A record audience will gather when the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission opens its sixth annual national conference Thursday afternoon (Oct. 3) for what it acknowledges is only one step in the effort to address the church sexual abuse crisis.
“Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis” –- sponsored by the ERLC in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention Sexual Abuse Advisory Group — will focus on educating churches about abuse prevention and ministering to survivors of such abuse. The sold-out conference of more than 1,650 registrants will continue through mid-day Oct. 5 in Grapevine, Texas.
The conference follows more than a year of growing awareness of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches and entities, as well as a lack of accountability in many instances over many years. Convention leaders and entities have taken steps since the summer of 2018 to seek to address the problem, but its magnitude will require a sustained effort, ERLC President Russell Moore said on the eve of the conference.
“While this conference is long-awaited by many of us who have been planning it, we know in many ways, it is just the beginning of the challenge in front of us,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
“This is a critical season for churches seeking to address the wickedness of abuse with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “My prayer is that this event would be one small part working toward meaningful solutions.”
The conference will feature more than 40 speakers, including experts on sexual abuse, survivors of abuse, advocates for victims, pastors and denominational leaders. It will include testimonies from four survivors of sex abuse.
In addition to Moore, the speakers will include:
— Rachael Denhollander, lawyer, advocate and abuse survivor who was the first gymnast to go public with charges against USA Gymnastics team doctor and serial abuser Larry Nassar, who is serving life in prison.
— J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, who initiated the SBC Sexual Abuse Advisory Group.
— Boz Tchividjian, founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) and a veteran litigator in sex abuse cases.
— Gary Haugen, founder and chief executive officer of International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-slavery organization.
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Source: Baptist Press