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Sojourn Blog

Sexual Abuse in the SBC

Posted by Justin Pearson on

Dear Family,

I wanted to send you a note about something that has come to light in the media. Perhaps you have heard about or read the three-part story that the Houston Chronicle published about sexual abuse in Southern Baptist Churches.

It is a horrific article about horrendous sin.

The article is devastating not only for the atrocity of abuse, but also because of the way that many church pastors and leaders handled reported abuse—sometimes ignoring, covering up, or quietly dismissing employees and volunteers only to have them get hired at another church and commit additional crimes.

The church, a people and place that should look out for the least of these and care for all people--regardless of ethnicity, gender, or background--that should look and act different than the world, failed to do so. The local church should be the voice for the voiceless and stand up against abuse in any form. Instead it’s clear that, more often than we would like to acknowledge or admit, the church has done the opposite.

It is absolutely heartbreaking.

I am writing on behalf of the elders of Sojourn Church—a church affiliated with the SBC—to state unequivocally that we believe that all sexual abuse in any form is evil and unjust. All accusations should be taken seriously and handled with care, which includes reporting it to authorities.

We currently have policies in place to promote a safe environment within Sojourn Kids on Sundays, including background checks, at least two volunteers in every classroom, never allowing an adult to be in the bathroom alone with a child without another volunteer present, and check-in and check-out protocols.

How we handle safety and reports of abuse has been something that the elders were already discussing prior to this article and will continue to discuss in the weeks and months ahead so that our community is a safe place for all people.

Our desire for our church is that we would live in such a way that is worthy of our calling as Christ's people and walk humbly with one another, loving one another, and making much of Jesus together to the glory of God and good of others.

In a broken world, that means we must be vigilant and on guard against sin and Satan who seeks to destroy God’s image bearers and discredit the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our desire for our denomination is that we would take steps to both prevent and report abuse as well as stop the possibility of abusers drifting from church to church without accountability.

In response to the Houston Chronicle articles, Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, stated:
"Our denomination now has a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group assigned with investigating all options and reviewing what other denominations and groups have done to keep track of abuses, while hearing from law enforcement, psychological and psychiatric experts, survivors, and many others.

Our approach is seeking to encourage policies and practices that protect children and the vulnerable from sexual abuse in autonomous but cooperating churches, all the while promoting compliance with laws and providing compassionate care for those who have survived trauma. True, we have no bishops. But we have a priesthood of believers. And a key task of that priesthood is maintaining the witness of Christ in the holiness and safety of his church. That means training churches to recognize sexual predation and how to deal with charges or suspicions when they emerge, and equipping churches to stop the pattern, in their church or from their church to others."
 

This is wise and hopeful. We hope it will be taken seriously and that the SBC will adopt recommendations for change quickly.

We also want to say that if you or someone you know has suffered abuse in the church, please come forward and let us know. We will listen and we will take appropriate action. And if you have been suffering in silence from past abuse, we are here to help, to listen, to pray, and to serve you in any way that we can.

We love you and are grateful and honored to pastor you.

Come Lord Jesus.

.grace and peace. 
Justin, on behalf of the Elders

P.S. I’d encourage you to read Russell Moore’s full response by clicking here.

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