse.
“Studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday,” said Kilpatrick, a member of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. “Churches and ministries are not immune, but often can be more at risk due to lack of awareness or inconsistent prevention policy and practice. Unless we understand the prevalence and dynamics of sexual abuse, we are not well equipped to implement prevention policy, nor are we able to respond well in a Christ-honoring and trauma-informed manner.”
“This training is relevant and important in higher education,” she said. “It will train Southeastern students at all levels as they seek to go on mission. The concepts and principles in this training will benefit all students as they seek to serve both in ministry contexts and in secular spaces.”
Akin said the course is timely in light of recent developments in the Southern Baptist Convention, including the third-party investigation of the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims.
“The heartbreaking breadth of sexual abuse in the SBC is undeniable,” Akin said. “It is far more widespread than most realized. This training course is intended to address this reality.”
In his Statement on the SBC Task Force Report on Sexual Abuse, Akin urged students and staff to report sexual abuse and added that Southeastern is committed to preventing sexual abuse and to caring well for survivors.
“Let me encourage you that if you know of someone that has been sexually abused or is the victim of sexual abuse that you immediately report it to law enforcement,” Akin wrote. “After reporting it to law enforcement, you can send an email to [email protected]. This email address is monitored by our Student Life team. We will follow up and respond quickly and decisively.”
If you are/have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, please reach out for help at 202-864-5578 or [email protected]. All calls are confidential.