During their March 7 meeting, the Baptist Convention of New England Board of Directors voted to adopt the Statement of Principles on Abuse recommended by SBC President J.D. Greear during a Feb. 18 Executive Committee meeting.
The statement includes three principles:
Educating churches and ministries to understand abuse
Equipping churches and ministries to care well for abuse survivors
Supporting churches and ministries to prepare to prevent abuse
The statements are an initial response to a series of three articles in The Houston Chronicle detailing sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches dating back 20 years and involving more than 380 SBC leaders or volunteers and more than 700 victims around the nation.[i]
“This is one of those issues that demands action, not endless committee meetings and debate,” said Dr. Terry Dorsett, Executive Director of the BCNE. “Let’s do what needs to be done to protect our kids.”
In addition to adopting the statement, the Board unanimously passed a motion that BCNE board members and staff members set an example by submitting to a background check before the next board meeting. Board members also began preliminary discussions of additional concrete steps that can be taken to prevent abuse and support victims.
“We must have an attitude of zero tolerance for sexual abuse and adopt accompanying policies that create stumbling blocks for predators so that they cannot move from church to church,” said Jim Fontaine, member of the Board of Directors and pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Brimfield, Mass. “While we can never guarantee 100% success, addressing this issue in a strong way will give our churches, our members and even the public great confidence that BCNE churches are as safe as they can possibly be.”
The national statement of principles accompanies ten calls to action recommended by Greear based on the initial findings of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Group. The national convention’s response is expected to evolve in coming months as the Advisory Group continues investigations.
In addition to affirming the principles, other calls to action include entering a season of sorrow and repentance, taking immediate action regarding abuse, discussing abuse at the national meeting in June, incorporating new curriculum on caring for abuse survivors, exploring the possibility of creating a national database, requiring background checks, reexamining the ordination process, updating the Annual Church Profile to include questions on abuse and strengthening language regarding disfellowshipping churches that mishandle abuse.[ii]
Kimber Huff is the communications coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.