DALLAS - In a proactive approach to address clergy sexual misconduct through prevention education and training, the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to revise current policy at the recent February 22-23 board meeting.
Vernon Stokes, chairman of the Administration Support Committee, presented the recommended policy change, in response to research provided by an internal review of procedures. Rollie Richmond, director of human resources, oversaw the internal review which included assessing the effectiveness and challenges inherent with the current website resources, counseling support and misconduct list; legislative and legal trends; and best practice approaches being used by other Baptist conventions and abuse prevention efforts in general.
"We would like to replace our current policy with a new victim-centered initiative focused on providing education and information to BGCT churches regarding their autonomous responsibility to avoid instances of clergy sexual misconduct and to compassionately address misconduct when it is alleged and/or proved to be true," Richmond said.
Under the new policy, Texas Baptists will provide educational and awareness resources to staff and church leaders through regional training events on relevant topics, including a best practice five-part safety and prevention system. Texas Baptists will also provide real-time, web-based access to significantly enhanced resources and training that churches may employ to help them in meeting their related responsibilities. The new policy will continue to provide help when possible with counseling for the victim, the victim's family and others when needed and requested.
Texas Baptists will collaborate with industry leader MinistrySafe to provide the resources and training that are targeted to support and equip churches to meet this critical responsibility.
"Your leadership shared you don't have a crisis but want to be on the front end of prevention," Greg Love, founder and president of Ministry Safe, said. "The BGCT is leading the way in helping equip churches."
The first phase of the new policy will focus on protecting children within churches.
"It's a reality and a huge problem in our culture," Richmond said, in an address to the Administration Support Committee on Mon., Feb. 22. "Wherever the bar is the lowest is where offenders go to act out their offences. We need to educate our churches in raising the bar to protect potential victims."
Information for Texas Baptists churches regarding updates on training opportunities and resources with be available at texasbaptists.org in the coming months.
The board approved the appropriation of $100,000 from a trust fund to be invested in the new initiative, primarily to be used to provide enhanced resources and training for churches.
In other board action, the Executive Board also approved three years funding for a western-heritage and church-starting consultant, through the J.K. Wadley trust fund.
Additionally, funds were approved to be used to contract a new Texas Baptists missionary to work with specific people groups in Texas.
The board also approved modification to the formal internal grievance policy and filled several vacancies on boards and councils: