Regarding the Report of Sexual Abuse in the SBC

Dear SCBC family and friends,

As I was driving to the office this morning, listening to a Spotify playlist I worshiped the Lord with these words,

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.

On Sunday afternoon, Guidepost Solutions released the findings of their seven-month investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee’s response to allegations of sexual abuse within our denomination over the past twenty years. It didn’t take the world long to notice and begin reporting on the truly disturbing findings of this investigation. Maybe you have seen this news, maybe you haven’t. Maybe it caught you off-guard, maybe it didn’t. Regardless, though I am still working my way through the nearly 300-page report I feel compelled as your pastor to bring you a response and a request.

I cannot read your mind, but I want to make sure that you understand what this is not and what this is. This is not a hit piece cooked up by the left-wing media as an attack against us. This is not another exercise of religious persecution against one of the largest and most theologically conservative Christian denominations in our nation. This is an internally initiated, SBC-funded, independent investigation limited in its scope specifically to the actions of the Executive Committee’s (EC) response to the presence of sexual abuse within our denomination over the past twenty years.

Last year in Nashville, the SBC faced a watershed moment. After the release of a series of articles by the Houston Chronicle in 2019 exposing the prevalence of sexual abuse by ministers in SBC churches in Texas, the outcry within the survivor community across the country claiming that they had been pleading with the EC for help for years to no avail, the release of two letters written by Dr. Russell Moore (former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) in which he vented his frustrations regarding members of the EC who had opposed his efforts to address this problem within the denomination, and many other events, messengers to the 2021 Convention took action. Rejecting the EC’s attempt to investigate itself, we (I say “we” not only because we are Southern Baptists but because I was in the room as your duly appointed messenger) approved a motion for the newly elected SBC present to “appoint a task force” to initiate and oversee a third-party investigation into “any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives.” This motion was overwhelmingly approved by messengers sending the very clear message that the SBC will no longer be a place for sexual predators and abusers to hide. It communicated clearly that we are willing to expose the rot of sin even in the highest echelons of our denomination for the glory of the Lord and the good of his people.

There was no question in our minds that sexual predators have been present in our churches and victimized countless individuals throughout the years. What we were most concerned about was the mounting evidence that those in the highest positions of power in our denomination were making efforts to preserve the denomination at the expense of these victims as well as our Southern Baptist character. This report has confirmed our concerns and my heart is broken for every victim of abuse in our churches whose cries for help were met with silence and a spirit of self-preservation instead of compassion and grace. My stomach is sickened by the actions of pastors and leaders who have preyed upon God’s sheep and then been allowed to pass quietly into the night or onto a bigger platform from which to perpetuate their abuse. There is no excuse for this, there is no condemnation strong enough for what has taken place within our denomination.

Nevertheless, my response is not only anger and pain. I am also grateful. I am grateful because in this the Lord has shown his faithfulness to us. It was not an accident that events accumulated in the way they did, that the victims and advocates endured for over a decade, that the motion was brought forward, or that the investigating organization has brought this report before us. God is sovereign over all things and because of his deep love for his church, he will not allow the rot of sin to continue to grow within his Bride. Instead, he will be and has proven himself faithful to shine the light of his holiness into the depths of our darkness and dispense of our evil at the root. Though it might not feel like it now, this is an act of God’s love and grace to discipline those whom he loves.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

So, what is there to do in response? What is my request?

Please pray.

Pray for all the victims of sexual abuse both within our denomination and outside as well.

Pray for these men and women who were hurt further by the actions and inaction of those they sought out for help.

Pray for true repentance from those who have committed the abuse and those within leadership who have perpetuated abuse by their actions and inactions.

Pray for our church to be a place where men and women who have been victimized by abusers find the compassion of Christ awaiting them through our love and care.

Pray for everyone (including me) who will gather in Anaheim next month as messengers to the 2022 convention and who will have the responsibility to take the next steps in responding to the recommendations provided by this investigative body.

This report is not the end. It’s the beginning. We have a lot to do to right these wrongs and build a better future for the glory of the Lord and the good of those around us.

On my drive to church this morning, after reminding me of the Lord’s faithfulness, my playlist shuffled to another great reminder,

Our hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

God is always faithful and his plans are bigger than this church, this denomination, or this nation. Our hope is not in buildings, budgets, committees, or celebrity pastors and leaders. So, I pray that you will be encouraged as I have been encouraged today. God is faithful, God is at work, and God is reminding us to trust in Jesus and Jesus alone!

May God bless and to him be all the glory!
-Pastor Will