SBCAL approves plan to fight sexual abuse

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) voted unanimously during their meeting, June 9, to approve broad recommendations to Southern Baptist associations, state conventions and churches about how to prevent the abuse of minors.

Bob Dean, of the Dallas Baptist Association, discusses a document drafted by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) addressing sexual abuse in churches, during the group's plenary session June 9 at the Hilton Hotel in Birmingham, Ala.
Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
The document, entitled "Encouragements to Associations, State Conventions, and Churches Regarding the Prevention of Abuse of Minors" outlines a series of 10 recommendations around prevention/protection, awareness/education and ministry care/healing. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

"As you read through these recommendations, some of you -- no doubt -- are saying, 'We're already doing that.' I applaud you for that," said Kevin Carrothers, associational mission strategist (AMS) with the South Salem Baptist Association of Mt. Vernon, Ill. "You are on the proactive side so this serves as a reminder to you to continue to safeguard the vulnerable in your churches. For some of you, these are new. These are encouragements to you. That's how we want you to take these. Not prescriptive, but certainly some areas for you to consider in your association but also in your churches."

Carrothers led a three-member task force in drafting the document. According to the group's executive director, Ray Gentry, this year's 250-plus registrants marked the highest total in years.

The recommendations approved by SBCAL do not bind Southern Baptist associations but serve as a guide for associational mission strategists throughout the SBC. SBCAL leaders also described the document as a work in progress.

"It's our heart that we're going to certainly be responsive," said David Stokes, the chairman of the group's executive team and the executive director of the Central Kentucky Network of Baptists, based in Lexington.

"This is not us making a statement and saying we're never going to talk about this again. This is the beginning of a path to address this."

Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board, greets attendees at the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) morning worship service June 9 at the Hilton Hotel in Birmingham, Ala.
Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
The associational leaders unanimously voted to amend the title of the previously released document, adding the words "the prevention of" to the title in order to emphasize the desire of SBCAL to provide proactive support on the issue.

For the full text of the statement, visit sbcassociations.org/vote.

Vision team report

The SBCAL also unanimously approved a series of recommendations designed to help associations implement components of the organization's 2018 SBCAL Vision Report. The vision team organized into three sub-teams, tackling different areas of the report. The recommendations include:

-- Developing "AMS Search Committee Guidelines" to help associations looking to hire a new associational mission strategist.

-- Partnering with Church Multiplication Ministries to "provide coaching and coach training for associational leaders."

-- Developing a guide on "Associational Mission Strategist Succession Planning" to help associations create a leadership pipeline that includes training, mentoring and coaching for future leaders.

-- Writing a series of 1,000-word essays to better define the proficiencies outlined in the 2018 SBCAL Vision Report. SBCAL leaders plan to expand these essays into full chapters that will be part of a book on effective associations to be published in 2020. A video training for each of the proficiencies is also being planned.

Changes to the SBCAL Constitution

The SBCAL also voted unanimously in Birmingham to amend its constitution in order to continue to transition toward a year-round operation. First, they voted to expand the definition of SBC entities represented on the executive team to include all entities that give at least $1,000 to the SBCAL budget.

Second, they voted to amend the constitution to change the conference planning team to the administrative team.

Third, the conference voted to change the title of SBCAL's executive director to president/CEO.

The approved constitution also included a variety of minor edits made to update the legal language.

SBC leaders speak to SBCAL

A number of SBC leaders showed their appreciation for Baptist associations during the two-day event. Johnny Hunt, the North American Mission Board's senior vice president for evangelism and leadership, shared on Sunday morning his vision for the "Who's Your One?" evangelism campaign.

SBC President J.D. Greear also highlighted the campaign, centering his talk on the four crucial convictions the Who's Your One campaign is built on.

"The Gospel is always supposed to be going forward," Greear said. "It's always supposed to be penetrating lostness. It's supposed to be expanding. Jesus promised that the gates of hell wouldn't prevail against His church."

International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood and Woman's Missionary Union Executive Director Sandra Wisdom-Martin also addressed the SBCAL, both highlighting the place of associations in their missional stories.

New SBCAL officers

Former vice chairman Sean McMahon, executive director of the Florida Baptist Association of Tallahassee, Fla., is the new SBCAL chairman.

Other officers are vice chairman Mark Millman, Southern Wisconsin Baptist Association, and recording secretary Philip Price, Jackson County (Miss.) Baptist Association.

Plenary speaker Ted Traylor

Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., dissected the new title (associational mission strategist) recommended by last year's SBCAL. Traylor, who was a part of the vision committee that recommended the new title, described each of the three words in the title.

"Association," he said, stood for the context. Associational leaders work in a specific place of ministry.

"Mission," stands for the "commission we've been given," Traylor said. He defined the commission as the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20.

"You are a sent one. Never forget it, dear man of God," Traylor said. "As you lead in your associational context, you are on mission. You're to go and make disciples."

"Strategist," Traylor said, describes an associational leader's conduct. He specifically noted the 17 proficiencies for associational mission strategists approved by SBCAL last year and defined two of those proficiencies.

Plenary speaker Robert Smith

Robert Smith concluded the 2019 SBCAL with a rousing sermon on Acts 17:16-34, "Making the Unknown, Known." Smith focused much of his sermon on how Paul used the concept of the "unknown god" to make the God of the Bible known to the Greek philosophers he met at Mars Hill.

Smith ended his message encouraging associational mission strategists with a reminder to keep making God known in their communities.

"Don't worry if your name is left out of the book," Smith said as he broke out into song. "Don't worry if you're not mentioned in the conversations of the great, mighty, rich, and famous. God knows your name. God knows who you are. God knows why you do what you do. Therefore, I say to you this morning when you give your best of your service, telling the world that the Savior has come, don't be dismayed when men and women don't believe you, for He will say, 'Well done.'"

Smith is the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.

SBCAL 2010 in Orlando

Next year's SBCAL meeting will be June 7-8 in Orlando, Fla. Participants can pre-register for $69 through the end of June at sbcassociations.org/orlando. The 2020 meeting will mark the conference's 60th year.

Tobin Perry is a freelance writer online at tobinperry.com.
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