Local response to Southern Baptist sexual abuse scandal results in workshop, new policies
By Marc Ira Hooks
New guidelines for churches and a seminar designed to prevent incidents of sexual abuse are being initiated by the CBA Church Network as Southern Baptist churches in Texas and around the country experience fallout from an expose about SBC clergy and staff members convicted of sexual abuse.
Just weeks ago, an investigation produced by the Houston Chronicle uncovered more than 700 victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by Southern Baptists in positions of power. The examination by reporters covered a 20-year span and found more than 200 pastors, youth ministers and deacons who were convicted or took plea deals for sex crimes.
In response, Collin Baptist Association Church Network is taking steps to ensure the safety of Southern Baptist parishioners in Collin County. “This is mission critical stuff,” said CBA Executive Director Vince Smith. “Yes, this is a black eye on us as a denomination. But our focus must always be to love people in the way that Jesus loved them. That means that we are more concerned with preserving our people than we are with our system.” Because of the denomination’s non-hierarchical structure, churches are not under the authority of Collin Baptist Association, but choose to cooperate together under the umbrella of the Network.
The Network will host Keeping Kids Safe: Educating the Church About Abuse – a half-day workshop designed to both raise awareness about sexual abuse in our churches, and to equip churches to use personnel screening services and other policies that might weed-out sexual predators before they are able to enter the church as staff or volunteers.
The workshop will focus on sexual abuse in the church awareness, prevention and protection. Church leaders will hear testimony from a woman abused by her youth pastor, and presentations from the Collin County Child Advocacy Center and The SANE Initiative. A counselor with the Baptist General Convention of Texas will also share information about MinistrySafe, a service which provides training, screening, background checks, and monitoring and oversight for churches.
“The only acceptable number of victims is zero,” said Smith, who believes the Network can be a catalyst for change at the church level. “We must engage the issue of sexual abuse with compassion and care.” In addition to the workshop, Network leaders adopted a “Statement of Principles” concerning sexual abuse recently crafted and approved by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders. The preamble of the SBCAL document states, “Our desire is for the churches in our respective associations to be safe havens for survivors and safe from abuse. We also call on our associational leaders and ministries to be models of compassionate care.”
Keeping Kids Safe: Educating the Church About Abuse will be held April, 25 at First Baptist Church of McKinney, 1615 W Louisiana Street, from 9 a.m. until noon. For more information, call the CBA Office at 972-529-5222 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.