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Georgia Baptists creating special committee to recommend ways to protect against sexual abuse

Expert says Georgia Baptists are national leaders in fight against sexual abuse

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JONESBORO, Ga. – The Georgia Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee has voted to create a Special Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse “to make recommendations for developing programs, best practices, and policy guidelines for preventing sexual abuse.”

That’s just the latest step for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, which has been in the forefront of the fight against sexual abuse for years. One of the nation’s top sexual abuse experts, Ministry Safe co-founder Greg Love, said he knows of no other group more committed to the cause than Georgia Baptists.

“I want to make clear that we as Georgia Baptists have zero tolerance for sexual abuse,” said W. Thomas Hammond, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “While we have done much in the past to train our churches and state entities to create safer environments, there is still more to be done. It's important for all of us to do our due diligence to ensure that Georgia Baptist churches are safe places for everyone.”

The Executive Committee’s action was taken in response to allegations that the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee had mishandled sexual abuse complaints at the national level.

Under the motion approved on Tuesday, the president of the Georgia Baptist Convention will appoint one member from each of the state’s regions of the state to serve on the nine-member special committee.

The three other members will be the convention president, the chairman of the Executive Committee, and, as an ex-officio member, the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. The convention president will appoint the chair of the special committee.

“The recommendations will be shared with and may be utilized by Georgia Baptist churches, associations, institutions, and entities,” the motion said. “The desired outcome of the committee is to encourage and strengthen ongoing efforts in Georgia Baptist life aimed at preventing sexual abuse.”

And, Hammond said, the recommendations would also utilized by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as well.

Under the motion, the special committee is directed to present its recommendations next November to both the Executive Committee and messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention, under a timeframe that gives members a year to complete their work.

“This draws an important line in the sand, speaking clearly that Georgia Baptists take this issue very seriously,” said Tommy Fountain Sr., chairman of the Executive Committee and pastor of 1025 Church in Monroe. “Anyone who crosses that line – whether they be a pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher or anyone else – must be held accountable for their actions.”

Georgia Baptists are engaged in the fight against sexual abuse at many levels, including training of all state Mission Board staff, local churches and other entities for development of programs, best practices and policy guidelines for preventing sexual abuse.

Among other efforts, Georgia Baptists also are engaged in ministries to fight sex trafficking in the state and to rescue women and children who have been caught up in the criminal enterprise that has been described as modern-day slavery.

Love said the Georgia Baptist Mission Board invited his organization into the state a decade ago to help churches understand the risks of sexual abuse and to implement ways to prevent it.

“Since 2012, we’ve done live training, going out into Georgia, big cities and small, to be able to bring good information so that the churches can have access to good resources and effective safety systems,” Love said. “In coordination with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, we’ve equipped hundreds of Georgia Baptist churches and trained tens of thousands of ministry leaders. We’ve done a lot, but, of course, there’s a lot more to do. I’m thankful that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has committed to that effort.”

Love said the Georgia Baptist Convention’s churches have been in the forefront in the fight against sexual abuse.

“I work with thousands of organizations all across North America – churches, camps, schools, nonprofits, youth sport organizations – and I work with almost every denomination,” Love said. “Now, of all the work I’ve done across North America, there’s not one organization more committed in spirit, financial resources, and manpower to equip churches to prevent sexual abuse and correctly respond to allegations of abuse than the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.”

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