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First Thoughts

This Is Not the Way: Sexual Abuse, Guidepost, and The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

A Personal Issue

Decades ago, I survived childhood abuse. I have been open about this.

Today, I pastor the remarkable First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL. That delightful congregation is full of the most wonderful men, women, and children I have ever met.

When I think of those precious people, I would rather die—die—than have any of them endure anything approaching my experience of abuse.

That makes abuse a deeply personal issue for me.

I have been horrified by every report of abuse that has happened in any church by every religious leader. It is the embodiment of utter wickedness. I am fully committed to creating an environment in my church—and in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention—where it is impossible to abuse a single person.

Guidepost and the Southern Baptist Convention

I am also opposed to the recommendation of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF)  to pay Guidepost Solutions to maintain a website of persons “credibly accused” of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Guidepost has been clear about their endorsement and support of the LGBTQ+ agenda and lifestyle. Last June, just days before messengers gathered in Anaheim, Guidepost tweeted a picture of the pride flag and declared, “We celebrate our collective progress toward equality for all and are proud to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.”  This is a position completely at odds with the teaching of Scripture and is totally opposed to the teaching of Southern Baptists. Because Jesus makes clear that our words flow from our hearts (Matthew 12:34), we know for certain where Guidepost stands.

I understand that the ARITF has a difficult and important job. I appreciate that they have been at pains to make clear how difficult it has been to find any firm with the ability to create and maintain the required website. I realize they have made clear that Guidepost will create a faith-based division to administer this website and will hire a person with a Southern Baptist background to oversee the work.

It is also true that in a sinful world, we all must enter financial relationships with people who do not share our convictions about biblical sexuality. But the proposed relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and Guidepost will be extraordinary. The proposal of the ARITF would require—and has already required—a massive outlay of multiple millions of dollars towards an issue absolutely central to the health, safety, and integrity of our churches.

It is not possible for any firm committed to “celebrating” sexually immoral lifestyles to be faithful in policing Southern Baptists on issues of sexual abuse. To say the absolute least, this is an utter impossibility. In all honesty, if this is the latest report from the committee, then it means the work of the committee is not yet complete.

In Luke 16:8, Jesus lamented that the sons of this world are more shrewd in this generation than the people of God. In those words, Jesus was talking about a situation just like this. Guidepost disagrees with everything Southern Baptists stand for but will take every penny of our decreasing funds we are willing to give.

The Future Is at Stake

I know I will be criticized and condemned for speaking out on this issue. I hate that. I desire love, unity, compassion, and cooperation. I want our churches protected from abusers. No matter how much I want to get along, it is essential to speak because Southern Baptists are not going to participate in this. They will not agree. They will not fund this. First Baptist Jacksonville sure won’t. With God as my witness, I believe the future of the convention is at stake on this.

There is a way to keep our churches safe without losing our religion. If we have not found it yet, we need to keep looking.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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