The Southern Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force has released its latest update on the progress of the independent investigation into accusations that the SBC Executive Committee mishandled sexual abuse claims.
The Task Force noted the May 7 update will be its last before the final report is released leading up to the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, June 14–15. The final report from Guidepost Solutions, the firm handling the investigation, is due to the Task Force on May 15.
The Task Force noted a copy of “the factual portion of the report must be provided to the Committee on Cooperation for a factual review five days prior to submission to the Task Force — May 10. Guidepost will not provide its observations or conclusions to the CoC, but strictly the factual portion so that any inadvertent errors (e.g., titles, dates) can be corrected.”
The update said Guidepost, the Task Force, and the CoC agreed upon the following protocol, “to maintain the integrity of the report” until the Task Force releases the final report.
See following protocol from Task Force:
— The CoC or its designated delegates will only be able to review the factual portion of the report in a designated room with either a Task Force member or a Guidepost representative (“Monitor”) present at all times.
— No photocopies or photographs of the factual portion of the report will be permitted. All copies of the factual portion of the report will be collected whenever the Monitor is not present in the room or whenever a break is taken.
— Each CoC member or delegate will agree (in writing) not to disclose any portion of the report to anyone, in any form, including on social media. This prohibition includes disclosure to other SBC EC Trustees, current or former.
— If notes are taken by the CoC or delegate, the notes must be handwritten and will be collected by the Monitor at the end of each review date. The notes will be destroyed at the conclusion of the review.
— Guidepost personnel will meet with the CoC at the conclusion of their review to discuss any factual issues where the CoC believes that a correction is necessary. Though Guidepost will discuss suggested language or changes with the CoC, Guidepost will not commit to any language changes during this meeting and the final language is in the sole discretion of Guidepost.
The update noted that after the CoC review, and any needed changes are made by Guidepost, the report will be finalized and submitted to the Task Force on May 15. The Task Force will then have seven days to make the report public.
According to Task Force update, 313 interviews have been completed and three interviews are in progress this week. The update included a list of those who have either declined to participate in the investigation or have not responded to attempts to be interviewed.
To see full update, click here.
Following the release of the update, TBP reached out to Task Force co-chair Marshall Blalock through email for clarification regarding the protocol for the factual review, scheduled for May 10. See Q&A below:
TBP: Share more about the need for CoC to review the factual aspects such as titles, dates.
Blalock: When Guidepost put together the report, they were given names and titles of various people with the Exec Committee to interview as part of the investigation. From the beginning there was a clause to release factual data for review (names, titles, dates of service, simple facts) five days prior to the release to the Task Force. Guidepost does not want the veracity of the report questioned by a few factual errors, thus the fact checking. The Committee on Cooperation was chosen to be the official EC readers since this is a small group designated by the EC chair to represent the EC with Guidepost.
TBP: With the CoC reviewing the factual aspects, does that mean the Task Force will receive and review those aspects as well?
Blalock: Yes, the Task Force will receive this document which by the way is much shorter than the final; this document is redacted to contain just facts related to identifying people correctly and getting their times of service and jobs correctly stated. Guidepost interviews are still ongoing this week, so the final report is still in process right up until this weekend.
TBP: Will the review happen on May 10 or another day?
Blalock: May 10 in Nashville at the EC offices, all done in one day with Guidepost representatives there to make corrections if needed.
TBP: Why add “or delegate” related to the CoC members’ review? Does that mean a member can send someone in his or her place to review the factual aspects? Why choose that route rather than leaving the member or members out if they can’t make it?
Blalock: No member can choose a replacement for him or herself. The CoC may ask for someone with a particular expertise to read the report, but to my knowledge they have not done so. For example, the average person on the Committee on Cooperation might not know the exact dates that a particular individual served on the EC. There are people who have that knowledge. Guidepost has the authority by contract to designate someone with this kind of particular knowledge and expertise to read this redacted portion of the report as well. Anyone (including the CoC, the Task Force, or designated readers) reviewing for errors would be expected not to speak about the report until it is released on May 22. The only purpose of this review tomorrow is to make sure the most basic facts of the report are accurately stated.