Southern Baptists by region are beginning to crack down on sex offenders by providing local churches services to help protect children.
The Louisiana Baptist Convention recently posted a link on its website directing visitors to Child Guard Systems – a Texas-based company that offers a comprehensive child protection program for churches.
"We want every local church to be a positive experience for every child," said David E. Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, to Baptist Press. "The vast majority of our Louisiana Baptist churches work very hard at assuring that children are protected."
The increased effort for child safety coincides with a neighboring Baptist group that has also taken action to prevent misconduct in the church. The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) posted this week a list of registered sex offenders who were on staff at its affiliated churches and announced that it will also create a list of offenders who are currently serving in its churches.
The convention has already posted nine names of people and will begin reviewing the ministers at each of its more than 5,600-affiliated congregations to see if other registered sex offenders need to be added to the list. While BGCT's current file also includes ministers who committed adultery, became addicted to pornography or were involved in homosexual behavior, ministers who were not convicted of criminal activity will not be posted online. Nevertheless, the posted list will continuously be updated and mailed to all of its churches periodically beginning this fall.
Additionally, the Texas convention is increasing efforts to educate churches on how to do nationwide background checks on potential staff members and has a team of people who can help churches respond appropriately in the incident of clergy sexual misconduct.
"The BGCT is concerned about the problem of clergy sexual misconduct, and we care deeply about its victims," said Emily Prevost, associate coordinator of leader research and product development in BGCT Congregational Leadership Team.
Clergy sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention was publicized in April when ABC's 20/20 ran a segment on "Preacher Predators." The segment reported several cases of molestation and abuse by local church ministers who have moved from church to church and spotlighted Christa Brown of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), who believes the SBC has been unresponsive to the network's requests to implement specific methods of stopping clergy sex abuse.
SBC president Frank Page, however, assured that "much is being done" to address the problem and also said the denomination will do "as much as possible" to assist the local churches, which are autonomous, on the matter.
In the meantime, state conventions are also becoming more wary and increasing efforts to be an effective resource for all churches – Baptist or not.
"Churches need to be very careful and do their best to lower the risk of harm to children," said Hankins in Louisiana. "We want to provide links to resource providers so that churches can acquire the best tools and increase the level of safety for children."
Child Guard Systems provides a web-based platform to deliver a personalized Child Protection Policy, including video training and testing to demonstrate comprehension. It also performs a Criminal Background Screen to provide further evidence against liability, showing that the organization is doing everything within its ability to show that "Child Protection" standards have been established and provided to all employees and volunteers.