Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said “the cost of doing nothing” to combat sexual abuse outweighs “the cost of doing something” in response to concerns about the cost of an abuse hotline.
“For all of my adult life there have been occasions where sexual abuse took place and the (Southern Baptist) Convention was sued and we’ve been paying that expense,” Barber said in a video posted on Twitter earlier this month.
“The only way to make the expense go away is to make the abuse go away. And I firmly believe that anything that we can do to prevent sexual abuse in our churches, anything that we can do to aid survivors and help them is money well spent and reduces our expenses in the long run.”
The hotline was established by the SBC Executive Committee in May 2022 in response to a report released by Guidepost Solutions detailing how the denomination’s leadership mishandled sexual abuse allegations for two decades. The hotline is managed by Guidepost.
“The goal of the SBC Hotline is to gather reports of current or former allegations of sexual abuse in a trauma-informed, safe atmosphere for survivors so as to inform the SBC about any past or current issues and allegations which demand action,” reads the hotline website.
On Twitter, Barber addressed questions about the monthly costs associated with a hotline to report alleged incidents of sexual abuse within the denomination.
Barber said, “there’s not a flat monthly cost for the hotline” and explained that the cost varies based on call volume.
“And of course, the first few months of the hotline came when we’d never had anything like that before and because we’d never had anything like that before, there’s a backlog of people waiting to call in,” he said.
Barber said despite the high costs, he believes having the hotline is the right thing to do.
“I think according to God’s economy and according to the way that accountants look at the economy, it’s a good investment for Southern Baptist[s] to do everything that we can, even if it costs some money to do it, everything that we can to assist our local churches to prevent abuse and to comfort those and provide support for those who are survivors of abuse,” he added.
Barber also said the “main thing” that motivated SBC messengers to establish the hotline is the “human cost,” adding: “I think the main thing that has motivated us is the human cost. If we don’t care about the human cost of abuse, then we’re in the wrong business and we’re serving the wrong master.”
Over the last several years, the SBC has sought to tackle the issue of sexual abuse. In June, the SBC overwhelmingly voted to pass a series of abuse reform recommendations at its Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California.
In December, the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, the group tasked by SBC messengers with creating the policies, issued an update on their work and reaffirmed their commitment to “helping churches prevent sexual abuse and minister well to abuse survivors.”
Among other duties, the group was tasked with creating a “Ministry Check” database to keep track of church leaders accused of sexual abuse.
The names listed on the website would be people who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse. This encompasses a “pastor, denominational worker, or ministry employee or volunteer … who has confessed to sexual abuse in a non-privileged setting, who has been convicted in a court of law, or who has had a civil judgment rendered against them.”
ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock told the Baptist Press that since September, the group has worked to create multiple reforms “which must be designed from the ground up.”
“We have had to divide the team into smaller groups to work simultaneously on these important initiatives,” he said. “We realized when we started back in September the work before us was far more complicated than it appears at first glance.”
Blalock told BP the group plans to publish the new initiatives in the new year.
“While the task is more difficult than anticipated, our team is united by a Christ-honoring passion to help churches prevent sexual abuse and minister well to abuse survivors. We understand the urgency of what we have been called to do, and that drives us every day.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: [email protected]
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