Here are some of the noteworthy features of the Alabama CBF policy:
- It allows individuals to report abuse, not merely churches. (Since the well-known pattern is that churches are too often unable to lift the blinders of denial, this is a critically important policy advancement.)
- It establishes a 5-person review committee at the Alabama CBF.
- The committee will have 2 non-Baptists, with strong consideration given to people with psychological or counseling experience so as to bring both outsiders and people with expertise to the committee.
- It requires at least 2 people of the same gender as the accuser on the committee.
- The committee will engage in good-faith investigatory action. (In other words, it doesn't leave the entire investigatory burden on the shoulders of the individual to substantiate his or her own report.)
- The committee will allow the accused to respond and to appear personally.
- The committee will determine whether the allegations of abuse are credible.
- The committee will provide information about its decision in writing to the individual making the report, the accused, and 2 church officers.
- The Alabama CBF will keep a file with the names of those for whom there has been a determination of a credible abuse allegation.
I was very honored and very grateful that Brent McDougal and the Alabama CBF afforded me the opportunity of consulting with them in their policy-making process.
Is it a perfect policy? No. And ultimately, policies are only as effective as the individuals who implement them. But policies are a starting place, and this is a good one. For the sake of preventing abuse in the future and reaching out to those wounded in the past, I hope other Baptist groups will adopt similar policies.
The Alabama CBF is a small group, but this policy carries the potential to be a seed that bears good fruit. The American Baptists also have a system of review boards for clergy abuse. As review board policies are adopted by smaller Baptist groups, and perhaps eventually by the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, it may become more difficult for the Southern Baptist Convention leadership to keep standing on the sidelines spouting “autonomy.”
To each and every one of you who have shared your story or supported StopBaptistPredators in any way, I hope you will give yourselves a huge pat on the back. Your stories, your work, and your care have helped to raise awareness of Baptist clergy abuse, to keep the issue in the news, to reach out to still more victims, and to educate others. YOU are the people who have made this bit of daylight possible.