By / Oct 30

When disaster strikes, no other ministry or organization mobilizes like the SBC. Whether it is a warm meal cooked after a hurricane or care packages for folks fleeing a war zone, Baptists will be there to offer help and hope for the suffering. 

Why is it when abuse is the issue—a disaster that so often strikes our churches—we get weak in the knees or let lawyers take the reins of decision making? Do the same responsibilities outlined in Scripture to do what is right and seek justice not apply here, as well? Of course they do. And, here’s the thing, every pastor I’ve spoken with and every entity head I have worked with feels the same, even if we aren’t always consistent in applying that belief. 

Our messengers know this too. In fact, they have repeatedly made clear what they want—in overwhelming fashion: Abuse is a scourge upon our churches, and this evil must be confronted; survivors who have suffered so much are to be supported; and the vulnerable in our midst—even those you may not have at the forefront of your mind—are to be protected.

Some say what messengers have asked for is not feasible or that they don’t really know what they’re doing. I reject this line of thinking. 

By my lights, it is clear what messengers are requesting. For they see rightly that disaster has struck, and continues to do so. While so many of our churches, associations, state conventions, and national entities are taking proactive measures to combat abuse, there have been far too many instances when lives have been preyed upon by an abuser or rendered vulnerable by the failure to act. Messengers have given explicit instructions to entities at the national level and have initiated strong task forces for action at the state level. In all this, a clear call to action has emerged that no legal position or policy preferences should outweigh. Personally, I’ve interpreted this charge from our messengers to mean if it costs our entity its entire existence, it is worth it—if it means our churches are the refuge for survivors from abuse they should be.

That is why the news of the last week has filled me with grief. 

As the head of the entity that has been engaged in abuse reform efforts for years now and as the one that routinely reviews legal briefs as we carry out our ministry assignment, this move struck me as out of step with the work that has been done and the considerable work that is to come for our convention. This is not a path we would have chosen.

Nevertheless, we, at the ERLC, remain committed to getting this right. I know Dr. Barber does as well—his statement today confirms this. His heart for the Lord has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in moving reform efforts forward. And I know my fellow entity heads and executives of our state conventions are aligned in this effort, too. Of course, we are all autonomous and so we are free to go about this our own way. But, again, that’s not the expectation I sense from our messengers. They want us to not merely cooperate, but to be interdependent upon one another. That is, to see one another as part of the solution for ultimately stamping out abuse. Until we heed their call, instances like this will occur that erode the trust needed to implement the necessary reforms and assistance our churches need.

Above all of this, though, my heart is heavy for survivors. You have, for so long, made appeals, demanded justice, and suffered through inaction—and worse. You have rightly said disaster is striking within our churches, and the same urgency we bring to global events should animate a similar action here.

My only response to that justified frustration is this: Please don’t give up on us. To even ask that of individuals who have been subjected to so much terror feels wrong and hard-hearted. And while no individual or entity will be perfect, there are those of us who want to be a voice for the vulnerable, who want our churches to be sanctuaries of safety, and who want our convention ridded of this evil. We want our words matched by action. I am committed to working with you, our pastors, and all of my peers to do just that.

By / Sep 22

Over the past several years, Southern Baptists state conventions and associations have been taking significant steps to prevent abuse within their churches and provide support for survivors. While the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has faced criticism for its handling of sexual abuse cases in the past, many state conventions are now prioritizing abuse prevention and survivor care.

The path to prevent abuse

Here is a sampling of the efforts made by various state groups to address this issue and protect the vulnerable within our congregations.

Alabama 

The Alabama Baptists are taking several steps to prevent abuse in churches. They have a webpage dedicated to helping churches be safer places, which includes resources to help churches create protection policies such as a screening form, permission for background and credit checks, and a covenant of ministerial ethics. They also offer tools to implement the plan such as a sexual harassment policy, social media policy, and computer and internet use policy. Additionally, Alabama Baptists State Board of Missions offers a discount for churches to provide training and resources to prevent sexual abuse in churches.

Alabama Baptists have also established a Sexual Abuse Task Force, which challenges church leaders to continue the work of preventing sexual abuse in churches. They have released a joint statement expressing their sadness and grief over reports of sexual abuse and how they were handled. Furthermore, Alabama law requires pastors, church staff, and volunteers to report suspicions of child abuse.

Florida

The Florida Baptist Convention has established an affiliate relationship with the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention (ECAP), a partnership that provides access to exclusive resources for child safety programs, training events from experts in the field, and discounted admission to ECAP events. The Florida Baptist Convention has committed $30,000 in financial resources to aid churches that desire to develop robust abuse prevention.

The Florida Baptist Convention has also adopted a special committee report regarding sexual abuse policies and procedures. The committee was authorized by the Florida Baptist State Convention to address abuse allegation reporting, survivor care, and prevention within the state convention. Additionally, the Florida Baptist Convention offers child protection training to raise awareness for abuse prevention and child protection. They also provide ministry leaders with resources to assist them in prevention and connect ECAP with area churches.

Georgia 

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board offers a program called “Reduce the Risk,” which is designed to help churches train pastors, staff members, and volunteer leaders every year with ease. This program is available through Ministry Grid, which is an online platform that provides training resources for churches.

Georgia Baptists also provide free access to a Sexual Abuse Awareness Training. This training is designed to help churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors.

Illinois

The Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) encourages churches to study and establish effective policies for security and childcare, including check-in and check-out procedures. They also recommend background checking all workers, including fingerprinting checks of the FBI database and examination of the Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Illinois State Police.

IBSA provides SafeChurch, a program designed to help churches prevent abuse and protect their members. The program includes training on recognizing and responding to abuse, creating a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults, and developing policies and procedures to prevent abuse.

IBSA is also part of the Caring Well Initiative, which is a unified call to action for churches to confront the abuse crisis. 

Kentucky

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is offer training on sexual abuse prevention, response, and care to church staff and lay leaders. The training covers child sexual abuse in Christian environments, understanding offender behaviors and the grooming process, appropriate prevention and responding to allegations, as well as understanding a trauma-informed response and care for survivors.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention has also established a Sexual Abuse Task Force to help churches prevent and respond to sexual abuse. They have prepare a handbook to help churches prevent and respond to sexual abuse, with a particular emphasis on caring for survivors. Additionally, Kentucky Baptist leaders are responding to charges of sexual abuse in a number of Southern Baptist churches across the United States. 

Maryland and Delaware

The Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware (BCM/D) approved a constitutional change that requires churches to take steps toward preventing sexual abuse and caring for survivors. The BCM/D also provides initial and ongoing training for staff, volunteers, and church members that raises awareness and shares effective actions to prevent incidents. Pathways is a resource they use that provides churches with a clear and concise plan to prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors.

The BCM/D is part of the Caring Well Initiative. The convention is also able to leverage faith-based and community initiatives which support several programs in mental health services, substance abuse prevention, and addiction treatment at the national, state, and local levels.

North Carolina 

The N.C. Baptists have created a guide to help survivors of sexual abuse. The guide provides information on how to determine the classification of the information that is shared with you, how to report the information, how to listen and provide counsel, how to train the leaders within your women’s ministry, and how to refer to a counselor.

They also provide resources to help churches by providing training to help churches recognize and prevent abuse, as well as care for those who have been affected by abuse.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Baptists have made a priority of investing in training for church staff and volunteers in the areas of preventing sexual abuse and caring for abuse survivors. Over the last several years, regional events have been offered for churches and associations. In the last six months alone, approximately 3,700 online courses have been completed and funded by Oklahoma Baptists on the topic of sexual abuse awareness and peer-to-peer abuse awareness. More than 2,400 Oklahoma Baptists’ church staff and volunteers completed these courses without charge to the local church.

In the past year, Oklahoma Baptists’ Abuse Prevention Task Force created and distributed a comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Response Guide for churches in print and digital form. This resource, which includes research-based, biblically-informed recommendations and best practices, has been utilized by other states.

Oklahoma Baptists offers financial assistance for counseling for abuse victims, their families, and the local church when abuse occurs and has established a telephone hotline to which abuse concerns can be brought.

Pennsylvania and South Jersey

The Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania and South Jersey is focusing on creating awareness of abuse issues and vulnerabilities in churches, as well as providing information and resources for churches to be compliant and safe. Some of the specific actions they have taken include:

  • Making it a requirement for all affiliated churches to have protocols in place for the security of minors and vulnerable adults, as already required by state law.
  • Promoting local resources available to individuals and churches, such as Keep Kids Safe, Pennsylvania, which explains state laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse, and the Pa Family Support Alliance, which provides education, support, and training programs to make Pennsylvania safe for children.
  • Offering ministry and care for those affected by abuse, recognizing the seriousness of these issues.

In addition to these efforts, the Baptist Resource Network has also partnered with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to utilize resources such as the SBC’s guide on preventing abuse, which provides information on topics like preparing church leadership for disclosure by a sexual abuse victim, screening and training volunteers, and more. This collaboration with the SBC allows them to leverage the expertise and resources of a larger network in their efforts to prevent abuse in churches.

Tennessee 

The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB) provides resources to help churches prevent abuse and care for survivors. These resources include training and education on how to recognize and prevent abuse, as well as how to care for those who have been affected by abuse.

In 2019, TBMB developed a task force composed of Baptist physicians, therapists, student and children’s ministers, and pastors to develop increased resources for Tennessee Baptist Churches. The information gathered by the task force is provided on the TBMB website as a starting place for church leaders. In November 2022, the Tennessee Baptist Convention presented a sexual abuse report, urging the adoption of best practices to prevent abuse. The task force was asked to evaluate the process of how The Tennessee Baptist Convention responds to allegations of sexual abuse and to evaluate the best practices to prevent abuse.

Texas

The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC) offers Sexual Abuse Awareness Training, which is a 1.5-hour online course designed to help churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors. The SBTC also provides training and resources to help churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors

The SBTC assists churches with awareness and education on the topic of sexual abuse prevention, specifically in ministry contexts. They offer resources and training to help churches prevent abuse and care for survivors.

Virginia 

SBC Virginia provides resources to help churches prevent abuse and care for survivors. These resources include training and education on how to recognize and prevent abuse, as well as how to care for those who have been affected by abuse. One of the programs offered is Safe Church Training, which is a comprehensive program designed to help churches prevent abuse and protect their members. The training covers topics such as recognizing and responding to abuse, creating a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults, and developing policies and procedures to prevent abuse.

SBC Virginia has also established a Sexual Abuse Task Force to help churches prevent and respond to sexual abuse. The task force provides resources and training to help churches create safe environments for their members.

By / Sep 20

To make our churches safe from abuse, we must be proactive. Developing policies and procedures ahead of time, training and educating staff and volunteers, as well as partnering with abuse experts will set your church up well to be a safe place for your community. It is up to the pastors and leaders of a church to lead this charge. Here are five essential action steps you can implement to begin protecting your church from predators and caring well for survivors of abuse.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psa. 10:14)

The five essentials to make your church safe from abuse

1. Train

“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (Prov. 2:11).

It is imperative that church leaders are aware and understand the scourge of sexual abuse that exists in our country, world, and even inside the Church. Statistics tell us 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys (though many believe this is much higher) are sexually abused before they turn 18. Only a small percentage of these victims ever reveal their abuse. Church leaders must help our churches understand that the mission to prevent sexual abuse and our response to it is a clear and compelling gospel issue. It is not one we can ignore. We must face it head-on and not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear because it may be difficult.  

Every church must train their members on how to prevent, identify, and respond to sexual abuse. Sexual abuse awareness training is a foundational component of onboarding new staff and volunteers who will have access to children, youth, and vulnerable adults. This reinforces a culture of zero tolerance. Church leaders must help dispel the idea that abuse can’t happen in our church, must not minimize it as a mistake, or must not think that doing a criminal background check is enough. Each church needs to be committed to an ongoing process of training and continually raising awareness of this issue. 

2. Screen

“Therefore, each of you must put away falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25).

In order to make your church safe from abuse, it is critical that each implement a thorough screening process for anyone that will have access to children, youth, and vulnerable adults. A thorough process ensures that individuals are suitable and compatible with your church’s policies and procedures. Every potential staff member and volunteer should go through the same screening process. Statistics tell us over 90% of children who are abused know their perpetrator as someone who they trust. 

Relying only on background checks does not protect those in your ministry. While background checks must be done, churches need to gather more reliable information from several sources on applicants to determine their fitness for service. An in-depth screening process can drastically reduce the risk of abuse and increase safety for those in your church’s care. The six best practices for screening anyone wanting to serve with children, youth, and vulnerable adults are: 

  • implementing a six-month waiting period, 
  • a written application, 
  • requesting and checking references, 
  • an interview, 
  • a background check,
  • and a social media review. 

Below are some helpful resources that can assist you in developing your church’s screening process.

3. Protect

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet”  (Psa. 140:4).

Jesus calls us to minister to those who are oppressed (Isa. 58:6-7). Silence does not protect the Church or Christ’s name. One of the ways you can protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults is by having solid policies and procedures in place at your church. These protect those you are serving while also protecting those that serve them. Once developed, being intentional about following policies and procedures is imperative for the protection of everyone involved. 

If your church does have policies and procedures in place, now is a good time to review them, making sure they are current and being followed by staff and volunteers. Policies and procedures can only protect everyone if followed and adhered to. Policies should be: 

  • comprehensive,
  • written from a knowledge of how predators push boundaries and what their grooming patterns look like so that violations can be immediately reported and addressed,
  • accessible, 
  • tailored to your church, 
  • agreed to and trained by the staff and volunteers, 
  • and reviewed annually by your legal counsel and insurance companies for further input and guidance. 

Policies and procedures are the bookends to a solid prevention plan.  Proper screening and training coupled with solid policies and procedures that your staff and volunteers adhere to and abide by create a strong hedge of protection around those your church serves and those who serve them.

4. Report

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Prov. 31:8-9).

Every state has laws identifying those required to report child abuse. Even if you believe you are not legally required to report child abuse in your state, you are still encouraged to report suspected or known abuse. In all states and territories, any person is permitted to report child abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults. As followers of Jesus, we are charged with protecting the vulnerable, and reporting known or suspected abuse is part of that mandate. If you know or suspect a child or vulnerable adult has been abused, you should report this to civil authorities. A church should have a proper response plan for when abuse occurs, including:

  • informing the insurance company that insures the church,
  • removing the alleged abuser from all ministerial duties until the report is resolved, 
  • informing the church as appropriate, 
  • ministering to the victim and the alleged abuser, 
  • and not attempting to investigate the allegations of abuse internally.

Here are some helpful sites for reporting information: 

5. Care

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psa. 147:3).

Church leaders are often called to the difficult and sensitive task of shepherding victims through the devastation of abuse. Abuse violates the dignity of our God-given image and disrupts our voice, sense of identity, and sense of trust and safety in relationships. The trauma of abuse can be a barrier to trusting God, trusting Scripture, and connecting to a church community. Our response in supporting survivors of sexual abuse has the opportunity to accurately reflect the mission and character of Jesus Christ. If we fail in this, we can grossly misrepresent our Savior, thus damaging and failing both survivors as well as abusers, and being a detraction to the gospel.  

Walking alongside survivors is a long, slow, necessary, and valuable commitment. It takes collaboration with a variety of community resources such as trauma-informed counselors, legal support, and victim advocates. To make your church safe from abuse, church leaders must become informed about the impact of abuse and how to find the necessary supportive resources to come alongside survivors, for the sake of the gospel.


NOTE: This article was adapted from sbcabuseprevention.com, the website created by the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF). This will be the future site of Ministry Check, which “will provide leaders with the ability to search for information about individuals who have been convicted, found liable, or confessed to abuse.” For future updates on the work of the ARITF, follow their website.

The information contained here is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice. The Southern Baptist Convention encourages each church to consult with legal counsel when implementing local policies and practices.

By / Sep 13

September 24, 2023, is the annual Caring Well Sunday for Southern Baptists. The national statistics on sexual abuse are overwhelming. 

  • One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • One in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • One in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

The most common places sexual predators search for victims is in youth activities such as school, sports, and church. Churches need to understand why this issue matters in light of the gospel and how it should be addressed.

We have provided a bulletin insert titled, “5 Ways the Gospel Shapes Our Approach to Sexual Abuse,” for your churches to print and share during Caring Well Sunday. 

We hope this resource serves you well as you seek to lead your church in caring for your congregation and community. 

National sexual abuse statistics can be found at https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Apr 28

Sexual abuse in the nation’s federal prisons must be rooted out, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department’s second-highest-ranking leader, recently told prison wardens gathered for a nationwide training event. 

“This is urgent, urgent work,” Monaco told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview. “It’s incumbent upon us as leaders to call that out and make those changes and really be vigilant about it.”

According to the news agency, Peters was hired last year after her predecessor resigned amid mounting pressure from Congress following AP investigations that exposed widespread corruption and misconduct within the prison system. 

Sexual abuse in American prisons is a deeply disturbing issue that continues to fester within the correctional system, despite the enactment of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003. As followers of Christ, we are called to care for the marginalized and oppressed, and this includes our brothers and sisters behind bars. This article examines the severity of the problem, the factors contributing to its persistence, and the ways in which Christians can engage in solutions grounded in our faith and God’s love.

The scope of the problem

Sexual abuse in American prisons is a grievous sin that affects countless incarcerated individuals. According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 13.5 allegations of sexual victimization per 1,000 prison inmates and 11.9 per 1,000 jail inmates. This translates to tens of thousands of people suffering from this dehumanizing trauma each year.

Both fellow inmates and correctional staff perpetrate these heinous acts. Of the 1,673 substantiated incidents of sexual victimization in 2018, about 58% were perpetrated by other inmates and 42% by staff. The power dynamics and lack of accountability within prisons often fosters an environment where abuse frequently goes unpunished. Many victims are reluctant to report incidents due to fear of retaliation or the belief that their complaints will be disregarded.

Factors contributing to the prevalence of sexual abuse

Several factors contribute to the high prevalence of sexual abuse in American prisons, including:

Overcrowding: The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, leading to overcrowded and understaffed prisons. Overcrowding exacerbates tensions and increases the likelihood of violence, including sexual assault. It also hampers the ability of correctional staff to effectively monitor inmate behavior and intervene in potentially abusive situations.

Lack of training and oversight: Many correctional officers receive inadequate training on how to identify and respond to sexual abuse. In some cases, they may be unaware of their responsibilities under PREA or may choose to disregard them. The lack of external oversight can also foster an environment in which abuse is tolerated or even encouraged.

Inmate vulnerability: Certain populations are at a heightened risk for sexual victimization, including young inmates and those with mental illnesses. These inmates may be targeted due to their perceived vulnerability or social isolation, making it even more challenging for them to report abuse and receive support.

Retaliation and fear of reporting: Victims often fear retaliation from their abusers or other inmates, discouraging them from reporting incidents. Additionally, they may be concerned that their complaints will not be taken seriously or that they will face further abuse from staff members.

What Christians can do to help

As followers of Christ, we must not turn a blind eye to this crisis but rather engage in solutions grounded in our faith and God’s love. Some possible ways to help include:

Advocating for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders: Christians can support and advocate for alternative sentencing options, such as community service, drug rehabilitation programs, and mental health treatment, when appropriate and safe in order to help reduce the prison population and alleviate overcrowding. This approach aligns with the Christian belief in redemption and the power of transformative change.

Encouraging training and oversight: Christians can call for comprehensive training of correctional staff on the identification and prevention of sexual abuse, as well as their obligations under PREA. Additionally, Christians can advocate for independent oversight bodies to monitor compliance with these regulations and hold institutions accountable for addressing incidents of abuse.

Offering spiritual support and advocacy: Churches and faith-based organizations can offer spiritual support to vulnerable inmates, providing them with a sense of community and protection. These organizations can also advocate for policies and procedures that protect vulnerable inmates from sexual victimization.

Promoting a culture of abuse-reporting and victim-supporting: Christians can encourage prisons to create environments in which inmates feel safe reporting incidents of sexual abuse. This can be achieved by implementing confidential reporting mechanisms, ensuring that complaints are taken seriously, and providing appropriate support services for victims. Additionally, churches and faith-based organizations can offer spiritual and emotional support to survivors of sexual abuse, helping them find healing and forgiveness through Jesus.

Addressing staff-perpetrated abuse: We can advocate for thorough background checks on prospective employees, ongoing training on professional boundaries and ethics, and clear procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of staff misconduct. By pushing for a zero-tolerance policy for those found guilty, we can demonstrate our commitment to justice and the dignity of all individuals.

Fostering a culture of rehabilitation and restoration: By promoting a focus on rehabilitation and restoration within the prison system, the Church can help reduce violence, including sexual abuse. Emphasizing the importance of personal growth, and accountability, we can create safer environments that align with the teachings of Christ.

Christ’s love in the darkest places

The issue of sexual abuse in American prisons is a stark reminder of the fallen nature of our world and the need for Christ’s love to be present in even the darkest of places. As followers of Jesus, we are called to stand up against injustice and advocate for the marginalized and oppressed. As it is written in Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” By engaging in solutions grounded in our faith, we can work toward a more just and compassionate prison system that respects the human rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their past mistakes. 

By / Feb 24

On this episode, Brent Leatherwood and Lindsay Nicolet discuss the SBC Executive Committee meeting and several noteworthy developments, including the “Ministry Check” website and six churches deemed not in friendly cooperation with the SBC. They also reflected on the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. 

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  • 2023 Public Policy Agenda | The first session of the 118th Congress is now underway, and it begins as the nation is grappling with war around the world, inflation at home, and deep division across our nation. This also begins a new era of divided government with a Democratic president, a narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, and a slim Republican majority in the House. This dynamic ensures legislating and governing will be a difficult task. We recently released the 2023 ERLC Public Policy agenda which includes our priorities for religious liberty, sanctity of life, marriage and family, and human dignity. Download the full agenda and learn how your Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is advocating for issues important to Southern Baptists at ERLC.com/policy
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By / Jan 6

The events of 2022 had an effect on many issues that we will be dealing with in this new year. Four stories related to ERLC concerns that you should watch in 2023 are:

  1. Abortion after Roe v. Wade
  2. Legislation in a divided government
  3. A religious liberty Supreme Court case
  4. The SBC’s formal response to sexual abuse

Find out more below.

Abortion after Roe v. Wade

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in last year’s Dobbs decision marked a true turning point for the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates, and many others worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. 

Now, the pro-life movement will be faced with other challenges to protect life in the womb. 

A key issue is how we will deal with “medication” abortion. 

In 2020, abortion via pills rather than surgery accounted for the majority of all United States abortions for the first time in the pills’ 20-year history. Reinforcing access to these medication abortions was one of the Biden administration’s first responses to the fall of Roe. President Joe Biden “directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify all ways to ensure that mifepristone [one of the two drugs used in pill-based abortions] is as widely accessible as possible.” 

This week, the Justice Department cleared the U.S. Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have strict limits on abortion. But states may be able to fight back by prosecuting people who send abortion pills through such mailings. In addition, as Jason Thacker explains, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulatory change this week that allows pharmacy chains and local pharmacies to distribute the first of the two-stage abortion pill regiment known as Mifepristone

Legislation in a divided government

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the GOP controls the majority by only 10 votes (222-213), while in the Senate the split is 49-49 with independents who caucus with the Democrats. 

The result is that neither party will be able to pass any major partisan pieces of legislation this year. 

Lack of bipartisan support will also prevent anything from being passed other than funding requirements (debt ceiling, farm bill, government funding, etc.). 

One possible long-shot exception is immigration reform. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have proposed legislation that would increase spending on border security by more than $25 billion, provide pay raises to Border Patrol agents, extending Title 42 for at least a year, creating regional centers to swiftly process asylum claims, and provide a pathway to citizenship for 2 million immigrant “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as children. 

(Note: A key part of ERLC’s policy agenda is support of a permanent solution for Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents and that remain without permanent legal status despite having broken no laws.) 

A religious liberty Supreme Court case 

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, an important case for free speech and religious liberty. 

The case involves Lorie Smith, founder of the web design firm 303 Creative, who challenged a Colorado law that violates her First Amendment rights. It is the same law that was used to target Jack Phillips and which led to the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. In that case, the Court ruled favorably for Jack Phillips on narrow grounds but failed to address the underlying conflict between anti-discrimination laws and free speech rights. 

This case has significant implications for the free speech of all people. If the court rules against Smith, it would establish a precedent that artists can be forced to create and communicate messages that violate their beliefs.  

The SBC’s formal response to sexual abuse

At the 2022 SBC annual meeting, a 288-page report was released by a task force commissioned to address allegations of sexual abuse by senior members of the denomination’s Executive Committee, mishandling of abuse allegations, and mistreatment of victims.

During the annual meeting in New Orleans this June, SBC messengers will likely be asked to address some or all of the recommendations outlined in the report. 

Some of the recommendations are:

  • Forming an Independent Commission and later establishing a permanent Administrative Entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct within the SBC.
  • Creating and maintaining an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders. Make the OIS available to churches on a voluntary basis.
  • Providing a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information.
  • Creating a voluntary self-certification program for churches, local associations, state conventions, and entities based on the implementation of “best practices” to bring awareness to, and enhance prevention of, sexual abuse.
  • Improving governance controls, including the use of enhanced background checks, Letters of Good Standing, and Codes of Conduct to voluntarily strengthen hiring standards and improve governance.
By / Aug 19

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the the year anniversary of the withdrawal of Afghanistan, Liz Cheney’s loss in the primary, and the investigation of the SBC. They also talk about the Jan. 6 committee and former Vice President Mike Pence’s potential testimony. Finally, they mention political violence and the Salman Rushdie attack.

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Jun 17

Earlier this week, messengers to the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, voted to adopt nine resolutions, seven of which were related to ERLC concerns, issues, and legislative priorities. Here is a recap of the ERLC-related resolutions:

On the Prosperity Gospel

This resolution states that the messengers of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting:

  • Denounce the teaching of the prosperity gospel;
  • Affirm that God and God alone is our highest good and our supreme treasure, not health, wealth, or the removal of sickness (Philippians 4:10-13; Revelation 21:1-4);
  • Affirm that our confidence is in our eternal inheritance purchased through the work of Christ and is guaranteed by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Peter 1:1-7).

On the War in Ukraine

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Strongly condemn the actions of the Russian Federation in her declaration and acts of war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine;
  • Call upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw the Russian military, and end this war of aggression against Ukraine and her people;
  • Implore the United States government to prioritize the admission of Ukrainian refugees into our country and provide resources for their support and resettlement;
  • Commend, appreciate, and affirm they will continue to support the ongoing relief efforts of Southern Baptists in Ukraine through the work of the International Mission Board and Send Relief, who are working diligently to aid Ukrainian refugees fleeing to other parts of Ukraine or to the safe harbors of neighboring countries;
  • Stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the people of Ukraine who have endured these atrocities and who have witnessed the horrors of war firsthand while seeking to defend their country from an invasion by a hostile army;
  • Pray for Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, like-minded institutions, and our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the country of Ukraine who continue to share the gospel, minister to the hurting, serve their churches, gather for worship, and exalt our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of a warzone at great risk to themselves, their families, and their churches;
  • Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Russian Federation and for all who stand opposed to this war of Russian aggression, speaking out against it at great personal cost to themselves, their families, and their churches;
  • Commit to earnestly and continually praying to the Lord, who is able to do all things, for an end to this war, for peace in Ukraine, for the presidents and leaders of both countries, and for the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine forth as a beacon of eternal peace, security, and salvation for all who will turn to him.

On Religious Liberty, Forced Conversion, and the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage Southern Baptists to decry the methods of forced assimilation and conversion, as well as the dehumanization of fellow image bearers;
  • Affirm that Southern Baptists stand in support of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians—especially those who are a part of our own family of churches—as they process the findings of this report and discern next steps toward healing;
  • Affirm that Southern Baptists earnestly pray for the families of those targeted by the atrocities brought to light in this investigation (Psalm 82:3-4; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3);
  • Condemn any federal government’s policy, former or current, to replace “the tribal culture for its own” in an effort to ease their intent “to separate tribes from their territories.”;
  • Declare the atrocities done against these people in the name of religious “conversions” as reprehensible, betraying the Great Commission (and our efforts to reach all nations with the gospel (Matthew 10:14; Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:8);
  • Stand against forced conversions and distorted missiological practices as contrary to our distinctive beliefs as Baptists in religious liberty and soul-freedom (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article XVII);
  • Affirm we will place our confidence for salvation in God alone, which is “offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer” (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article IV; Romans 7:24-25).

On Support for Consistent Laws Regarding Pastoral Sexual Abuse

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would provide consistent definitions and classification of sexual abuse by pastors, as sexual abuse committed by pastors constitutes a clear abuse of authority and trust (similarly seen in the relationships in the aforementioned professional settings);
  • Encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would empower churches by shielding them from civil liability when they share information about alleged abuse with other organizations or institutions;
  • Affirm that while we hold convictions about and celebrate ecclesial autonomy, we also believe that it is both important and biblical (1 Corinthians 14:33) to develop a culture of transparency and mutual responsibility between churches, so that it is clear that our churches are not places for predators to hide, as we, “contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,” seeking “to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love” (BFM Art. XV);
  • Affirm that while in this world we must face the temporal consequences of our sin, such as disqualification, we joyfully acknowledge that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven and no person who cannot be restored to Christ (Psalm 103:12, Ephesians 1:7-8);  
  • Support actions that protect the innocent within the churches of the Southern Baptist convention from wolves in shepherd’s clothing and embrace actions that empower churches to be able to report instances of abuse to appropriate authorities without fear of civil liability.

On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Denounce in the strongest possible terms every instance of sexual abuse, those who perpetrate abuse, and those who seek to defend or protect these perpetrators;
  • Affirm the Bible’s teaching to seek justice for those who have been harmed, protect the vulnerable, and honor the dignity and worth of survivors of sexual abuse (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 82:2-4, Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8);
  • Publicly lament the harm our actions and inactions have caused to survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Publicly apologize to and ask forgiveness from survivors of sexual abuse for our failure to care well for survivors, for our failure to hold perpetrators of sexual abuse adequately accountable in our churches and institutions, for our institutional responses which have prioritized the reputation of our institutions over protection and justice for survivors, and for the unspeakable harm this failure has caused to survivors through both our action and inaction;
  • Publicly repent and acknowledge our need for comprehensive change in caring well for survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Affirm that amid our failures, we express our hope in Christ, who never fails to care for those who have been harmed, that he watches over the vulnerable members of our churches, that he can bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse, and that he can bring both retributive justice to perpetrators of sexual abuse and restorative justice to survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Affirm we will prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all instances of sexual abuse among our churches;
  • Commit to the ongoing moral demands of the gospel in relation to sexual abuse, observing the command of our Lord to “teach everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), including the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27, 34-35);
  • Call for churches to teach the importance of honoring one another and treating one another virtuously in the area of sexuality so churches can become safe places that protect the vulnerable;
  • Call for Southern Baptitsts  to give of our time and resources to bind the wounds of the broken, hold accountable perpetrators of sexual abuse and those who seek to defend them, and care well for survivors of sexual abuse; and be it finally
  • Recognize and appreciate the work and advocacy of sexual abuse survivors, repent of our resistance and neglect of their efforts, and unreservedly apologize to survivors mentioned in the report, including Christa Brown, Susan Codone, Megan Lively, Jennifer Lyell, Anne Marie Miller, David Pittman, Tiffany Thigpen, Debbie Vasquez, Hannah-Kate Williams, and Jules Woodson, for our not heeding their collective warnings and taking swift action to address clergy sexual abuse sooner. (These are the survivors mentioned in the report who have given their consent to have their names listed.)

On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage all Southern Baptists to pray for the overturning of the disastrous precedent set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey;
  • Commend the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s frontline work on the pro-life cause and urge all Southern Baptists to continue our faithful pro-life advocacy by partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families;
  • Implore Southern Baptists to continue and increase their efforts to serve and support local pregnancy resource centers, pro-life organizations, churches, foster care and adoptive families, doing invaluable and often under-recognized work in the care of women and children at every stage of life;
  • Commit to standing with and praying for abortion-vulnerable women, to eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion, and to oppose Planned Parenthood and other predatory organizations or institutions who exploit vulnerable women for profit;
  • Urge the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the precedent set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and urge the state legislatures to enact pro-life policies that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, including both vulnerable women and children.

On the Imago Dei and the Helpful Content Submitted in Several Resolutions

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage all Southern Baptists to affirm the dignity and value of every person as created in God’s image and to proclaim the fullness of the Christian ethic throughout our churches and in the public square as we seek the flourishing of all people in accordance with God’s good design for humanity;
  • Call Southern Baptists to uphold the beauty of the Christian sexual ethic in a world that promotes dangerous and dehumanizing ideologies such as those within the LGBTQ+ movement and other sexual perversions including abuse, pedophilic behavior, and the use of pornography, all of which are fundamentally at odds with God’s design for human sexuality;
  • Call Southern Baptists to seek to love our neighbors as ourselves, standing firm on God’s created order which recognizes that any sexual desire or attraction outside of God’s design for human sexuality is sin and is disordered regardless of whether or not it creates feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety on the one hand or pride on the other hand;
  • Call Southern Baptists to seek to proclaim to the next generation God’s love for all and his good design for human sexuality, modeling how to faithfully engage others with both truth and grace, and redouble our ongoing efforts to cultivate a heart of wisdom and discernment in the next generation especially in regards to various forms of entertainment and social media;
  • Reaffirm our 2018 Resolution “On Gun Violence and Mass Shootings” and earnestly pray for our local, state, and federal leaders to recognize the seriousness of the ongoing threat of mass shootings throughout our society and to take concrete steps toward solutions that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society;
  • Affirm that the worth of every human being, including those affected by disabilities, is found in Christ, the true Imago Dei (Colossians 1:15-17), not in people’s fallen perceptions of worth or abilities.
By / Jun 3

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the Sexual Abuse Task Force recommendations, the Psalm 139 Project teaming up with former NFL player Ben Watson, and the baby formula shortage. They also discuss the debates on the Hill about gun control, and weeping with those who weep. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page |Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics. That’s ERLC.com/sexualethics.