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Sexual abuse policy approved for SBTC affiliation

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) — The executive committee of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board has approved a policy related to sexual abuse and affiliated churches, the Southern Baptist TEXAN reported April 4.

Based on an interpretation of the SBTC’s faith statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the policy would disallow new or continued affiliation by a church whose senior pastor has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child. The policy also prohibits new or continued affiliation by a church that is found to be “indifferent in their response to child sexual abuse.”

The policy states, “indifference can be evidenced by, among other things, (a) employing a convicted sex offender in positions other than that of senior pastor, (b) allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors, (c) continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church, or (d) willfully disregarding compliance with child abuse reporting laws.”

With Article XV of the BF&M 2000 noting in part that “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality,” the SBTC board’s executive committee interprets this article to oppose child sexual abuse as “a form of sexual immorality that is clearly ungodly, morally corrupt and a sin against a holy God,” according to the policy, which was adopted on March 26.

SBTC bylaws empower its Credentials Committee, a procedural committee of the convention, to review the qualifications of churches for affiliation. The committee then recommends appropriate action to the SBTC Executive Board or messenger body of the convention for final disposition.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “We grieve to hear of any victim of sexual abuse. In an attempt to help churches protect children, the convention has expended a great deal of staff time, conducted several training events, allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for training and employed a consultant to assist this process.

“We further expect churches to minister within the parameters of our faith statement and bylaws,” Richards said. “The convention continues to be committed to facilitate sexual abuse awareness and prevention.”

In late February this year, the convention announced an initiative to provide no-cost training on sexual abuse awareness to as many as 1,000 affiliated churches, as well as providing five training events during 2019. This initiative continues the convention’s 10-year relationship with MinistrySafe, a company that assists churches and other institutions to prevent sexual abuse.