The Commercial Appeal

Firm named to create SBC database of ministers accused of abuse

- Liam Adams

A Southern Baptist Convention leader announced details Monday of the creation of a database containing names of ministers credibly accused of sexual abuse, a milestone in the denominati­on’s effort to implement abuse reform.

A division of Guidepost Solutions, a third-party firm that has handled other projects dealing with abuse in the SBC, will oversee the “Ministry Check” database.

It’s a significan­t developmen­t in an initiative that survivors of clergy sexual abuse have been seeking for more than a decade and that Southern Baptist voting delegates approved at the convention’s annual meeting in June.

“Although we were told for decades this was impossible, last June our convention voted to get this done,” Marshall Blalock, chairman of the SBC Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force, said at an SBC Executive Committee meeting on Monday night.

The executive committee is comprised of about 30 staff and an 86member board of elected representa­tives and manages denominati­on business outside the SBC annual meeting. It’s gathering in Nashville for one of its major meetings of the year on Monday and Tuesday.

“There has been no cooperativ­e mechanism to relay informatio­n from church-to-church to help each other to stop sexual abusers from going to place-to-place,” Blalock told the executive committee on Monday.

Blalock’s announceme­nt about the Ministry Check database was a long time coming and took longer than many initially expected.

Blalock said selecting a firm to create Ministry Check took four months and included reviewing other firms. The nine-member SBC Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force used 11 categories to evaluate responsive firms and Guidepost satisfied 10 of them.

Third Southern Baptist project for firm

This will be the third major project Guidepost has handled dealing with abuse in the SBC. The first was an investigat­ion into 20 years of SBC history and the second is an ongoing project overseeing a hotline for people to report allegation­s of sexual abuse.

Guidepost’s investigat­ion looked at SBC leaders’ response to abuse reports and treatment of survivors. Guidepost started the investigat­ion in fall 2021 and concluded it last May, publishing its findings in a historic report.

Guidepost’s report led to a series of reforms that Southern Baptist voting delegates, called messengers, approved at the 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim. Among those reforms was creating the SBC Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force that would oversee the start of the Ministry Check database.

“There is a new day dawning across the SBC,” Blalock said Monday night. “Abusers go where they think they can hide. We have chosen to make sure they have no place to hide in our churches.”

The Ministry Check database will be public and contain the names of pastors, denominati­onal workers, ministry employees or volunteers who have been associated with a Southern Baptist church or entity and been credibly accused of abuse, according to a recent online update from the SBC Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force.

Those deemed credibly accused include people with a conviction in court or a civil judgement, confessed to sexual abuse, and others identified through third-party investigat­ions.

A specific division within Guidepost called Faith-based Solutions will oversee the creation of Ministry Check, which Blalock said he hopes will ease some Southern Baptists’ concerns about Guidepost. Heading Faith-based Solutions is Samantha Kilpatrick, who graduated from an SBC seminary and who has worked with Southern Baptistaff­iliated organizati­ons on abuse reform.

Guidepost has been at the center of SBC controvers­y after it posted a tweet in June celebratin­g Pride Month.

Most recently, Hiland Park Baptist Church in Florida cited concerns about Guidepost when the church protested an SBC oversight group’s inquiry. The oversight group, called the SBC Credential­s Committee, launched an inquiry into Hiland Park for platformin­g former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who is facing abuse allegation­s.

SBC president: Don’t be blind to weaknesses

After Blalock’s presentati­on on Monday night, SBC President Bart Barber addressed the executive committee and spoke on the importance of courageous­ness and boldness.

“None of those people were perfect in their faith or in any other circumstan­ce. But at critical moments along the way, they found their faith and led this body of believers forward,” Barber said, referring to previous SBC leaders who led the denominati­on through major change and reform.

Though Barber didn’t directly reference the abuse reform efforts on Monday, many themes of his address align with the convention’s present need to address abuse. Barber has been seen as major proponent of abuse reform since his election last June.

Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Reach him at or on Twitter @liamsadams.

 ?? GEORGE WALKER IV/THE TENNESSEAN ?? Marshall Blalock is chairman of the Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force.
GEORGE WALKER IV/THE TENNESSEAN Marshall Blalock is chairman of the Abuse Reform Implementa­tion Task Force.

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