In light of the recent statement issued by the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), we would like to express appreciation for the SBC leaders who are taking initiative to address the denomination’s failures by issuing a public apology to Anne Marie Miller along with various supportive phone calls and emails. In particular, we are deeply grateful for the advocacy and leadership of David Platt, Russell Moore, and J.D. Greear on behalf of abuse victims.
Additionally, we are happy to learn of the IMB’s expressed commitment to an independent investigation and a commitment to review practices to safeguard against abuse. The statement is a good start, but ultimately the follow-through is what will demonstrate the sincerity of the IMB and SBC leadership.
For an investigation to be effective, it must be truly independent. A truly independent investigator is not a lawyer paid by the SBC or IMB; nor is it an organization with previous ties to the SBC or IMB, such as MinistrySafe (the organization used in the Andy Savage scandal). A truly independent investigation will be from a qualified, outside party.
A truly independent investigation will focus on discovering the truth, not making sure IMB and the SBC are less prone to lawsuits and public relations blunders. This investigator will not be providing arbitration, conciliation, reconciliation, or mediation. The independent investigator should have full control over the findings and the final report.
A final report should be released to the public that is fully transparent (with the exception of redacted names of victims and innocent parties). The report should include key findings, recommendations, and recommended protocols.
We recommend the example of the organization GRACE and its independent investigative process. Further, we commend the words of Boz Tchividjian of GRACE in his article, “Are abuse survivors best served when institutions investigate themselves?”:
“The independence of an investigation is not defined by the words or assurances of the institution being investigated. It is defined by a structure that requires the institution to get out of the driver’s seat and give up control.”
In light of this, Justice for Anne calls for:
- A truly independent investigation without conflicts of interest and SBC loyalties, as explained above.
- An independent investigation into the IMB’s response to Anne Miller as well as other past and present cases of abuse, current IMB policies, and Mark Aderholt’s time as a missionary in order to discover if there are any more victims.
- The results of all investigations to be made public.
- A guarantee that any past/present situations involving allegations of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, or other potentially criminal misconduct by IMB board members, employees, or volunteers will be reported to law enforcement immediately for criminal investigation.
- A public list of all persons and organizations that will be involved in investigating the IMB. The organization For Such a Time as This has previously offered to partner with the SBC and any of its entities to help with abuse identification, survivor recovery, and prevention advocacy. We suggest that For Such a Time as This be included as a partner in the IMB’s reform efforts.
We are hopeful that the IMB and the SBC will follow through with appropriate actions, leading the way for a safer SBC.