Members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force are four months into their assignment and are “working diligently … to advance the priority items,” according to task force chair Marshall Blalock.
They also are attempting to multitask with complex layers of responsibilities in three major areas, he said, adding that while their assignment is to determine recommendations for various areas of work, “we don’t get to actually make the final decisions related to whether those recommendations are followed.” That will be up to the leaders of the various areas of work once the recommendations are presented.
Blalock, pastor of FBC Charleston, South Carolina, released the task force’s second report Dec. 22 following its third in-person meeting Dec. 12.
Task force members were appointed in August and held their first meeting Sept. 5 and the second meeting Oct. 19. During the initial meeting in September, the group established three priorities (in no particular order) for the first phase of its work. They are:
•“The retaining of an individual or firm who is qualified and trauma-informed to receive reports of abuse or mishandling of abuse, determine the proper entity, association or church to respond to that report and communicate this report to the relevant parties.”
Update on status as of the Dec. 12 meeting: Still considering the best long-term option while the original hotline and email notification system remains active — 202-864-5578, SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com.
•“The creation of the Ministry Check database, which will house the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse in order to ensure thorough information flows throughout the convention and better resources churches to protect their congregations.”
Update on status as of the Dec. 12 meeting: Still researching how it should function and how to create it, then will need to identify “a capable and qualified database administrator.”
Several essential details must be considered for a database of this kind, Marshall told The Baptist Paper.
“We must consider indemnification, protections for survivors, cyber security, legal standards and creating access to the database. … While this has no precedent in Baptist life, this initiative is a critical piece for helping churches to be protected from known abusers.
“We are trying to do something many people thought was impossible,” he said. “And while it isn’t impossible, it is much more involved than one might think. It has to be done at the highest possible standard or it will never work. … The task force is committed to finding a way to make it work.”
•Helping the Credentials Committee retain a qualified firm to assist in processing and performing factual inquiries related to sexual abuse.
Update on status as of the Dec. 12 meeting: Identified numerous outside groups to assist, but the list has not yet been narrowed down for recommendations.
The task force also has a new website, which contains its reports, member information and other resources: abusereformtaskforce.net. The group’s next meeting is set for Jan. 30.
The original sataskforce.net site also remains active for background details and the full scope of the investigation, first task force appointed and recommendations approved by messengers during both the 2021 and 2022 SBC annual meetings.