Arkansas Baptists were represented recently during the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) meeting held Tuesday, March 28, in Georgia.
In attendance at the meeting were Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) President Larry White and Director of Convention Administration Marcus Brown.
“The synergy of SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) leaders from over 20 states coming together to help each other prevent and respond to sexual abuse was very powerful. The biggest takeaway for me was the fact that this must be a localized effort of churches and associations. We are moving forward in the right directions,” White said.
At the October 2021 annual meeting, the messengers unanimously voted to approve the formation of a Sexual Abuse Task Force purposed with the task of ensuring the policies and procedures of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are above reproach in handling sexual abuse allegations.
In the Sexual Abuse Task Force’s report to the 169thsession of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention meeting in October 2022, the task force recommended that the ABSC president form a standing Sexual Abuse Response and Resource Team (SARRT) annually.
SARRT had its first meeting March 13. Chairperson Christa Neal, who serves as Title IX coordinator for Ouachita Baptist University and program advisor for the Community and Family Services academic program, said it went very well.
“We did a review of how we got here. We also discussed our goals in wanting to empower and train churches and provide resources. We thought through how we can contribute to the national effort in a way that best supports Arkansas Baptist churches with the goal being survivor care. We want churches to feel supported and trained and to have resources. We’re in the process of figuring out what that looks like,” Neal said. “I came away very encouraged. Encouraged that Arkansas Baptists want real change that is survivor focused and that we do want to truly love like Christ the people that have experienced these terrible things and we want to prevent it from happening.”
The next SARRT meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 17.