Following is the complete statement by D. August Boto, who serves as general counsel and vice president for convention policy for the SBC Executive Committee.
Every person on the Executive Committee thoroughly deplores and condemns the sexual abuse SNAP and its representative, Ms. Brown, have addressed in recent days. Such criminal acts by those in ministerial positions are abhorrent — they violate a myriad of biblical commands and principles and even the most basic standards of human decency — and we believe such behavior should be prosecuted to the fullest. Our hearts are truly broken when we hear of such abuse and we will continue to encourage Southern Baptist churches to address this deplorable behavior.
The repeated claims of Ms. Brown and SNAP to the media that we had been unresponsive are untrue. SNAP and Ms. Brown received written replies to every communication they have sent — a total of five responses to date. Copies of these are available upon request. We have been informed that Ms. Brown and SNAP have recently determined they were in error, and did, in fact, receive our correspondence. SNAP has issued an apology for making those claims.
In our responses to anyone inquiring about Convention action in cases of child abuse committed in affiliated churches, we have attempted to explain that the Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee (indeed, each SBC entity, state convention, local association, and organization) has absolutely no authority over ANY Southern Baptist church. Article IV of the Convention's constitution (which may be found on the Convention's Web site — SBC.net) is no new provision, and states a historical tenet long deemed tremendously important by all Southern Baptists — local, Bible-believing churches should not be under any outside ecclesiastical authority. Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous and independent — affiliation with the SBC is entirely voluntary — each of the more than 43,000 churches in the U.S. has chosen to align voluntarily.
Therefore, the SBC does not play an authoritative role over those churches. Representatives from those churches meet annually to make decisions regarding the work of the Executive Committee and the SBC entities — not the other way around.
Because of our structure, most of the specific requests Ms. Brown and SNAP have made are not possible — there is no denominational jurisdiction over SBC churches. Those requests that are feasible are being studied.
We have repeatedly ENCOURAGED our churches to exercise due diligence in background research when considering a prospective minister or volunteer, but that due diligence cannot be mandated.
The SBC has made resources available to assist churches in performing background research and we will continue to encourage every SBC church to make full use of those resources in their hiring processes. (The resources listed below are not new — some of them have been available for several years.)
Our earnest prayer is that every Southern Baptist church will take the necessary steps to prevent such abuse — it is a stewardship the Lord has placed before them and one which we pray they will embrace prayerfully and diligently.
The following titles are a sampling of SBC-related Internet articles for preventing child abuse found at www.LifeWay.com.
• Ten Steps to Prevent Child Abuse in the Church
• How to Protect Your Church from Lawsuits
• Four Steps to Prevent Sexual Abuse in Your Church
• Seven Ways to Protect Your Church Staff from Scandal
• Screening Procedures for Childhood Ministry
• Child Abuse Prevention and Reporting
• Child Abuse Prevention
• Suggested Steps in Preventing Child Abuse in the Church