Three weeks later, four SBC entities are standing by their legal brief against a sexual abuse survivor

Baptist News Global [Jacksonville FL]

November 16, 2023

By Mark Wingfield

Three weeks after the Southern Baptist Convention and three of its entities were discovered to have signed an amicus brief in Kentucky arguing against the rights of sexual abuse survivors seeking justice, nothing has changed on the legal front.

Neither the SBC, the SBC Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary nor Lifeway Christian Resources has renounced the brief, withdrawn from it or apologized for standing against a victim facing her abuser and those who knew of her abuse and did not act.

The one exception is SBC President Bart Barber, who apologized that what he had done upset some friends in the SBC. Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said he simply did what the lawyers told him to do, and Lifeway has said nothing at all for three weeks.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, trustees of the Executive Committee gathered in executive session to discuss the matter and reported no action to reverse or rescind their participation in the friend of the court brief, which they didn’t know about until the Louisville Courier-Journal broke the story Oct. 24.

Instead, they reported creating a large workgroup to review the Executive Committee’s and SBC’s “long-term legal strategy.”

Because the virtual meeting was held in executive session, no reporters or observers were allowed to know what happened there. Typically, nonprofit trustee boards use executive sessions to discuss sensitive personnel, legal or financial information.

Prominent members of the abuse survivor community have called on all four signatories to the brief to rescind their participation in it.

Prominent members of the abuse survivor community have called on all four signatories to the brief to rescind their participation in it.

In an Oct. 25 opinion piece for BNG, survivor advocates Christa Brown and David Clohessy wrote: “If the SBC, the Executive Committee, the seminary and Lifeway actually care about justice for #SBCtoo survivors, they need to withdraw their brief and substitute a new brief in support of the extension of limitations for child sex abuse survivors to seek justice against both their perpetrators and enabling institutions. That would be something meaningful. Short of that, it’s all just posturing, grandstanding and window-dressing.”

Some Southern Baptists held out hope that today’s Executive Committee meeting would produce that result, but it did not.

Executive Committee Chairman Philip Robertson spoke on behalf of the group to Baptist Press, the denominational news service and said: “Know that God is working in and through your trustees. I am thankful for them and I am extremely grateful for the spirit of unity and cooperation.”

A study group will be formed to address three issues, he explained:

  • “Biblical justice and due process doctrine as it relates to our current legal system (including statutes of limitations).”
  • “A broader, long-term legal strategy for the Executive Committee and Southern Baptist Convention moving forward.”
  • “The process by which the Executive Committee and the Southern Baptist Convention approve significant legal decisions.”

All those actions will affect only what happens in the future, not what is happening currently. Robertson gave BP no explanation of whether trustees considered withdrawing from the amicus brief or apologizing for it. Nothing is known of the internal debate that happened today.

The study group will be formed by each of the Executive Committee’s seven officers naming one member, to be joined by any trustee who is an active or retired attorney. Robertson will serve as an ex-officio member.

Related articles:

SBC Executive Committee members surprised to learn they filed an amicus brief against a sexual abuse survivor in Kentucky

The duplicity of an SBC amicus brief | Opinion by Christa Brown and David Clohessy

Why is Lifeway silent on sexual abuse amicus brief? | Opinion by Mark Wingfield

SBC abuse survivor advocate says controversial legal brief originated with Lifeway

SBC president apologizes for signing off on amicus brief