Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ed Litton announced today the task force he has appointed to investigate the handling of sexual-abuse cases within the denomination.
In a statement on Twitter, Litton described the appointment of the task force as “my first priority,” and said, “I believe the members of this team are men and women who genuinely pursue God, seek the truth, and desire for survivor voices to be heard.”
Two pastors, Bruce Frank and Marshall Blalock, will serve as chair and vice chair of the task force. Members of the task force come from different backgrounds and professional experience. John Damon is a psychologist who is the CEO of Canopy Children’s Solutions, a Mississippi-based company specializing in behavioral health and social services. Liz Evan is a judicial law clerk at the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Heather Evans is a social worker who is the director of Evans Counseling Services, a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in Christian counseling for all ages. Evans is a member of a Presbyterian church and is the only non-Baptist on the task force. Andrew Hebert is a pastor from Texas. Bucas Sterling is a pastor from Maryland.
The task force will also be advised by Chris Moles, a pastor who has focused his ministry on abuse issues, and Rachael Denhollander, an abuse victim advocate who was part of previous efforts by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to deal with abuse allegations. Those efforts were led by the previous president of the ERLC, Russell Moore, who left the presidency on May 31, partially because of what he considered to be mishandling of sexual-abuse cases by the SBC Executive Committee.
In appointing the task force, Litton was acting to fulfill the desires of the Convention, which voted overwhelmingly on June 16 to demand an independent investigation of the SBC Executive Committee over its handling of sexual-abuse cases. On June 11, the SBC Executive Committee announced it had hired an independent firm to investigate. The messengers assembled in Nashville for the SBC’s annual meeting on June 15–16 demonstrated in various ways that they did not trust the SBC Executive Committee, and they approved a motion directing the newly elected president to appoint a task force since the president is constitutionally separate from the Executive Committee.
The two pastors who introduced that motion, Grant Gaines and Ronnie Parrott, expressed their support for Litton’s appointments on Twitter. Gaines said, “I’m encouraged by these appointments,” and also said he was “thrilled” at Denhollander’s inclusion. Parrott said, “I fully support this task force & commit to pray for them.”
The task force will either oversee the independent investigation the Executive Committee announced on June 11, or it will initiate its own investigation. Either way, the final report of the investigation will be due to the task force 30 days before the 2022 SBC annual meeting. The task force will then make recommendations and release the full investigative report within one week of receiving it.