On May 22, the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) released a report detailing the results of a year-long study into cases of abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and how those cases were mishandled by the Executive Committee (EC) that oversees day-to-day operations within our SBC agencies.
On May 25, I made time for questions about this report during our Wednesday night classes. Since then, new information has come to light, so I wanted to share it.
- The full report is available online, along with appendices 1 and 2.
- If you don’t have time to read the full report (280+ pages), Dr. Mike Cox, the pastor of FBC in Pryor, OK, has written a helpful summary.
- The report revealed that the EC’s General Counsel maintained a secret list of alleged abusers, which the SBC has since released.
- Included in that list is Central’s former Education Minister, Jody Hilliard. (This was subsequently published in an article in The Oklahoman, which mentioned Central specifically.)
- A Google search of local media outlets reveals that this case had been public for several years before the EC list was disclosed and that it was not covered up.
- Hilliard served on staff at Central from 1979 to 1983, and media reports indicate that he was convicted for crimes he was accused of committing around 2016. However, to my knowledge, there are no accusations relating to his time here.
Regarding the issue of abuse in general, as a church, we are horrified by any instances of sexual abuse—especially when it is perpetrated or covered up by people who are supposed to be shepherding God’s people—and our prayers are with those who continue to suffer for the evil deeds of others.
As your pastor, I also want to clarify a few issues going forward.
- Under Oklahoma state law, everyone who has reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected is required to report the matter to the authorities.
- If anyone in ministry misuses their position for predatory purposes, they have forfeited that position. Period. And as far as I am concerned, they have forfeited the privilege of ministry altogether.
- Much of the current controversy stems not only from the abuse itself but also from the tendency of people in authority to sweep abuse under the rug to protect the reputations of churches and other institutions. But cover-ups not only reinjure the victims of abuse but ultimately destroy the church’s witness.
- At Central, our staff is committed to doing everything we can to keep our children safe. (1) There is a waiting period before newcomers can work with children. (2) Every children’s ministry worker must undergo a criminal background check every 18-24 months. (3) Each class/group requires a minimum of two workers. (4) Children’s ministry workers are currently receiving training through MinistrySafe that is designed to help identify grooming behavior and stop it before it leads to abuse. This training should be completed by the end of the year.
We are grateful to God for every child we have the opportunity to minister to. This world seems to be increasingly dark, but amid that darkness, we want to do all we can to ensure that Central is a safe and joyful place for children to meet Jesus and learn the truth of His Word.
If you have any questions or concerns about these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact our Children’s Minister, Kristie Weber, or me.