The Southern Baptist Convention’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force responded quickly to conflict-of-interest concerns raised by retired attorney and sexual abuse survivor Christa Brown. Her concerns are specific to the hotline established in May 2022 and were shared in a Jan. 6 opinion piece published by Baptist News Global.
“(Rachael) Denhollander has been occupying dual and potentially conflicting roles: (1) as the designated advocate for individual survivors who make sexual abuse and concealment reports … and (2) as an adviser to the SBC on its handling of sexual abuse and concealment,” Brown wrote.
“My purpose is not in any way to degrade Denhollander, an individual for whom I hold great admiration and gratitude for all she has done in broadly raising awareness about the dynamics of sexual abuse,” Brown added. “In the specific arena of the SBC, however, this two-hat ethics concern presents a problem, and I view it as being more about the institution than about the specific individual occupying the dual roles.
“Why have SBC officials allowed this apparent conflict?”
On Jan. 9, the task force addressed the concern without referencing Brown or the opinion piece.
“Calls that come into the hotline are received exclusively by Guidepost and seen only by their staff,” the task force update states. “The only exceptions to this occur if mandatory reporting is triggered, if the information is relevant to the ongoing investigation with the Department of Justice, or pursuant to a lawful subpoena. … In addition, where survivors wish to file a report … with the Credentials Committee, the relevant information will be provided only to the … committee. Survivors are fully informed … and no action is taken without their knowledge or consent.
“Denhollander serves as an adviser due to her expertise in crisis response, trauma, abuse dynamics and sexual abuse reforms,” the update notes. “She does not serve as counsel for the ARITF or the SBC. Neither the ARITF nor its advisers, including Rachael, have access to confidential survivor information or the information provided to Guidepost through the hotline.”