NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 26, 2018—J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., in one of his first acts as president of the SBC, announced today his intention to partner with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to form a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group.
This presidential study group will consist of outside experts and Southern Baptist leaders who will advise Greear on issues related to sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and related subjects.
The group’s purpose will be 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. This group will study both how Southern Baptists are currently engaging these issues and develop recommendations in consultation with relevant SBC entities on strategies and resources for ministering to victims and protecting people and churches from predators.
Greear commented on the formation of the new presidential study group:
“How we as a convention of churches care for abuse victims and protect against vile predators says something about what we believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our churches should be a refuge for the hurting and a safe haven for the oppressed. Over the next year, I look forward to hearing from this group and partnering with our churches, state conventions, local associations, seminaries and national entities to determine what we can do to equip churches to minister effectively and stand guard against any who would seek to prey on the vulnerable.”
At the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting, messengers approved a resolution, “On Abuse,” which declared, “all abusive behavior as uniquely sinful,” and implored people “to act decisively on matters of abuse, to intervene on behalf of the abused, to ensure their safety, to report allegations of abuse to civil authorities according to the laws of their state and to pursue church discipline against impenitent abusers.” At the same meeting, two motions were referred to the ERLC—one motion from Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson requesting the ERLC study expanded resources to help churches protect themselves from sexual predators, and the other motion from ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt requesting a task force for helping churches protect themselves from sexual predators.
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, affirmed the need for a sexual abuse study group.
“Sexual assault and sexual abuse are Satanic to the core, and churches should be the ones leading the way when it comes to protecting the vulnerable from predators. Thankfully, every Southern Baptist pastor I know cares deeply about these issues. We as a denomination, though, owe it to our pastors and churches to come together and provide the very best resources and recommendations possible to address this crisis. That’s exactly what an advisory council like this is able to do, and I am eager to work alongside this group in any way possible to serve our churches and minister to those in our pews who have suffered abuse.”
Once established, the presidential study group will work over the next year and report its findings and any recommendations in order to address these issues in all SBC ministry contexts.