SUMMARY: In 2019, the SBC President’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG), and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in partnership with LifeWay, produced resources under the overall title of “Caring Well.” These include an online curriculum of print and video materials, a 12-month congregational challenge educational program, and a report on sexual abuse issues with a set of 10 top takeaway points. The ERLC changed the focus of its annual conference over to sexual abuse. (This page includes sources for researching details and critiques of Caring Well resources and events.)
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MINISTRY RESOURCE: BOOK PLUS VIDEO CURRICULUM ON ABUSE, developed by SBC President’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG) and the ERLC in partnership with LifeWay: “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused.” The English edition was released June 4, 2019, on the Church Cares website. At that time, the Spanish edition was still forthcoming.
SBC VOICES. A brief review of the ERLC’s new abuse training: Church Cares: Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused. (June 5, 2019)
There has been some significant critique (and outright condemnation) of a specific section in the Caring Well Curriculum. It was the segment written by biblical counselor Brad Hambrick, on Pastoral Care and Correction for an Abuser (Lesson 10 and related bibliography resources), and the analysis of theological and practical errors in the approach first came from Jimmy Hinton.
Here is Mr. Hinton’s account of turning in his own father for sexual abuse of children. Here is his article on “SBC’s Caring Well stance on abusers coddles them while keeping them hidden within the church” (December 6, 2019). This substantive critique on a crucial issue that directly affects congregational safety, plus the related online interactions (primarily on Twitter), continued to call into question the SBC’s/ERLC’s views on intervention and prevention of abuse situations.
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MINISTRY RESOURCE: CARING WELL CHALLENGE, developed by the SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG) and the ERLC. This 12-month, 8-step program to confront the abuse crisis was released in June 6, 2019, on the Caring Well website. “Is your church doing all it can to be safe for survivors and safe from abuse?” SBC President J.D. Greear shares a brief video overview of the Caring Well Initiative/Challenge to equip churches with tools and resources on the pathway to engaging the problem of abuse and developing a Caring Well Team.
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CARING WELL: A REPORT FROM THE SBC SEXUAL ABUSE ADVISORY GROUP. This report was released June 8, 2019, and posted on a Report page at the Caring Well website. That homepage featured a two-paragraph Executive Summary, plus this link to download the full 52-page report PDF.
In response to the revelations of a sexual abuse crisis in American society and recognizing that such abuse has occurred within our Southern Baptist churches, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear commissioned a Sexual Abuse Advisory Group. He tasked the group with considering how Southern Baptists at every level can take discernable (sic) action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions.
This report is the product of that inquiry, in which the Advisory Group listened to and learned from hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse, and church leaders, and national experts in this field. It includes the personal words and testimonies of many of those survivors. Additionally, it aims to begin to educate our churches on the abuse crisis, equip our churches to care well for survivors, and prepare our churches to prevent abuse. The purpose of this Sexual Abuse Advisory Group report is to convey the key findings that have emerged from this effort in a way that reflects on the realities of the past, recognizes the challenges of the present, and resolves to embrace the opportunities of the future.
TWEET: PHILIP BETHANCOURT. “This 50+ page Sexual Abuse Advisory Group report conveys key findings in a way that reflects on the realities of the past, recognizes the challenges of the present, and resolves to embrace the opportunities of the future. Here are the top 10 takeaways.” (Tweet from June 8, 2019.) Here is the link to the ERLC article with the takeaways.
BLOG POST. Review of SBC “Caring Well” Report–1 Background and Executive Summary, by futuristguy (June 9, 2019). Includes sections on sources and references; framework for analyzing SBC systemic abuse: past, present, and future; what Mennonites did to address systemic abuse surrounding John Howard Yoder; parameters for analyzing the “Caring Well” Report; and analysis of the executive summary.
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The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission changed its annual conference theme for 2019 to ministry to abuse survivors and abuse prevention, via “Caring Well.” This ERLC national conference event was held October 3-5, 2019, in Dallas, Texas.
The conference was not without controversies or critiques, especially in how it came across to members of abuse survivor/advocate communities. For example:
Questions about speakers chosen — some of whom have negative reputations among survivors/advocates — and SBC abuse survivors and experts who were excluded, who have been detailing and documenting situations for years to decades. (See this Wartburg Watch link, from September 27, 2019, and this link from September 30, 2019.)
Featuring presentations and/or products individuals and organizations considered problematic by abuse survivor communities. For instance, giving Matt Chandler, who has a demonstrably bad track record on abuse issues, an interview platform to justify his actions. And MinistrySafe, which has gained notoriety among abuse survivors for taking on as clients some institutions involved in key SBC abuse cases, in which their fiduciary duty is limit their client’s liability — not seek justice for the victims.
References by name to survivors of sexual abuse in SBC settings without having asked for permission or having them there present, for example, by J.D. Greear during one of his presentations.
Videos from the conference presentations are on the ERLC’s Vimeo channel. Especially notable for challenging and calling out the SBC in specifics for its severely lacking track record on abuse situations were “What Is a Girl Worth?: A conversation with Rachael Denhollander and Russell Moore on the Church’s Abuse Crisis,” and “Winter Inside the Church and Hope for Spring” by Boz Tchividjian.
Select press reports, opinion pieces, and social media sources:
To research critiques of this event from members of abuse survivor/advocate communities, a main source will be Twitter interactions with #CaringWell hashtag.
At Caring Well conference, SBC leaders hear criticism of abuse response, by Jack Jenkins (Religion News Service; October 5, 2019).
Bob Allen at Baptist News Global posted a series of news/analysis report articles:
- Caring well? Conference cites failures in the Southern Baptist Convention’s response to sexual abuse (October 4, 2019).
- Caring well? Expert berates Southern Baptists for ignoring sexual abuse (October 7, 2019).
- Caring well? Speaker says Baptist Press reported abuse disclosure as a consensual affair (October 8, 2019).
Caring Well: A Survivor’s Reflections on the ERLC Conference on Abuse, by Sheiliann Peña (Faithfully Magazine; October 10, 2019). “The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Caring Well conference overwhelmed attendees with information, but failed to care for the suffering in its midst or call out the wolves present.”
The Wartburg Watch hosted The Caring Well Discussion Page. I put an extended comment there as brad/futuristguy (10th comment down in the discussion section) with some of my observations and opinions about the event.