Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear unveiled Monday plans to reform how churches in his denomination address sexual abuse.
The proposed changes range from providing free training for ministry leaders and encouraging churches to review their policies on abuse to calling for a reexamination of the ordination process and ensuring that Southern Baptist churches cannot have a “wanton disregard for prevention of sexual abuse” and still be in good fellowship with the denomination.
“If we don’t get this right, our churches will not be a safe place for the lost,” Greear said. “That is not something that I am OK with … I know that it is not something that you’re OK with either.”
Greear, who leads The Summit Church in North Carolina, took about 30 minutes to lay out 10 recommendations for change to a room full of Southern Baptist leaders in Nashville. They are the first proposals to come out of the sexual abuse advisory group Greear formed last year.
The proposed reforms come as Southern Baptists grapple with their own sexual abuse crisis.
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News recently published a startling report showing that 380 Southern Baptists with formal church roles have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the last 20 years. Many were convicted of sex crimes and some are still in prison, but others continue to work in churches, the news organizations found.
“We need to regard any exposure, any shining of light on abuse, as our friend, even if it makes us ask some uncomfortable questions about ourselves publicly. Our job is to love and serve people, especially those who have suffered abuse,” Greear said. “Our job is not to protect our reputation.”
Leaders call for change
In the wake of that report, several Southern Baptist leaders, including Greear, called for change within the network of churches that make up the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
That call continued Monday night as Greear addressed the regularly scheduled meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
“This is not a fabricated story that is made up by people with a secular agenda that is against us. We’ve not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands that we do, and sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims,” Greear said. “We know that it is time that we backup our words with actions and we demonstrate our commitment to this.”
The recommendations also include a call to repent for decades of inaction and to make sure abuse is a part of the discussion at the denomination’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, in June.
He called out 10 Southern Baptist churches by name, including Second Baptist Church in Houston, that were accused in recent media reports of having “displayed a wanton disregard for the seriousness of abuse.”
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