Letter Regarding Recent SBC Report

PDF VERSION OF LETTER

May 25, 2022

Dear FirstSF Family,

Our church is dually affiliated with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). As an autonomous baptist church, we are voluntarily associated with these conventions for the sake of partnering with other churches to carry out The Great Commission.

You may have heard that this past Sunday, May 22, Guidepost Solutions released its Independent Investigation of The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations. This independent investigation was demanded by the messengers of the SBC at last year’s annual meeting in Nashville (I and one other FirstSF staff member were at the meeting and joined the overwhelming majority of messengers to call for the investigation). The report of the investigation is almost 300 pages long and can be accessed here. A helpful summary of the report can be found here.

The report is heartbreaking and infuriating to say the least. The report sheds light on how SBC leadership mishandled allegations of abuse and mistreated survivors who were brave enough to bring the allegations forward. The main concern of these leaders was to protect the institution rather than care for victims. These actions by the SBC leadership were evil and have no place in the people of God.

Along with grieving the facts of this report, we weep with the countless victims who suffered abuse and neglect because of inactions of the SBC. FirstSF wants to be a place of healing for survivors of abuse, and we will seek to grow in how we foster healing in our own community.

We must also consider how the facts presented impact our church. While FirstSF is not directly implicated by what has happened in the SBC, this moment provides a grave reminder of the importance of reviewing the ways our church works to prevent instances of abuse in our church and how we handle allegations of abuse. Our church currently has strict policies about who can volunteer with minors and has procedures for preventing and reporting abuse. However, based on what we see in this report, we will consider how we can improve our safety measures and how we can equip members of our church in all areas of ministry to spot and report abuse.

Along with our internal actions, our church has to consider what our relationship with the SBC should be. As previously mentioned, our church voluntarily cooperates with the SBC for the sake of carrying out the Great Commission, but this evidence of institutional failure and sin causes us to pause and consider if this is still in our best interest.

The SBC annual meeting is next month in Anaheim and I believe it will be an important time for determining what the future direction of the SBC is. It was a vote at last year’s meeting that led to this investigation being conducted. The task force that conducted the investigation will hopefully bring forth recommendations that can be voted on by the members of the SBC at this year’s annual meeting.

However, instead of waiting until after the annual meeting to process this information as a church, I want to provide a forum for me to share more information about what it means for us to be affiliated with the SBC and for you to ask questions and share feedback. I will also use this time to share about how we work to prevent abuse in our church and our procedures for reporting abuse.

This meeting will be held on Sunday, June 5 at 12:00pm in our Fellowship Hall. I hope that you will join us for worship that morning and then stay for the meeting.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I want to ask you to take a few moments to pray. Pray for survivors of abuse. Pray that our church and the Church will honor God in all that we do, especially in the way we care for the vulnerable. Pray that we will be committed to loving people rather than protecting institutions.

In Christ,
Pastor Ben

P.S. - The Executive Committee of the SBC, which is largely under new leadership since the investigation began, met on Tuesday, May 24 and released this statement. The California Southern Baptist Convention (our church’s state convention) released this statement on the same day.