ANAHEIM, Calif. — Banners, buttons and book displays are gone, as are most of the thousands of lay members, pastors and administrators of the Southern Baptist Convention who filled a meeting room at the convention center of Anaheim here with two days of worship music and voting on the future of the movement.
But some issues will continue to follow the “messengers” of the 13.7 million member denomination – as business meeting delegates are called.
The first of these will be the problem of sexual abuse, which the messengers have voted to spend $4 million on as part of remediation efforts.
The bulk, $3 million, will go toward implementing recommendations from the church’s sexual abuse task force, including creating a database of convicted and/or “charged” abusers. credible way”. Another million dollars will be allocated to provide advice to victims.
The Reverend Bart Barber, newly elected president of America’s largest Protestant denomination, said Wednesday predators would no longer have a “hunting ground” in the movement’s 47,000 congregations.
However, some victims of abuse remain unsatisfied, and calls for further action are likely to continue from within the church as well as from those no longer affiliated.
The Messengers voted to seek ‘more consistent laws’ on the definition and classification of sexual abuse by pastors, as well as laws protecting churches from civil liability when sharing information about abuse accusations with d other organizations of institutions.
Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, told reporters on Wednesday that cooperation from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the Texas Private Schools Coalition helped push through such a law. measure unanimously by his state legislature.
He said he hopes it will expand to other states.
“It’s not just a church problem,” he said. “It’s a problem that affects many parts of our society. And so we would love to see not only Southern Baptist churches, but also people of goodwill across the country, working with us to help these kinds of laws pass.
Baptists also passed a resolution calling “reprehensible” the policies of 408 federal Indian residential schools between 1819 and 1969 to forcibly assimilate children of Indigenous peoples and even force conversions on them.
No Southern Baptists were named in a recent Bureau of Indian Affairs investigative report, but the group felt the need to condemn the actions it described.
Reverend Mike Keahbone, a Native American and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Lawton, Oklahoma, said the measure was “the first resolution among Southern Baptists that addresses mistreatment and abuse” of Indigenous peoples, and it sends “a very powerful and clear message that we are with this family and that we matter.
A resolution calling for the closure of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, whose longtime director Russell Moore left the group and denomination last year over the response to victims of abuse, failed despite support from some more conservative quarters of the denomination.
Another resolution that went nowhere called for the denomination to evict Saddleback Church, a megachurch in Orange County, California, located about 30 minutes from the convention site.
Saddleback, led by outgoing senior pastor Reverend Rick Warren, had ordained three female pastors, which critics say violated Southern Baptist rules.
Warren gave delegates an impassioned five-minute speech Tuesday afternoon in which he noted Saddleback’s accomplishments, which included planting 90 SBC churches in Orange County alone.
“Are we going to continue bickering over side issues?” he asked, “Or are we going to keep the main thing as main?”
Her question was met with plenty of applause, and while it helped kill the anti-Saddleback resolve, she might come back.
Mr. Barber said “it is possible that some of these questions will come up later. And inasmuch as the messengers still feel unresolved, [it] is their right to bring them” in the years to come.