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On The Evil Of Sexual Abuse

WHEREAS, God has created all people in His image, with equal value and dignity (Genesis 1:26–27); and

WHEREAS, Any harm perpetrated against one of God’s image bearers is an attack on God Himself (Genesis 9:6); and

WHEREAS, God detests all forms of sexual abuse and calls His people to defend abuse victims (Psalm 82:4), to stand for justice (Psalm 82:3; Proverbs 31:8–9), and to deliver victims of sexual abuse from the hands of their oppressors (Proverbs 6:17; 24:10–12); and

WHEREAS, Sexual abuse refers to sexual activity that involves the use of physical force, manipulation, coercion, or deception; involves the abuse of authority by a perpetrator over a victim; or takes place with a minor or other person who is presumed legally incapable of consent; and

WHEREAS, New revelations of sexual abuse have come to light as victims, survivors, and journalists have exposed the scope of incidents which have occurred within Southern Baptist churches and institutions; and

WHEREAS, As a community of believers, we deplore each and every instance of sexual abuse and apologize and ask forgiveness for failing to cultivate a culture of protection for those in Southern Baptist churches and institutions who have been sexually abused; and

WHEREAS, We condemn any abuse of power by any leader who has ever sought to protect the perpetrators of sexual abuse or silence and marginalize the victims of sexual abuse; and

WHEREAS, The autonomy of the local church is compatible with the protection of innocents and should not be used by any church or organization as a reason not to take appropriate actions to protect the people it serves, including (but not limited to) the decision of an organization to remove from fellowship any church that fails to protect the vulnerable; and

WHEREAS, We affirm that sexual abuse is not only a sin to be disciplined in the context of the church, but also a crime to be prosecuted in the context of civil government; and

WHEREAS, We affirm that perpetrators of sexual abuse can be forgiven because of the work of Jesus Christ to redeem and reconcile sinners to God through faith and repentance, and that true repentance for perpetrating sexual abuse requires an acceptance of the consequences of sin, both in the context of the civil government and the context of the church; and

WHEREAS, We affirm that survivors of sexual abuse may by the grace of God forgive their abuser, but that such forgiveness should not be interpreted to mean that a victim must have an ongoing relationship with their abuser in order to be in right fellowship with God or their church, nor be regarded as a substitute for justice for the crime of sexual abuse; and

WHEREAS, We recognize that godly sorrow over the incalculable damage of sexual abuse in a church or ministry setting should lead us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10), recognizing that institutions that tolerate such sexual immorality will be judged by Christ Himself (Revelation 2:18–29); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, condemn all forms of sexual abuse and repudiate with a unified voice all sexually abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful and under the just condemnation of our Holy God; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we lament any and all instances of sexual abuse, particularly in a church setting, and express our appreciation to journalists, victims, and survivors who have brought to light the sexually immoral rot that has existed within churches, including some that identify as Southern Baptist; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on ourselves and our network of congregations and institutions to create a culture where victims can not only share about their abuse with the assurance of protection, but also receive care while church leaders fulfill their obligation to implement policies and practices that protect against and confront any form of abuse in the future; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we implore sexual abuse victims to contact civil authorities, to separate from their abusers, and to seek protection, care, and support from fellow Christians and civil authorities as they are able; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we ask civil authorities, in the implementation of due process for the accused, to review laws, in consultation with social workers and trauma counselors, to ensure that privacy laws do not prevent the pursuit of justice on behalf of the abused, and that statutes of limitations (criminal and civil) do not unduly protect perpetrators of sexual abuse and individuals who enabled them; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on all persons perpetrating and enabling sexual abuse to repent and to confess their sin to Jesus Christ and to church authorities, and to confess their crimes to civil authorities; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we implore all persons to act decisively on matters of abuse, to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities according to the laws of their state, to intervene on behalf of the abused, to do everything possible to ensure their safety, and to exercise appropriate church discipline upon abusers; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we urge churches and their leaders to develop partnerships within their communities to serve the abused, calling on government officials to strengthen laws that maintain justice and protections for the vulnerable in our society.