A statement by the elders of Redeemer Bible Church
In response to allegations of sexual abuse committed by, and suppressed by, its leadership, the Southern Baptist Convention convened a task force to address these concerns. The result was an outside firm, Guidepost Solutions, conducted an independent investigation. We have recently read their Sexual Abuse Task Force report and are deeply grieved, saddened, and angered by what has been brought into focus. The full text of the report can be read here:
It is grievous to read about men that were supposed to be protecting and helping young women and boys, instead sexually manipulating, abusing, and assaulting them. This is particularly heinous in that they were abusing their positions as ministers – representatives of God – to overpower these youths. The repeated reports of high-ranking SBC leaders obfuscating, ignoring, belittling, hiding behind politics, and openly attacking those who were trying to shed light on these issues is inexcusable and reprehensible. Much of this is not new news. Many of these leaders have already been disgraced and fired from their positions but reading all the details compiled together in one document is very discouraging.
These revelations force us as a church to examine a number of very important areas. Can we trust our leaders? Are we protecting our children? Can abused people come forward and know they will get the help and compassion they need? Should Redeemer remain a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) affiliated church? We will speak briefly to these questions now and continue to address them together as a church going forward.
Can we trust our leaders? This report is damning to upper SBC leadership. Beyond the direct abusers, the Executive Committee (EC) leadership clearly has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, an attitude of obfuscation and unwillingness to be held accountable. One of the very disturbing parts of the report is that 123 of the most recent 175 members of the EC were either totally unresponsive or refused to be interviewed by the outside investigation group. This means the super-majority of the EC has still not been held accountable in any way for their actions, which is a serious failure of senior leadership within the SBC. This committee has been led through its most recent years by Johnny Hunt, apparently an abuser and liar himself. Many of us on the Redeemer elder board have been professional investigators for many years and find the report to be credible concerning Hunt’s sexual assault. The fact that Hunt has been leading the SBC EC shows that as a denomination we have not stopped selecting ego-driven, high-profile men from mega-churches to lead us as a denomination instead of choosing devout godly men. There is a clear difference. All of this trickles down to create a crisis of confidence in local church leaders.
Can you trust the elder leadership at Redeemer? The elders at Redeemer are not perfect people, we’re all sinners forgiven by the grace of Jesus. However, we also plainly state that we have nothing to hide. Just like we stated during the crisis of confidence last year with Ravi Zacharias, we are all honorable men who love Jesus Christ, love our wives and children, genuinely love the people of this church and the children of this church. We strive daily to live righteous lives that bless the people of this church instead of hurting or using them. We accomplish this in several biblical ways. First, accountability. No elder is above another. We intentionally do not have a hierarchy in this church. Each of us opens ourselves to ask the hard questions of each other. One of those questions relates to pornography. No man can come onto this elder board, or remain on this elder board, that has any contact with pornography in his life. Those of you who have been with us from the beginning know we are serious about this rule and enforce it. This evil is a root of perversion which grows up to every kind of horrific sexual sin. It is almost certain that this gateway sin played a part in perverting and twisting the heart of every abuser referred to in this report.
The elder leaders of this church are men of integrity. This means we’re the same through and through. We’re the same at home and on the road. We are in this for the love of Christ and for you, His people. None of us receive one dime of compensation for our service to this church. Our motivation is not related to money, fame, or political power. None of us are flashy dressers. None of us have a special designated parking space at the front door of the church or expect you to address us by a special title. None of us come in just as the service starts and scurry off as soon as the service is over. None of us have a security detail or secretary to make sure there is always distance between us and you. We, as an elder board humbly strive for transparency in all we do as we fulfill the responsibilities given to us by God in service to Redeemer.
Sadly, many church cultures revolve around money, ego, political power, and personal isolation. The elders of this congregation strive to be servants of all. We live among you. You come in and out of our homes. We will stay late after any and every service to answer your questions and pray with you. We labor with all our hearts to protect, help, and instruct you – never to help ourselves at your expense or hurt you for our pleasure. We see this as the New Testament model and ask that you pray for us as we strive after these things in humility and Christ-like service.
Second, what are we doing to protect our children? This should not have to be stated, but to be clear, Redeemer has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse or grooming of any sort. Each elder and staff member are mandatory reporters by law. This means that sexual abuse of a minor that we hear of in any way must be reported to law enforcement for the crime that it is. In the children’s department we have instituted rigid child protective policies from the beginning of this church (background checks for workers, two workers always present with any child, strict check-in/check-out policies, etc.). We do not deviate from the policies and as a result of this report, we are going to review all areas of ministry for other places we may need to tighten up. But this responsibility extends to all the church.
We must protect our children from this evil world. Every one of us has a duty to always keep a watchful eye out for our kids and youths. If you are concerned about a person or a situation that alarms you as compromising, you must speak to a leader so the issue can be investigated. We cannot afford to let personal embarrassment hold us back from protecting a child from life-altering abuse. If you see something, speak to a ministry leader or elder.
Third, should we continue to cooperate with the SBC? This will certainly be an on-going conversation that the membership will need to weigh in on and the eldership will seriously consider. We believe a few things should be noted at this time. First, the average people (messengers to the SBC) are the ones that demanded this step of outside accountability. This indicates that the “congregational rule” of the SBC is not dead. However, the next step will relate to whether the EC actually changes its ways. Second, the International Mission Board (IMB) and Seminaries remain strong in their mission. 2021 was a record year for the IMB, Southern, and Southeastern – record students, record missionaries sent out, and record giving. When things are going that well, we should expect powerful attacks from the enemy. Third, as we have said many times in new member meetings, we believe in cooperation. The local church should not stand alone. If we go out from the SBC, we will have to find some other group to cooperate with for the sake of gospel mission. That group will also be flawed and struggle with sin.
Fourth, reform is always needed in the life of organizations. We are at a time in SBC life where reform is seriously needed. Will the right reformers step up with the courage, godliness, and leadership to enact the necessary changes? Reform always comes through struggle and sometimes through fracture. We will see. Part of this reform effort will come through messengers going to the Anaheim, CA annual meeting coming up next month. We have openings for members to go, represent, and vote on behalf of Redeemer. If you are interested in going, please contact an elder.
Lastly, we are called to fight the good fight of faith. It’s called a fight because it is a fight – between good and evil (1 Timothy 6:12). That fight will rage on until Jesus returns. We must do our part to struggle against evil and actively pour into others the pure love of Jesus Christ. We should not expect this to be easy and the total depravity of human beings should not shock us. This news just before the tragedy of yet another school shooting is heart breaking but take heart our Lord Jesus has overcome the violence and perversion of this world (John 16:33). Our citizenship and hope are in heaven, from which we await our salvation.
The devotion in this week’s newsletter is a call to prayer. It is written by one of the women of our church who wishes to remain anonymous. It is so needed at this time. Mothers, will you commit to pray for your children with the intensity that is called for? Your prayers will be heard by God and will be used to shape and protect your children. I would ask you to pray in a similar way for the church. Pray that we would be a true light in darkness. A people of compassion and healing to the wounded. A true people in the midst of near chaos. A people of hope in the midst of tremendous struggle. A people of peace in the midst of violence. A people of integrity in the midst of deception and perversion.
May we shine like lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15),
The elders of Redeemer Bible Church