Stop sexual predators, Chapman urges

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Southern Baptists have taken strong stands in the past against the sexual abuse of children and will continue taking strong action to protect children and bring sexual predators in the church to justice, SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman told messengers during the morning session of their annual meeting June 10 at the Indiana Convention Center.

"The Southern Baptist Convention is on record for having stood strongly against sexual abuse," Chapman said. "We have long condemned those who would use our churches as a hunting ground for their sick and selfish pleasure.

"At the same time, sexual abuse is a growing crisis in this nation and we must continue to do everything within our power to stop this horrendous crime. Even though the number of Southern Baptist ministers who are sexual predators may seem to be relatively small, we must be on watch and take immediate action against those who prey on the most innocent among us.

"One sexual predator in our midst is one too many."

In 1978, messengers to the Southern Baptist annual meeting adopted a resolution on child abuse that requested their moral concerns entity to provide resources for dealing with child abuse and called on legislators to "end the horrors of child pornography and protect children from child abuse." In 1999, they adopted a resolution denouncing the idea that "adult-child sex" is beneficial or even acceptable to children. In 2007, a resolution expressed their "deep level of moral outrage and concern at any instance of child victimization" and called on churches to respond to "any suspicions or allegations of child abuse in a timely and forthright manner."

Chapman, whose address was interrupted six times by audience applause, encouraged churches to make use of the national sex offender database (www.nsopr.gov) for screening prospective staff members and volunteers who work with children. He noted that a special edition of SBC Life (www.sbclife.net), the Southern Baptist Convention's journal, was being distributed at the annual meeting with a pull-out section on the subject of child sexual abuse. Chapman also pointed out that resources for preventing child sexual abuse had been posted on the SBC website at www.sbc.net/localchurches/ministryhelp.asp.

While the national Southern Baptist Convention "has no hierarchy and no ecclesiastical authority over local churches," it does want to "encourage, empower and educate local churches as to how to best do their local work to protect our precious children," Chapman said. He called on Southern Baptist congregations to adopt policies and be vigilant in protecting their children from sexual predators.

"We owe our boys and girls and the women of our churches every protection possible. We owe them our prayers and loving care if they are victimized," Chapman said.

"We must determine that when we know someone is a sexual predator, we will expose him and bring charges against him for his crimes, whether he is a pastor, a member of the staff or a member of the church," Chapman continued. "We cannot stand by and refuse to stand up against these vile criminals and allow them to practice their evil deeds."

Southern Baptists also must take steps to ensure that sexual predators who have victimized children in one congregation do not get another opportunity by moving on to another church, Chapman declared.

"Sexual predators are opportunistic and frequently migrate from one victim field to another," Chapman said. "We must never rid ourselves of the problem by pawning a sexual offender off on an unsuspecting church where he will once again violate our children.

"Sexual predators ... must be on notice that Southern Baptist churches are not a harvest field for their devious deeds," Chapman added. "We shall be responsive to allegations about ministerial misconduct, and especially so when the misconduct is perpetrated against one of our children.

"Those who would overpower our children and violate their trust must come to know that they will not be coddled, they will not be protected, they will not find refuge in our churches," Chapman asserted. "They must understand that they never again will be allowed to minister in Jesus' name as a ruse for their sick minds and dark deceptions. They must understand that they will be reported to the proper law enforcement agencies and charged with their heinous crimes."


Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.

The full text of Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman's report to the Southern Baptist Convention can be accessed here.

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