A Southern Baptist Convention task force said it is in the midst of the vetting process for a highly anticipated database of sex offenders.
The Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force shared its progress on Thursday as it unveiled a new website aimed at preventing sex abuse and rooting out predators within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The task force said the new website, sbcabuseprevention.com, is an “online hub for abuse prevention resources” across the denomination.
It is not the much-talked-about sex offenders database, but it does include a link to the Ministry Check database, which is still being developed and has yet to go live. Ministry Check is described as a searchable database of individuals “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
In its recent update posted online, task force members said they are in the midst of one of their most significant tasks, which is the vetting of names and background information of potential sexual offenders reported to the Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse hotline for survivors at https://guidepostsolutions.com/sbc-ec-investigation/ to determine their eligibility for Ministry Check.
“Protecting the vulnerable and caring for the abused is at the heart of every gospel-centered ministry,” the task force said in its statement. “Collectively, we recognize the significance and the urgency of the task entrusted to us.”
The group’s work is at the center of the Southern Baptist Convention’s efforts to grapple with a sexual abuse crisis that has snowballed since the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News published the investigative report “Abuse of Faith” in 2019. Then, Southern Baptist messengers asked for a third-party investigation into leaders’ response to sexual abuse allegations. Scandal erupted anew once the report from the investigation was released in 2022, exposing how some of the denomination’s leaders, from 2000-2020, mishandled sex abuse allegations. That independent sex abuse report included a secret list of hundreds of sex offenders with ties to Southern Baptist churches or affiliates. In August 2022, Southern Baptist Convention leaders said the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating the denomination for reported clergy sex abuse.
The sometimes controversial Ministry Check is expected to include “pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees and volunteers who have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse and who have been or are associated with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity,” as described in a motion approved at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2022 annual meeting. The term for sexual abuse was defined by the denomination as “any sexual act that could result in a criminal conviction or civil liability in the jurisdiction where it occurred.”
One of the task force members, the Rev. Mike Keahbone, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lawton, shared a link to the group’s latest updates on social media on Thursday.
According to their update, the group recently met in Dallas to share information with individuals newly appointed to the board by Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, to establish priorities and move forward with ongoing projects.
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The task force’s recent update was the first since delegates, called messengers, voted in June to give the group another year to develop tools aimed at making the denomination’s churches and affiliate safe from sexual predators. The extension was granted by messengers who gathered for the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans.
Aside from the database, the task force’s members said the other key component of the sbcabuseprevention.com website is a Ministry Toolkit, touted as a “toolbox designed to help make every church the safest place on planet earth for every child, student, and adult.”