LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Baptist leaders expressed sadness and disappointment at the findings of the exhaustive and scathing 288-page investigative report from Guidepost Solutions over clergy sexual abuse the past two decades that was released Sunday.
Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, responded with compassion for the victims of sexual abuse and spoke of preventative measures in the future.
“Kentucky Baptists grieve with every victim of sexual abuse and pray they will find healing in Christ,” he said. “We also pray for the day when sexual predators will be exposed, and sexual abuse will be eradicated.”
Charles Frazier, the pastor of Zion's Cause Baptist Church in Benton, is a member of the Executive Committee. He said he hadn't finished reading the entire report but was chilled by what he'd been able to see.
"I haven’t read it all and I’m just sickened," he said. "I can’t believe what I’m reading. My heart goes out to these victims and we’ve got to do something. I didn’t expect to see what I’ve read today."
Frazier, who has been on the EC for five years, was one of the 130 EC members who were interviewed. He said he told them the truth: "They said, 'What do you know?' I said, 'I don't know anything. I do not have anything to share. That's the truth.'''
He said the interview lasted about 27 minutes but was mostly him repeating "I don't know anything."
Much of the information about the reports of abuse was "closely guarded," according to the report.
“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse. They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations,” the report said.
Gray and KBC President Harold Best said it was important for the convention churches to know better how to respond to victims.
“As damning as this report is, it gives us an opportunity as a convention of churches to change the way we respond to victims of sexual abuse and address abusers,” Gray said.
Best added: “As I have been reading through the Guidepost report, I am saddened by many of the findings. This report gives us an opportunity to change the culture in regards to how we handled reported cases of abuse. We certainly want to do all we can to prevent any sexual abuse in our churches.”
Kentucky Baptists put together a Sexual Abuse Task Force and have started the process of working with Guidepost Solutions to review KBC polices related to sexual abuse, said Best, who is the senior pastor at Burlington Baptist.
“We hope to provide training for KBC staff in regards to presentation, response and caring for victims,” Best said. “We also hope to provide similar training for pastors and ministry leaders around the state. Finally, we hope to have a handbook this year for churches and associations detailing prevention, response and best care practices related to sexual abuse.”
Gray said Kentucky Baptists are already proactive, seeking to care for victims of sexual abuse through Sunrise Children’s Services.
“In the coming days, we will do even more,” he said. “Our own Sexual Abuse Task Force is leading us to provide training and resources for Kentucky Baptist churches and their leaders to prevent, respond to, and provide compassionate care regarding sexual abuse."
Best said Kentucky Baptist pastors are taking the best step forward with the Sexual Abuse Task Force.
“While we lament the findings that were released today (Sunday), Dr. Gray and Kentucky Baptist pastors are committed to preventing sexual abuse in our churches, taking sexual abuse allegations seriously, and caring well for those impacted by sexual abuse.”
Frazier said the Sexual Abuse Task Force was the absolute best move for Kentucky Baptists. "It's very important," he said. "I believe Dr. Gray is leading us in the right direction."
The seven-month investigation was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the Executive Committee. Last year, delegates at the SBC’s national gathering demanded the committee should not be allowed to investigate itself and set this third-party review into motion.
The Executive Committee is set to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the report.