“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” CS Lewis
When I was in Switzerland, I visited Jungfrau, also known as the Top of Europe. The first thing most folks do is to go out on the glacier and start throwing snowballs at one another. However, there is a surprise that would be hard to detect while playing on the glacier. Below your feet is the stunning Ice Palace which was cut into the glacier. There are some coming posts, including this one, in which what you see at a glance is not the full picture.
Confusion over the current preeminence of Guidepost Solutions in the SBC
Some of the confusion in the SBC about the Sex Abuse Task Force rests with the communicators. For example, I admire Rachel Denhollander and have given her book to others. But I became confused when she recommended Guidepost Solutions to JD Greear when he was faced with the problems swirling around Bryan Loritts and his role in the seeming coverup of his brother-in-law’s Peeping Tom incident which you can read about in a post that I wrote. JD Greear, Bryan Loritts, and the Guidepost Solutions Investigation: Moving Quickly From Caring Well to Couldn’t Care Less
The fact that he was exonerated was not a surprise to me since I had written about Guideposts Solutions and their illustrious clients like Harvey Weinstein, ARod, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn who I wrote about in Is Guidepost Solutions Really the Solution to Investigations in the SBC? I was quite confused by this development and felt better when I discovered that I wasn’t the only one.
Ronnie Floyd and BFFs are concerned about the legal liability of the Executive Committee surrounding their treatment of sex abuse claims in the SBC.
Julie Roys featured an informative post: Head of SBC Executive Committee Questions Direction of Abuse Investigation
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, wrote an essay describing the leadership structure of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
In the essay, he cited a cherished ideal held by Southern Baptist pastors: “The local church is the headquarters of our Southern Baptist Convention.”
It appears to me that Floyd (known as Armani Ronnie due to his sartorial prowess) was emphasizing that folks better not try to upset the apple cart. It has been known for a long time that SBC could be considered a hierarchical denomination by the courts which would open them up to legal liability. That structure is even now being debated in the courts.
Here is the crux of this post.
Now, an investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims over the past two decades may test Floyd’s commitment to that ideal.
Abuse advocates and victims had something to say.
Abuse advocates claimed that SBC leaders themselves had to answer for mistreatment of abuse survivors and how they mishandled claims of abuse. Those claims were repeated in letters from former Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, which became public after his departure from the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The messengers to the SBC Convention, 2021, made their wishes clear and the leaders of the SBC Executive Committee have a serious problem.
the messengers instructed SBC newly elected President Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who holds a mostly ceremonial role, to appoint a task force to oversee an independent investigation of the Executive Committee. That committee, according to a motion approved by the messengers, is responsible for hiring an outside firm for the investigation and setting the boundaries of the investigation.
Now for another “Yikes.”
The task force was also directed to agree to follow best practices suggested by the outside firm they hired, “including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.”
Sex Abuse Task Force (SATF)
Let’s take a short break from The Roys Report and mosey on over to the SATF website in the FAQ section.
Why Guideposts? I still don’t have the answer to my question. How could they pivot from Harvey Weinstein to conservative Baptist theology? I still don’t know. I have gone to the Guideposts Solutions site and it makes me nervous. However, I reminded myself I am no long Southern Baptist so I can sit back and watch the proceedings.
After extensive reviews by the Task Force, Guidepost was unanimously voted to retain as the third-party firm. Guidepost has selected a highly specialized team for this task and will continue working closely with the Task Force in ensuring that the structure and process is carried out as voted by the Messengers, while retaining full independence in its investigation and conclusions.
Broad information on the firm is available at guidepostsolutions.com, and Task Force updates will continue to provide information and further details on the team and process.
Money… my favorite subject. Who’s gonna pony up? Looks like it is coming out of the mission’s budget.
Where is the funding for the external investigation coming from?
The motion passed by the SBC in June called for the investigation to be paid from Cooperative Program Funds. The Executive Committee is responsible for figuring out how this is to be done, but the Task Force is suggesting that the EC use its reserve funds to pay for this mandated audit. Through careful management of Cooperative Program dollars, the EC has put aside a significant reserve for a rainy day. This mandated investigation certainly qualifies as a rainy day. The funds could be replenished over several years with no impact on this year’s Cooperative Program funding for all of our missionaries and seminary students.
Is the Task Force being paid?
Neither the members of the Task Force nor its advisors are being paid. Travel expenses are being reimbursed when in-person meetings are required. All of the members are pleased to donate their time to serve the SBC and to serve the Kingdom of God in this endeavor.
However, the rest of this document discusses why attorney privilege should be waived.
Here is just a little of what they have to say.
Unfortunately, some organizations also misuse attorney-client privilege and deliberately try to hide information by including an attorney in the conversation or the document chain, to allow them to argue that the information of mishandling abuse or preventing reform is “privileged” and therefore hide it from being seen.
While we do not know whether any of these dynamics have taken place in the Executive Committee, we do know that they are common dynamics and that the third-party firm cannot do the job the Messengers have overwhelmingly asked them to do, if information is hidden under attorney-client privilege.
Can attorney-client privilege be waived?
Yes. The client is the holder of the privilege. This means that the client can choose to disclose communication with the attorneys and require the attorneys to disclose that information as well. The Executive Committee and its members therefore have every legal right and ability to waive privilege. It is important to note as well that the scope of the investigation is clear and limited – cooperation by members and staff of SBC Executive Committee for this assessment will not result in questioning or reporting on immaterial and irrelevant personal subjects.
Should the members of the SBC Executive Committee agree to waive attorney-client privilege?
Yes. The SBC Executive Committee should agree to waive attorney-client privilege for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:
Ronnie Floyd is not playing ball at this point.
Back to The Roys Report.
Floyd has not committed to waiving the committee’s attorney-client privilege in its contacts with Guidepost. Floyd also raised questions about whether doing so would violate SBC bylaws.
Floyd did not respond to specific questions. But according to a letter he wrote to the Executive Committee, Floyd said that statements by the task force should not be considered legal advice, adding that the committee had to decide whether or not to follow the best practices outlined by Guidepost.
The Washington Post posted Head of SBC Executive Committee questions messengers’ resolution in abuse investigation.
In this article, Floyd remains non-committed to waiving that privilege.
“We should seek to understand these best practices before we decide which practices to apply,” he said. “For example, if we do this incorrectly, will we be as a nonprofit organization, denying our rights to effective counsel in the middle of litigation?”
Floyd proceeds, in my opinion, to take a dig at the SATF.
Floyd also downplayed the role of the abuse task force, saying its only role was to hire an outside firm, wait for that firm to issue a report and then report back to the messengers.
Grant Gaines, who drafted the motion at the SBC meeting in June, believes that the Executive Committee must waive that right or they will be in conflict with the intent of the messengers.
Gaines drafted the motion at the SBC’s June meeting calling for the independent investigation, and when action on the motion was delayed, he appealed to messengers to overrule that decision. That appeal was successful, and the motion passed by a wide margin.
He said that waiving privilege is essential to making sure that investigators have access to all the information they need. Gaines said he hopes the Executive Committee will abide by the will of the messengers.
“I expect the Executive Committee to vote to waive privilege when they meet in September,” Gaines said.
Failing to do that, Gaines said, would put the Executive Committee in conflict with the clear statement by church messengers.
Does the Executive Committee think that sex abuse advocates are being misled by the devil?
Uh oh! Is this why they ignored Jules Woodson’s request to deal with Steve Bradley who has never responded to letters from Jules. She submitted her slam dunk request to the Credentialling Committee (under the Executive Committee.) But good old Steve has a big Baptist church and given the decline in Baptist membership, they have to keep the big boys happy. Steve Bradley (Stonebridge Church) Who Didn’t Report Jules Woodson’s Abuse and Refuses to Speak With Her, Was Commended By the Credentialing Committee For Exemplifying SBC Faith and Practices
Religion News posted Southern Baptists approve abuse task force, say abusive pastors should be banned
The article gives examples of possible mishandling of sex abuse cases by the Executive Committee. Even worse
In early June, leaked letters from former SBC ethicist Russell Moore became public. Those letters included allegations that abuse victims had been mistreated by leaders of the Executive Committee. A leaked “whistleblower report” included an audio clip of Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd, saying he was not concerned about what abuse survivors say about the SBC’s response to abuse.
“I am not worried about that,” he said. “I’m thinking about the base. I just want to preserve the base.”
A recent report from Rehoboth Baptist Church in Georgia also alleged SBC leaders had failed to look into allegations of abuse against a former staffer at the church who had moved on to allegedly abuse children at other churches. Executive Committee staffers have also been criticized for mishandling the case of abuse survivor Jennifer Lyell. A leaked email from a former Executive Committee staffer referred to abuse advocates as being misled by the devil.
What happens if the Executive Committee splits in its response or doesn’t play ball with Guidepost Solutions?
Here’s the problem. The Executive Committee is not sure they will waive this privilege. If they do not, there will be explosions. Realistically, what does Ronnie’s refusal to waive privilege say to you? Simply put, it says to me that they are hiding something. Surely they know this. My prediction is that, in the end, they will play ball because Guidepost Solutions will do what they did so effectively with Bryan Loritts…N.O.T.H.I.N.G. This group is dedicated to making their clients happy. They will come up with a slap on the wrist or a light kick to the butt, a moment of repentance, and all will be well.
Do you think I’m wrong?
And what is the deal with Guidepost Solutions?