Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued an apology on Tuesday (May 24) to all survivors of abuse in the wake of the Sexual Abuse Task Force’s release of the Guidepost Solutions report. The report included details accusing BP, SBC Executive Committee leaders and outside legal counsel of mishandling, ignoring and failing to adequately respond to accusations of abuse.
“We regret the harm and hurt that has come to the survivor community because of our reporting or lack of reporting,” Baptist Press said in their statement. “Today, we offer an apology to survivors, churches and those who have been harmed by the reporting or lack of reporting of sexual abuse by Baptist Press.”
Among those survivors who were prominently included in the report was Jennifer Lyell. The news service issued formal apologies to Lyell in 2019, and the SBC Executive Committee apologized to her during their February meeting for “its failure to adequately listen, protect, and care for Jennifer Lyell when she came forward to share her story of abuse by a seminary professor.”
The Executive Committee added in their statement, “The SBC Executive Committee apologizes for all the hurt it has caused, is grateful for Ms. Lyell’s perseverance and engagement, and prays for her complete healing from the trauma she has endured.”
Baptist Press noted they plan to enact recommendations from the Guidepost report that were specifically directed toward the news service.
Among those recommendations (see P. 274 of report), “Baptist Press should commit to seek and report truth by: acting independently, ensuring accuracy, verifying information and using original sources where possible.”
The report recommended, “Baptist Press should minimize harm by balancing the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Baptist Press should use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes and sources or subject who are inexperienced or unable to give consent.”
BP responded, “We could not agree more with these recommendations. We are currently discussing ways for there to be greater accountability within Baptist Press.”
The Executive Committee approved operating guidelines for Baptist Press in 1986, the news service noted in their statement, and those guidelines were reaffirmed by the EC in September 1991.
“These guidelines are not abstract to us,” BP said. “We see them every day as they hang on our walls. We talk about them in regular staff meetings and trainings. We take them to heart. We are far from perfect, but we are committed to being a better Baptist Press for the sake of the SBC and for the glory of God.”