The Southern Baptist Convention has established a confidential hotline for survivors of sexual abuse in churches to make reports, an unprecedented step for the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
After decades of denying the problem exists and even shaming those who reported abuse, current leaders have a new attitude in response to a scathing 300-page report released Sunday by an independent investigator.
That same firm, Guidepost Solutions, will manage the hotline “for survivors or their proxies to submit allegations of abuse within the SBC,” a May 25 statement explained. “All submitters will remain confidential. Survivors will be notified of the available options for care and will be put in touch with an advocate.”
“All submitters will remain confidential. Survivors will be notified of the available options for care and will be put in touch with an advocate.”
The decision to create the hotline was made by Willie McLaurin, interim president of the SBC Executive Committee, and members of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force. No information was immediately available about the terms or duration of the contract, the cost or how the cost will be paid.
In a week in which the nation has watched SBC leaders describe their internal meltdown as “apocalyptic” in nature, urgency has driven a number of rapid responses.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., announced it will remove all references to SBC leader Johnny Hunt from its campus due to his being named in the Guidepost report. Hunt resigned May 13 as senior vice president for leadership and evangelism at the SBC North American Mission Board.
Likewise, NAMB announced multiple steps its leadership will take immediately in response to the report.
“We are deeply grieved at the findings of the independent investigation of the SBC Executive Committee commissioned by Guidepost Solutions, and especially at the credible allegation of abuse involving one of our former employees,” a May 25 statement explained. “We must acknowledge, with grief, that we believe the report is well-documented and verified with a high level of professionalism and due process. We are heartbroken, especially for the survivor, her husband and the others mentioned in the report. We are deeply grateful for their courage and sacrifice in speaking up.
“We must acknowledge, with grief, that we believe the report is well-documented and verified with a high level of professionalism and due process.”
“We recognize that, with this reality, comes a cascade of facts we must consider, including the possibility of other victims or allegations of which we are unaware, and the need to ensure we have done everything possible to prevent abuse. To that end, we have consulted with outside experts, including Rachael Denhollander, and we are announcing today that the North American Mission Board board of trustees is immediately beginning the processes outlined below and on the newly created NAMB Abuse Prevention and Response section of our website.”
The statement was signed by NAMB trustee chairman Eric Thomas and NAMB President Kevin Ezell.
Among the actions NAMB is taking is creation of an Abuse Prevention and Response Committee, along with a thorough review of policies and procedures and new training for all employees, church planters, missionaries and chaplains.
The high-profile Guidepost report released Sunday afternoon apparently has created an urgent need for help due to the number of calls coming in to the Executive Committee in Nashville. The Sexual Abuse Task Force statement said: “Since the release of the Guidepost report on Sunday, the SBC Executive Committee, Guidepost Solutions, and members of the Sexual Abuse Task Force have been fielding calls from survivors regarding allegations of sexual abuse.”
Those who call the new hotline will receive referrals to resources, and their reports of abuse will be documented but held until further processes can be developed. “This hotline will be an important stopgap measure for survivors between now and the 2022 SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, when the messengers can pass even more meaningful reforms,” the statement said.
The hotline may be reached at (202) 864-5578 or [email protected]