The outside firm leading an investigation into alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has received more than 4 terabytes of data and has conducted or scheduled more than 100 one-on-one interviews.
These data points were among an array of fairly specific talking points released in an update by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force Feb. 7.
That update said Guidepost Solutions, the firm hired to do the investigation, “has reviewed and processed a substantial amount of information in support of its independent investigation through the review of documents and contacting and interviewing a substantial number of current and former Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee staff and trustees. These interviews are essential in conducting a full, fair and comprehensive investigation and assessment. They also provide an opportunity for interviewees to offer recommendations and provide feedback as to how the (Executive Committee) can create a safer community going forward.”
Specific actions cited include:
- Conducting a town hall meeting with Executive Committee staff in Nashville and interviewing about 32 current and former staff members.
- Contacting all current and former Executive Committee trustees to inform them about the investigation and request their cooperation and interviewing 54 current or former trustees, with an additional 21 interviews scheduled and 16 in the process of being scheduled.
- Continuing to meet with survivors who have reached out to Guidepost.
- Receiving and reviewing the final set of documents initially submitted in October 2021 from the Executive Committee file servers, in addition to reviewing documents obtained from the SBC seminary archives housed at the Executive Committee and from other sources.
- Receiving 4,230 documents from Guenther, Jordan and Price, the longtime and now former law firm representing both the SBC and the Executive Committee.
- Requesting additional documents and interviews from the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The Sexual Abuse Task Force is required to make a report to the SBC annual meeting in June in Anaheim, Calif. That’s just four months away. Whether or how the report might be released publicly prior to the meeting is not yet known.
On the question of “how the (Executive Committee) can create a safer community going forward,” one of those who has spoken to Guidestone as an abuse survivor and advocate released to Baptist News Global the list of 11 suggestions she has made for creating a safer community.
Christa Brown, who has been among the most prominent and vocal of abuse survivors submitted her list of suggestions to Guidepost Solutions on Nov. 22, 2021. Among her ideas are these:
- Establish an independent commission that will function on a permanent basis to receive, assess and document reports about clergy sex abuse within the SBC, its affiliated churches and entities.
- Extend the Guidepost Solutions investigation for at least another year because, she believes, “many survivors may be more willing to participate after they have seen at least preliminary recommendations and after they have seen some tangible steps taken.”
- Issue a “broad public institutional apology” from the Executive Committee “for its decades-long betrayal of SBC clergy sex abuse survivors, for having failed to help victims seeking to report clergy sex abuse and expose clergy perpetrators, and for having failed to create systems that would better protect kids and congregants throughout the SBC.”
- Make immediate outreach to survivors documented in the investigation and “express remorse for any maltreatment of the survivors, whether by ignoring the report or by referring the survivors to the SBC’s attorney or by a failure of action.”
- Establish “a program for the payment of reparations to SBC clergy sex abuse survivors.”
- Determine that failure of a church or its leaders to cooperate with the work of the new oversight commission be considered grounds to disfellowship those churches.
- Determine that any church that knowingly hires or retains any church leader whose name has been entered in the sexual abuser database should be grounds for disfellowshipping from the SBC.