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On Support for Consistent Laws Regarding Pastoral Sexual Abuse

WHEREAS, Those in pastoral ministry are entrusted with the responsibility, under the authority of Christ, to serve, shepherd, and guard those whom the Lord entrusts to their care (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9); and

WHEREAS, Scripture makes clear that teachers will receive a stricter judgment, and therefore overseers must be above reproach, keeping watch over their souls as those who will give an account (James 3:1, Hebrews 13:17); and 

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message, Article XV, condemns “all forms of sexual immorality” and states, “We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, [and] the abused”; and

WHEREAS, The 2021 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, passed the resolution “On Abuse and Pastoral Qualifications” identifying sexual abuse by pastors as a permanently disqualifying action for all positions of church leadership; and

WHEREAS, Laws and codes of professional ethics in many states prohibit sexual relationships between professionals such as physicians, psychiatrists, attorneys, and their patients/clients, even with consent, because the position of authority held by the professional creates an unhealthy opportunity for abuse; and

WHEREAS, Pastors should be held to a standard for their conduct at least as high as that to which secular professionals are held; and

WHEREAS, Various states have passed laws that criminalize sexual acts between pastors and those under their care; and

WHEREAS, These laws make no exception for the consent of the victim since pastors and ministers are in a position of trust, which is broken when the one in authority engages in a sexual act with the victim (such states include Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Anaheim, California, June 14-15, 2022, encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would provide consistent definitions and classification of sexual abuse by pastors, as sexual abuse committed by pastors constitutes a clear abuse of authority and trust (similarly seen in the relationships in the aforementioned professional settings); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would empower churches by shielding them from civil liability when they share information about alleged abuse with other organizations or institutions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That while we hold convictions about and celebrate ecclesial autonomy, we also believe that it is both important and biblical (1 Corinthians 14:33) to develop a culture of transparency and mutual responsibility between churches, so that it is clear that our churches are not places for predators to hide, as we, “contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,” seeking “to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love” (BFM Art. XV); and be it further

RESOLVED, That while in this world we must face the temporal consequences of our sin, such as disqualification, we joyfully acknowledge that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven and no person who cannot be restored to Christ (Psalm 103:12, Ephesians 1:7-8); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we support actions that protect the innocent within the churches of the Southern Baptist convention from wolves in shepherd’s clothing and embrace actions that empower churches to be able to report instances of abuse to appropriate authorities without fear of civil liability; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we recognize Christ has given the local church, in Matthew 18:15-20, a clear process for practicing accountability and discipline in the body, and therefore we call upon all the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention to resume this biblical practice in order to protect the victims of abusive members, to hold perpetrators openly accountable, to keep these predators from quietly slipping away to other churches where they will harm others, and to preserve the purity of our congregations so that reproach is not brought upon the name of Christ.