Litton appoints task force to study management of sexual abuse in SBC, including criticism of past actions as a counselor – Baptist News Global
One of the most vocal critics Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of suspected clergy sexual abuse has been appointed special advisor to the seven-member task force commissioned by messengers at this summer’s SBC annual meeting.
In 2019, Rachael Denhollander appeared as a keynote speaker at the âCaring Wellâ conference scheduled by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission. There, she accused Baptist Press, the official news service of the SBC, of ââ”trampling” on an abuse survivor who trusted her denomination to tell her story, but instead misrepresented her. as part of a consensual matter.
The working group will be chaired by two men, and only two of the seven members are women.
Denhollander’s comments – and the conference itself – have become a flashpoint for some SBC leaders, especially the leaders of the SBC executive committee, who have accused her as well as the leader of the ERLC of the era, Russell Moore, of damaging the image of the SBC. This saga unfolded over the next year and a half, culminating in Moore’s resignation from the ERLC and a series of leaked letters and tapes that showed Executive Committee leaders slowly worrying about survivors of sexual abuse and argued that it was more important to âprotect the grassrootsâ than to care about these survivors.
Tensions peaked in June at the SBC annual meeting in Nashville. Just days before the meeting began, Executive Committee Chairman Ronnie Floyd announced that he had hired an outside firm to investigate the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse complaints and report its findings to the Executive Committee. This did not please the convention messengers, who canceled the Order of Business Committee and demanded that the new SBC chairman appoint a special task force to oversee the investigation and report to the convention. , not the Executive Committee.
Ed Litton, a pastor from Alabama, was elected president over Mike Stone, a pastor from Georgia who had served as chairman of the executive committee at the time of the alleged mismanagement of some allegations of sexual abuse. However, Stone’s supporters since the time of Litton’s election have sought to discredit him – most recently by making allegations that Litton plagiarized certain sermons.
Illustrating this effort, Corey Smith, senior pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, tweeted after the task force’s announcement, “How can we trust this task force to hold leaders accountable for anything? something as important as sexual abuse if they can? don’t hold @EdLitton responsible for sermon plagiarism? “
Smith is a leader of the Conservative Baptist Network, an ultra-conservative group that backed Stone for SBC president against Litton and said the SBC was sliding into liberalism. The network and another ultra-conservative group, Founders Ministries, are strong supporters of a theological vision that requires men to lead women in church and at home. One of the organizers of the Conservative Baptist Network was Paige Patterson, who was dismissed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in part because of mismanagement of allegations of sexual abuse brought to her attention by others.
Other immediate response to the working group were prayer support calls to worry about some of the appointees in the group.
âI’m not a fan of Chris Moles or much of the task force. I wish the task force had included people who represented the wants and needs of all SBC survivors. But in the SBC’s political game, that’s what we get, âtweeted Hannah Kate Williams, a clergy sexual abuse survivor who is active in advocacy with the SBC.
Moles and Denhollander – the two special advisers to the task force – approach the issue from different (but not necessarily contradictory) perspectives. Denhollander is a woman whose testimony helped put serial sex offender and former U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar behind bars. She lives in Louisville, Ky. Moles is a man who works with other men, helping them stop abusive behavior. He is an ordained Christian and Missionary Alliance minister and is the senior pastor of The Chapel in Winfield, Virginia, in addition to being a counselor.
The working group will be led by two men, and only two of the seven members are women.
Bruce Frank, senior pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina, has been appointed president, and Marshall Blalock, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, SC, has been appointed vice-president.
In 2013, Frank was appointed and elected president of the SBC Pastors Conference. Its nominator was Ronnie Floyd, then pastor in Arkansas. Frank is a graduate of Texas Tech University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Luther Rice Seminary.
Biltmore Baptist Church ranks among the largest churches in the SBC – and in the nation’s 100 largest churches – with approximately 7,000 worshipers weekly.
In addition to Frank and Blalock, the other five members appointed to the working group are:
- John Damon, CEO of Canopy Children’s Solutions, Jackson, Mississippi, and member of the Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison, Mississippi.
- Liz Evan, law clerk at the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeal in Nashville, and member of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn.
- Heather Evans, director of Evans Counseling Services in Coopersburg, Pa., And member of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Center Valley, Pa.
- Andrew HÃ©bert, senior pastor at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas.
- Bucas Sterling III, senior pastor at Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
According to the motion passed by congress messengers last month, the task force is to report to next year’s congress, with findings released in advance. What is not clear is whether, or how much, the working group will continue the relationship with Guidepost Solutions, the company Floyd had hired a few days before the annual meeting.
Within the working group, three members bring specific work-related expertise. Damon has extensive experience as a therapist and advocate for children and mental health. Evan drafted a Tennessee law to criminalize clergy sexual abuse that was passed unanimously by the state legislature this year. Evans is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in women’s issues, particularly sexual trauma, sex trafficking and victim care. Her doctoral thesis focused on complex trauma and post-traumatic growth in victims of domestic sex trafficking.
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