Convention Takes This Issue Seriously

By S. Roger

July 10, 2008

The Southern Baptist Convention directs a tremendous amount of energy toward creating and promoting resources to assist churches in protecting the children under their care.

The 42 state conventions and almost 1,200 local associations with whom the SBC has cooperative relationships routinely conduct training events and assist individual churches in making use of numerous resources available.

Training events include conferences led by certified counselors in child sexual abuse and prevention, instructional sessions conducted by age-graded specialists, and presentations on how best to safeguard children by trained risk managers.

Resources include such things as training church leaders how to create a child-safe environment, how to conduct background checks on staff and volunteers, how to develop guidelines for adult-child interaction, and how to implement appropriate open-door classroom policies. This training also stresses the importance of such things as developing policies for chaperones, establishing guidelines for online communication (instant messaging and text messaging as well as e-mail), informing volunteers who work with children about their legal obligation to report any known or suspected instance of child sexual abuse, and advocating that known sex offenders be restricted from any ministry dealing with children.

Steps safeguard children

Most Baptist state conventions have staff that work directly with churches to help churches develop policies, conduct training, and take other appropriate steps to safeguard the children under their care.

At the national level, convention entities address the issue through convention-wide publications, providing print and video resources, and offering seminary courses on ministerial ethics.

All of these efforts are designed to make churches aware of the real threat of sexual predators. The Southern Baptist Convention believes an integral part of any protection strategy is to do background checks on church-elected leaders and volunteers. While numerous local or regional lists exist and can be used as a resource, the Justice Department database of convicted sexual molesters, the most comprehensive available, is linked to the Sexual Abuse Prevention page of the SBC Web site at ministryhelp.asp.

Law enforcement agencies are specifically charged, equipped and empowered to handle criminal investigations of all types, including sexual molestation cases. Convention leaders consistently encourage every member of any church affiliated with the SBC to report any known or suspected child sexual abuse to law enforcement, no matter how popular a minister or church volunteer may be. This is a moral, spiritual, biblical and legal duty.

Protecting the children under the care of churches affiliated with the SBC is an unending task. The threat of child sexual abuse taking place in a church setting by a trusted church leader is real. Convention leaders continuously review the services provided to our churches. Both leaders and SBC-affiliated church members must be ever-vigilant to make every local church as safe as humanly possible.

Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention relations for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.


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