Trustees of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions had an opportunity May 20 to talk through what to expect from the Guidepost Solutions report, which is scheduled for release May 22 at 3 p.m. Central time.
The report will publicize the unedited, unredacted results of Guidepost’s independent investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases for a 21-year timeframe (2000 to mid-2021). Per instructions from the motion passed by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville, the Sexual Abuse Task Force was to receive the report from Guidepost no later than 30 days prior to the annual meeting (which happened May 15) and then release it to the public within seven days (the anticipated May 22 release).
Also being released May 22 are recommendations from the task force in light of the report. Specific motions related to the recommendations will go to messengers attending the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim in June. They are expected to be released publicly before the end of May.
During the State Board’s regularly scheduled meeting in Prattville May 20, trustees heard from Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
McLaurin shared with the group how he and EC chairman Rolland Slade are in a season of prayer about what comes next. He also asked Alabama Baptists to “pray mightily that we would have the opportunity to … listen to what God is saying through it, to learn from it and to rise up and lead like never before.”
Pray for those in leadership to “lead us through this season to be the churches God has called us to be,” McLaurin said, noting the EC’s initial response May 22 will be a basic statement acknowledging receipt of the report and “a desire to move toward the future.”
Then the full EC board will meet via Zoom on May 24 “to review and begin to process.”
“My understanding is that the report is going to be pretty extensive,” McLaurin said, so the trustees will need time to read through it, which is one reason the meeting is two days later than the release of the report.
“Even though the report is going to be made public, we need to process and think how to respond appropriately as far as the Executive Committee is concerned,” he explained. “Then when we go to Anaheim (for the annual meeting), the task force will most likely be bringing recommendations and motions to be considered by those gathering in Anaheim.
“I’ve asked churches to have a special time of praying that as Baptists read the report they read [it as] who they are in Christ and that their actions be Scripture fed and spirit led,” McLaurin shared.
What to expect
As far as what to expect, McLaurin said the recommendations must fall within the framework of Southern Baptist polity.
“The [task force] has been consulting with Baptist polity experts to make sure they have a really good understanding so [the coming] motions will be within that framework,” he explained.
McLaurin also confirmed that recommendations coming from the task force will be specific only to the EC and possibly the SBC Credentials Committee (no churches, associations or state conventions).
The Alabama Baptist is preparing for team coverage of the report once it is released May 22.
The 2021 motion submitted by Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines and North Carolina pastor Ronnie Parrott and passed by messengers reads:
I move that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15–16, 2021, in Nashville, TN, ask the newly elected president of the SBC to appoint a task force within 30 days of the date of this Convention that shall be comprised of members of Baptist churches cooperating with this Convention and experts in sexual abuse and the handling of sexual abuse-related dynamics. This task force shall either assume oversight of the third-party review announced previously by the Executive Committee or initiate a separate third party review. Said task force shall 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. The investigation shall include actions and decisions of staff and members of the Executive Committee from January 1, 2000 to June 14, 2021. This investigation should include an audit of the procedures and actions taken by the Credentials Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was formed at the Convention meeting in Birmingham, AL, June 11–12, 2019. The review shall be funded by allocations from the Cooperative Program.
We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review. A written report on the factual findings of this review shall be presented to the task force 30 days prior to the SBC Annual meeting in 2022, and made public in full form within one week of the Task Force’s receipt of the report along with suggestions from the task force for actions to be taken by our convention.
The seven members of the Sexual Abuse 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 in Madison, Mississippi
- Liz Evan, J.D., judicial law clerk at Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Nashville, and member of Hilldale Baptist Church in 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 in Amarillo, Texas
- Bucas Sterling III, senior pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The five-member Committee on Cooperation (liaison between the Executive Committee, the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost Solutions) is made up of current EC members. They are:
•Chair: Ed Litton, SBC president (ex-officio member of the EC) and pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile
•John Bates, a bivocational pastor from Washington
•Nancy Spalding, a layperson and CPA from Michigan
•Mike Keahbone, a pastor from Oklahoma
•Chris Dupree, a pastor from Texas