5 updates on the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group

May 14, 2019

With one month to go before the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, there are many important things happening on the issue of abuse. In recent weeks, encouraging items related to abuse have occurred in the SBC. For example, the SBTC approved funding for abuse prevention training and voted to disfellowship a church over abuse. One other promising step in this effort is a recent bill in Texas that would shield nonprofit organizations from being sued if they, in good faith, disclose sexual abuse allegations against former employees. Throughout the convention, robust conversation is happening as it relates to how to address abuse in Southern Baptist churches.  

The Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG) has continued to invest in preparing important resources and recommendations in recent days. According to SBC President J.D. Greear, the purpose of the SAAG is “to consider how Southern Baptists at every level can take discernable action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions.” There are several significant developments to highlight about the advisory group’s recent work.  

  1. Caring Well: Equipping Churches to Confront the Abuse Crisis. The ERLC recently overhauled its October national conference to address abuse. In partnership with the SAAG, the ERLC’s conference will now focus on “Caring Well: Equipping Churches to Confront the Abuse Crisis.” This event will feature survivors, experts, pastors, and advocates who will seek to equip Christians on the subject of abuse and related issues to empower their churches to address abuse. Speakers include Russell Moore, Beth Moore, J.D. Greear, Rachael Denhollander, Gary Haugen, Diane Langberg, Megan Lively, Jackie Hill Perry, and many more. Attendees will listen to survivors and learn from experts so that they can leave equipped to make their churches safe for survivors and safe from abuse.
  2. Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention. The SAAG and the ERLC will partner together for a Monday night event on “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention.” In addition to Russell Moore, Beth Moore, Rachael Denhollander, and J.D. Greear, the event recently added Susan Codone, a survivor of sexual abuse in a Birmingham-area SBC church. This group of panelists is well equipped to speak to the issue from a ministry standpoint, but also to provide personal perspectives of survivors of child sexual abuse and clergy sexual abuse in the SBC. Space is limited for the event and filling up quickly, so we hope you will register to join us for this important conversation.
  3. Major plans and announcements are in development for the SBC annual meeting. On Wednesday afternoon, the SAAG will lead a time of prayer and lament as well as present a report on its work. The ERLC booth will serve as a hub for information, resources, and conversations about abuse. More information on additional plans and announcements will emerge as the annual meeting gets closer.
  4. Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum. The SAAG’s new, free video-based curriculum to equip churches to provide holistic care for abuse will be ready to launch by the SBC annual meeting. In addition to the 12-part video series, the resource will also include a companion written curriculum. A Spanish translation of the written curriculum and Spanish subtitles for the videos will also be available. The curriculum will be available for free at the SBC annual meeting. If you want to know more about the curriculum, visit its website at churchcares.com.
  5. Updates on J.D. Greear’s 10 calls to action on abuse. In February, SBC president JD Greear issued 10 calls to action on abuse. Collaborative efforts continue amongst the SBC entities, state conventions, and associational leaders on abuse. While significant updates on several of the long-term items on Greear’s list, such as items 6, 7, and 9, are not expected at the SBC annual meeting, progress is taking place in each of these important areas. In Birmingham, additional announcements will take place to build on the initial calls to action that Greear made in February.

The SAAG looks forward to updating you more in the days to come. And we ask for your prayers as we continue to work on resources that will help us care well for survivors and protect against abuse. May the Lord use our efforts to glorify his name and help our churches become safer for the vulnerable.  

Phillip Bethancourt

Phillip Bethancourt is Senior Pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas. Before he was called to pastor Central, he served as the Executive Vice President of the ERLC team. He completed an MDiv and PhD in Systematic Theology at Southern after attending Texas A&M University. Phillip and his wife, Cami, have been married since 2005, … Read More