Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber released a lengthy statement this morning (Oct. 30) explaining how he gave the final go-ahead for the Executive Committee to sign on to the hotly contested court submission related to a sexual abuse case being appealed in Kentucky.
The legal document — an amicus curiae brief which came to light Oct. 24 from an article by the Louisville Courier Journal — was signed and submitted by the EC; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and Lifeway Christian Resources in August 2022 because they “have a strong interest in the statute of limitations issue presented in this appeal.” An existing lawsuit in Kentucky (separate from the one related to the amicus brief) impacts the three entities and also deals with the statute of limitations issue.
The leaders of the EC, Southern and Lifeway garnered quick criticism from many Southern Baptists, including some serving on the boards of the three entities, but the EC has taken the strongest fire because of the current work being done related to sexual abuse reform efforts in the SBC.
SBC, EC’s participation
“This is my doing. I approved it. I take full responsibility for the SBC’s having joined this brief,” Barber stated, noting the brief was signed Aug. 9, 2022.
“I did not give this decision to file this brief the level of consideration that it deserved. Some of the most important information affecting my decision was information I failed to seek,” he explained. “Knowing what I know now, I know that I should have asked more questions. I should have taken the opportunity to request a meeting between the Interim CEO, myself, and our legal counsel to gather more information. I did not have the power to decide then, but I did have the opportunity to advise. I failed to use that opportunity wisely, and I regret that. Our future decisions likewise lie with the SBC Executive Committee. I hope to do a better job of using my voice to influence those decisions going forward.”
Southern Seminary’s response
Questions still remain about which entity (Lifeway, Southern Seminary or the EC) brought the brief to the other two entities’ attention and the full reasoning behind the decision to move forward in this manner.
Lifeway has not yet released a statement.
Southern released the following statement attributed to R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern’s president, Oct. 26 (two days after the brief became public):
“As is often the case in questions of law, significant constitutional and legal questions arise and require arguments to be made before courts. In such cases we must refer all questions to legal counsel. We respect the rule of law and must work through the process with legal representation, who must speak for us in this case.”
‘What makes it hurt so much’
In Barber’s statement, he explains what all was taking place the day he signed the brief, which was the day after he announced the members of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force.
“I spent that day trying to support everyone on the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and to carry forward our work. August 9, 2022, was not a day I spent trying to hurt survivors,” he said. “That’s what makes it hurt so much, and that’s what makes me so disappointed in myself: I did, in fact, wind up hurting survivors by what I did.”
To read the full statement, visit Barber’s blog post here.
A joint statement released Oct. 26 by sexual abuse survivors can be found here.
To read statements from the EC officers and the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, see the Oct. 27 article by Baptist Press here.
To read the amicus curiae brief itself, click here.
What is an amicus curiae brief?
“Amicus typically relates to the phrase amicus curiae which means ‘friend of the court,’” according to Cornell Law School. “Amicus is an individual or organization that is not a party to an action but who volunteers or is court-invited to advise on a matter before the court.”
According to merriam-webster.com, amicus curiae (amicus brief) means: “one (such as a professional person or organization) that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.”