Dear Severna Park Baptist Church Family,
On Sunday February 10, 2019, the Houston Chronicle published an article (UPDATE: Article 1 & 2 & 3) about sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The article is devastating not just because it stains our reputation as Baptists or Christians, but because it reveals the hurt of numerous victims, many who were minors. I/we are grieved at this news and are in prayer for the victims and survivors of ungodly harm. Likewise, I/we pray for those who have failed the Lord Jesus to enter repentance and full accountability personally, corporately, and with civil justice.
The Houston article reveals a pattern of abuse across SBC churches and should not be dismissed as a politically correct movement or an issue for other denominations or institutions. These scandals are not just in Hollywood but are unfortunately far too often present in the house of God.
Thankfully, our SBC leaders have responded with seriousness of grief and sincerity of action to rectify this pattern within our convention. We commend Russel Moore with our Ethics Religious Liberty Commission pending study, saying:
“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.”
Jesus gives firm words against victimizers and commands to the church to care for children.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The issue of sexual abuse and child predators is not a back- burner issue, but a primary one for the church to guard against.
Therefore, as your pastor and we as a church want to state in the strongest way possible that we will continue working to protect against sexual abuse and child predation. We are not aware of any offenses or accusations at SPBC. Yet, we seek to remain vigilant to protect our community and church, and the name of Jesus Christ. Here are some ways we are continuing to work:
- We conduct background checks on all ministry and support staff, and volunteers who serve in ministry with minors (under 18).
- Our policy for all staff and members of the church is mandatory reporting of child abuse or neglect to legal authorities (Social Services and/or Police Department). A policy and process for reporting and caring for victims and the accused is outlined in our Bylaws (Article 6).
- We are partnered with resources from local counseling professionals and safe ministry practices to recognize signs and reduce the risk of abuse. We will work toward increasing training and awareness in this area with our members and ministry leaders.
- Our staff and Deacons are aware of policy to protect children in being assigned to escort and oversight of persons in the building who are associated with registered sex or criminal offenders. At no time shall a sex offender be alone or allowed to roam inside building or exterior church grounds with minors.
- We are working toward implementing a mandatory two-adult volunteer system in every room with minors. We have followed this system in general but have not always been rigid. In cases when this has occurred/occurs the classroom door has always been open and never shut, with hallway adult monitors. However, we are working toward implementing a mandatory policy for every room with minors to include at least two adult volunteers at all times to reduce the risk of abuse or suspicious accusations.
Much more can be said and done . It is likely our community, social networks, and national media will grow familiar with these reports. Therefore, I encourage you to read the Houston Chronicle reports and responses from our ERLC and SBC leaders. After reading these: Pray. Grieve. Pray more. And then roll up your sleeves to help our SPBC and surrounding churches continue being a safe place and biblically healthy ministry. Please know I/we are open to listening and learning together toward this end.
In all, know our aim is to glorify God and shepherd our congregation with integrity and excellence (Psalm 78:72). Let us continue to be sober minded, knowing the evil one is active but cannot succeed when God’s people operate with the wisdom and witness of the grace of God.
 The first article can be accessed here:
 See Russel Moore (ERLC) https://www.russellmoore.com/2019/02/10/southern-baptists-and-the-scandal-of-church-sexual-abuse/, and others such as J.D. Greear, Malcom Yarnell, and Trevin Wax https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/southern-baptists-day-reckoning/ and http://www.bpnews.net/52394/papers-sexual-abuse-report-leaves-sbcs-greear-broken.
. See some suggestions and resources for victims here https://jdgreear.com/blog/700-not-total-number-get-help/