Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton has announced the formation of a task force to review the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.
The announcement was made on the website of Litton’s church, Redemption Church, Saraland, near Mobile, Alabama.
The statement reads: “At the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Nashville, TN, the messengers passed a motion calling for the appointment of a task force to conduct a third-party review into the handling of abuse disclosures and the treatment of survivors of abuse by the Executive Committee of the SBC.
“The Convention directed that this task force be comprised of members of Baptist churches cooperating with this Convention as well as experts on sexual abuse and the handling of sexual abuse-related dynamics. My first priority has been to form a task force that is independent of the Executive Committee to oversee the third party.
Task force members
The seven members of the task force are:
- Chair: Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina
- Vice-chair: Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina
- John Damon, Ph.D., CEO of Canopy Children’s Solution, Jackson, Mississippi, and member of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Madison, Mississippi
- Liz Evan, J.D., judicial law clerk at Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Nashville, and member of Hillsdale Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee
- Heather Evans, DSW, director of Evans Counseling Services, Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, and member of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Center Valley, Pennsylvania
- Andrew Hébert, lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas
- Bucas Sterling III, senior pastor of Kettering Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
Litton said task force members represent pastors, as well as professionals in law, counseling and abuse advocacy.
“I sought counsel and recommendations from experts in the field and from trusted advisors to identify the members of the task force,” Litton said in the statement. “This group includes respected pastors within our Convention who are independent of the Executive Committee and who do not have a conflict of interest related to the review. It is also composed of individuals with professional expertise for this assignment. I believe the members of this team are men and women who genuinely pursue God and seek the truth and desire for survivor voices to be heard. I am grateful for their willingness to serve our Convention in this important role.”
In addition, Litton said, Chris Moles and Rachael Denhollander will serve as advisors to the task force.
Moles is a certified biblical counselor and a certified batterer intervention group facilitator who helps churches and families through domestic violence issues in order to promote healthy, God-honoring relationships. He is pastor of Grace Community Chapel in Eleanor, West Virginia. Denhollander is an attorney, author and advocate for sexual abuse survivors. She was the first woman to pursue criminal charges and speak publicly about years of sexual abuse perpetuated by USA Gymnastics’ team doctor Larry Nassar and was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2018.
According to the announcement, the task force has three goals, in accordance with the motion adopted by SBC messengers:
- to “ensure that the third-party review includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives”
- to make public the findings from this review
- to present to the Convention recommendations for action.
Call to prayer
“Southern Baptists, I urgently call you to pray for this process and to bear the burden alongside this task force as they pursue truth, identify issues and move forward toward greater health in our response to abuse,” Litton said.