Southern Baptist task force to introduce new anti-abuse curriculum in June

Marshall Blalock, chairman of the SBC Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, speaks during the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 14, 2023.
Marshall Blalock, chairman of the SBC Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, speaks during the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 14, 2023. | Sonya Singh/Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist Convention task force plans to unveil a new curriculum centered on helping member congregations prevent and respond to accusations of sexual abuse in June.

At the SBC's Executive Committee meeting on Feb. 19, the SBC’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force presented the new curriculum, which is slated to be made public at the SBC's Annual Meeting in June in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Our churches need help but don’t know where to turn,” said ARITF Chairman Josh Wester, as quoted by the Baptist Press, which is the official news service of the SBC.

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“It’s not that helpful resources aren’t available. It’s just that they come piecemeal — a church would turn to one place to do background checks and another place to train their volunteers.”

The ARITF curriculum, which is an expansion of resources already made available online by the task force, is centered around five aspects: “train, screen, protect, report and care,” reported BP.

The new resource will also include training that consists of an online video series, BP noted, with follow-up questions and “action items” provided for each of the five components.

“We want them to gather, watch one video, and then commit to completing the next steps for that essential before moving on to the next one,” said Mississippi pastor and ARITF member Brad Eubank, as quoted by BP.  

“Everything that a church needs to complete, the next steps will be there — sample documents, links to pertinent information and recommendations for outside providers.”

In May 2022, Guidepost Solutions released a report that detailed the results of an investigation that looked into allegations that some SBC leaders had mishandled credible sexual abuse accusations, including the intimidation of whistleblowers.

The Guidepost report identified more than 700 victims over 20 years and found that survivors of sexual abuse encountered "resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility" from some on the SBC's Executive Committee.

In response to the report, the SBC overwhelmingly voted to pass a series of abuse reform recommendations at their 2022 annual meeting, including the creation of the ARITF.

One of the objectives that the ARITF was tasked with was the creation of an online database known as “Ministry Check” that would include a list of “individuals who have been convicted, found liable, or confessed to abuse.”

In an update provided to messengers at the SBC's Annual Meeting in New Orleans last year, then-ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock said the task force was developing a means to conduct third-party investigations into any allegations of sexual abuse in the SBC.

During last year’s annual meeting, the task force also unveiled a Ministry Toolkit for church leaders, including information to help them understand abuse and how to respond. 

"[Prediators] prey on high-trust environments, and churches should be high-trust environments," Blalock said. "But abusers go where they think they can hide. We must have the will to make sure there is no place to hide."

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