Five days before Christmas, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force released an update on its work, right at the halfway mark in the 12-month timeline between its creation and its required report to the 2022 SBC annual meeting.
The brief report, posted to the task force’s website, mainly says the work is ongoing.
“The independent investigation by Guidepost Solutions continues and has made significant progress” since the last update on Nov. 11, 2021, it begins. “During this time, the investigative team has focused on critical investigative fundamentals, such as the collection and review of relevant documents from the SBC Executive Committee, particularly the collection of electronic documents. Another item of note is that the Committee on Cooperation appointed Dr. Ed Litton as the Guidepost liaison as required by the Guidepost contract. Thus far, at Guidepost’s request Dr. Litton has provided prompt and effective support for the investigation.”
Litton is the Alabama pastor who currently serves as SBC president. Guidepost is the independent firm hired by the task force to do the primary work of the investigation. That work was delayed for four months by a disagreement between the task force and the then-leadership of the SBC Executive Committee.
After that disagreement finally was resolved in favor of the task force, the two top staff members of the Executive Committee resigned in protest. To date, they have not be replaced, and no announcement has been made about a search for a new top staff leader. There is speculation among insiders that the search for a new Executive Committee president cannot and should not begin until after the task force delivers its report to messengers at next June’s SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
One of the extraordinary realities of the present moment is that the chairman of the Executive Committee, California pastor Rolland Slade, and SBC President Litton are being called upon to engage more directly in the day-to-day work of the denomination than perhaps ever before. Slade reportedly is giving interim leadership to the Executive Committee staff, as no interim president has been named.
In its Dec. 20 update, the task force said Guidepost has:
- Continued to receive and review documents provided by the Executive Committee “pursuant to its initial document request.”
- Coordinated the transfer and processing of all electronic records from the Executive Committee to the Guidepost investigative team, where it is being searched and reviewed.
- “Continued to conduct interviews with survivors, witnesses and current and former SBC Executive Committee members and staff.” The update includes a special note that Guidepost “will not affirmatively contact survivors for interviews or to gather information” but welcomes them to contact the task force or Guidepost.
- “Engaged a survivor care liaison to provide support to survivors, if needed, after they participate in the Guidepost investigation including being available to debrief with survivors regarding the process relating to the interview and investigation experience, especially as it relates to re-traumatization … .”
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