This is the second post in a series. The previous post explained how the independent structure of the Southern Baptist Convention makes it difficult to address sexual abuse in the SBC. This post explains the substance of the Guidepost Report, which was released by the SBC Task Force on Sexual Abuse.
Obviously, the issue of sexual abuse in the SBC is important, but the Guidepost Report is… …strange. There are some serious problems and shortcomings with the report. Based on what I can see, it is my opinion that despite the very real issues that need to be addressed, the Guidepost Report itself is a borderline sham, aimed at continuing a grift against the Southern Baptist Convention in favor of certain entrepreneurial forces, and settling scores between figures in the SBC. That may sound harsh, but read first before you decide.
With such a big claim, I understand I need to bring the goods. For that reason, this 18,000+ word post is packed with original sources. For starters, here is the GuidePost Report, that you can read for yourself:
Also, here are the appendices to the Guidepost Report:
The Problems with the Guidepost Solutions Report
When I read the report, I knew of the problems of certain individuals in the SBC. I was not expecting to read anything good about Paige Patterson or any of the usual suspects in the SBC leadership. I was not surprised when I found new “suspects” added to this usual list. I have plenty of personal experience with church leaders not living up to ordinary expectations for decent human beings.
However, as I read the Guidepost Report, I noticed a shocking pattern. There was a surprising lack of substance. Rather than bring the hammer down on bad actors by citing laws and broken policies, the Report mainly brought the hammer down with adjectives and loaded words. When definitions are given, they are shockingly biased in their application. For example, here is the definition of “trauma-informed,” a term which appears 26 total times in the report:
As is a best practice, the investigative team was mindful during the investigation of communicating with survivors and their loved ones in a trauma-informed manner. All Guidepost team members received trauma-informed training. Being trauma-informed requires that we communicate in a way that did not assign guilt or responsibility to the survivor and did not re-traumatize them. (Guidepost Report, p. 27)
Not brow-beating people who are giving information is a basic aspect of doing ANY investigation, so to a certain extent, this is normal advice to give regarding investigations. However, the report also indicates that not only does the communications not assign guilt or responsibility to those who make reports, the conclusions never do so either.
Also, in that description of “trauma-informed,” do you notice what is never defined? “Trauma.” Seems like an important omission, right?
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg of problems I started to notice in the report. Here are the problems I see in the report, which I will explain below:
- The Substance of the Guidepost Report Does Not Match the Rhetoric Surrounding the Task Force
- Literal Crazy People Played a Big Role in the Creation of the Sexual Abuse Task Force
- Literal Illegal Things Were Done to Get the Guidepost Report, Which Did Not Deliver
- The Guidepost Report Lacks a Definition of the Word “Survivor”
- The Guidepost Report Emotionally Uses the Word “Survivor”
- The Guidepost Report Lacks a Definition of the Phrase “Sexual Assault”
- The Guidepost Report Inaccurately Uses the Phrase “Sexual Abuse”
- The Guidepost Report Gives a Long List of Strange Bureaucratic Recommendations
- The Guidepost Report Never Recommends Calling the Police in Cases of Sexual Assault or Child Sexual Abuse
- The Guidepost Report Peddles #MeToo Grift Instead of Actual Solutions to an Actual Problem
- There Are Multiple Levels of SBC Political Spats on the Inside and Outside of the Guidepost Report Report
If you read what is below, I think you will see, as I do that despite a very real problem (which I described in the previous post, that you can view here) this $2,000,000 Guidepost Report does not deliver in any substantive way. Instead, it is mostly just a grift created to perpetuate the business prospects of Guidepost Solutions, Rachel Denhollander, and certain people with active litigation against SBC affiliated entities and officials.
1. The Substance of the Guidepost Report Does Not Match the Rhetoric Surrounding the Task Force
In describing the work of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, prominent voices have called it “apocalyptic.” That’s the quote from Russell Moore, previously the leader of the ERLC of the SBC. He left the SBC after two letters were – ahem… -“leaked” to the press right before the vote on creating the Sexual Abuse Task Force, at which point he started his position at Christianity Today, which continues to report on the Sexual Abuse Task Force.
However, other individuals – importantly, individuals without a personal beef with the SBC – have noticed a strange pattern about the Guidepost Report.
Specifically, the substance of the Guidepost Report is not nearly as “apocalyptic” as it has been described.
The best piece I have seen on this was done by Megan Basham of the Daily Wire. You can access the article here, and I recommend reading it all. She notes the following:
Lyman Stone, demographer at the Institute for Family Studies, told me the actual data contained in the abuse report, the result of an eight-month investigation by Guidepost Solutions, does not come close to meriting the hyperbolic terms that are peppering coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN.
“Statistically speaking,” he said, “there were not that many cases. This is not actually that common of a problem in this church body.”
Stone went on to estimate that there are about 100,000 to 150,000 staffers in SBC churches, but many thousands more volunteer in their ministries. Of all the allegations that Guidepost investigators reviewed, they found only two that appear to involve current SBC workers.
“If you wanted to argue that based on this report, executives of the SBC mismanaged the cases that were brought to them, then fine,” Stone said. “But if you want to say this shows that [the SBC] is corrupt, hypocritical, and rife with sexual abuse — the report doesn’t demonstrate that.”
Stone added that he was shocked that Guidepost investigators only found two current cases, given how many exist in the general population. “I mean, if I had been betting beforehand, I would have bet for a couple of hundred,” he said. “Because if you’re talking about 100,000 to 150,000 people who are disproportionately men, just your baseline rate of sex offenders tells you, you should have gotten a couple thousand sex offenders in there just by random chance.”Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
Let’s put some numbers behind what is above. In the United States, there are about 750,000 registered sex offenders in a population of 330,000,000 people. That’s 0.23% of the population. About 85% of registered sex offenders are male, while only half of the country is male, so that means the percentage of MALE sex offenders is not 0.23% of the population, but rather 0.39% of the population. Since we have around 150,000 staffers that are more male than female, let’s assume we have 125,000 male SBC staffers and 25,000 female staffers at the SBC. With these assumptions, we should expect 488 male sex offenders and 18 female sex offenders in SBC churches, for a total population of 506 sex offenders.
However, the Guidepost report documented 409 people who were “credibly accused” of abuse. In other words, while 409 abusers sounds like a lot, it’s actually slightly less than you would expect in an organization of this size. When you realize that SBC churches cover up to 150,000 people overseeing 14 million congregants, that number is actually surprisingly low.
Further, the story notes that the report is not “apocalyptic,” because an “apocalypse” is an “unveiling.” An apocalypse reveals things that were previously hidden. But the Guidepost report? It mostly reveals things that were already known. As the Daily Wire reports:
Finally, six different SBC pastors pointed out to me that very little in the Guidepost report was actually new information. In many of the cases, flagrant mishandling of allegations had already been addressed and the men involved removed from office. And the highly publicized list the executive committee was keeping of abusers was, in fact, culled from newspaper reports. Every accusation it contained was already in the public domain.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
But here is the real quote you need to keep in mind:
Many people within national SBC leadership circles told me, on condition of anonymity, that the subject of abuse has become a political football that various factions have been leveraging to settle bitter scores and sway the direction of the denomination on issues that have nothing to do with abuse, like allowing women into the pastorate. The initiation of the task force itself, relying on leaked letters that were then used as the impetus to demand investigations smacks of the dealings of politics more than pulpits.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
And as you will see, that is probably very much the case.
As evidence for how much of a political football this is, we need to talk about something that has never been reported elsehwere, but which I have information on. We need to talk about Hannah Kate Williams and how the SBC Task Force on abuse was – and as you will see, this is not at all hyperbole – thrust into existence with the help of literal crazy people.
2. Literal Crazy People Played a Big Role in the Creation of the Sexual Abuse Task Force
When Russell Moore released his two letters, one of the accusations he had against the SBC Executive Committee was the following text (which you can read in full at this link):
You and I both heard, in closed door meetings, sexual abuse survivors spoken of in terms of “Potiphar’s wife” and other spurious biblical analogies. The conversations in these closed door meetings were far worse than anything Southern Baptists knew —or the outside world could report. And, as you know, this comes on the heels of a track-record of the Executive Committee staff and others referring to victims as “crazy” and, at least in one case, as worse than the sexual predators themselves.
Now, I don’t know exactly who he is referring to in this letter written in June of 2021, but I have a good idea of who was called “crazy.” That may sound horrible to you, but here’s the problem with that:
THIS PERSON REALLY IS CRAZY, AS IN CERTIFIABLY MENTALLY ILL.
Not only is one of these “victims” crazy and certifiably mentally ill, this “victim” was a big part of STARTING the Task Force on Sexual Abuse. Her name is Hannah-Kate Williams. Let me try to prove this to you.
Here’s what I know: In 2021, pastor Grant Gaines had a motion to create the “task force” on sexual abuse. It was the SBC Executive Committee Task Force on Sexual Abuse that hired Guidepost Solutions (because they didn’t want the SBC Executive Committee investigating itself). Guidepost Solutions created the Guidepost Report, which is the subject of this post. But here is a news-report of Grant Gaines giving that motion at the 2020 SBC convention, and below is the full text of that motion:
Motion to Investigate the SBC Executive Committee: Full Text
I move that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2021, in Nashville, TN, ask the newly elected president of the SBC to appoint a task force within 30 days of the date of this Convention that shall be comprised of members of Baptist churches cooperating with this Convention and experts in sexual abuse and the handling of sexual abuse-related dynamics. This task force shall either assume oversight of the third-party review announced previously by the Executive Committee or initiate a separate third-party review. Said task force shall ensure that the third-party review includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives. The investigation shall include actions and decisions of staff and members of the Executive Committee from January 1, 2000 to June 14, 2021. This investigation should include an audit of the procedures and actions taken by the Credentials Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was formed at the Convention meeting in Birmingham, AL, June 11-12, 2019. The review shall be funded by allocations from the Cooperative Program.
We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, 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. A written report on the factual findings of this review shall be presented to the task force 30 days prior to the SBC Annual meeting in 2022, and made public in full form within one week of the Task Force’s receipt of the report along with suggestions from the task force for actions to be taken by our convention.https://sbcvoices.com/motion-to-investigate-the-sbc-executive-committee-full-text/
The motion passed. And that is what started the SBC Task Force on Sexual Abuse. The SBC Task Force on Sexual Abuse hired Guidepost Solutions for $2 million to do this investigation of the Executive Committee. But look who is standing next to Grant Gaines with her hand on the pastor.
Who is she? Why is she putting her hand on him like that? And why does she appear to be crying?
Well, that is Hannah Kate Williams. She claims to be a victim of vicious sexual abuse by her father. According to recent news reports after the release of the Guidepost Report, her complaint is now “sealed” pursuant to a recent Kentucky law, meaning that it cannot be accessed by the public. Her lawyers wish to have it unsealed, or so they claim.
However, I actually called the Courthouse and got a copy of the Complaint that Hannah Kate Williams filed in Franklin County Circuit Court in Kentucky in 2021. I called them up and they literally emailed it to me for free on October 5, 2021:
Based on what I can see in this document that Hannah Kate Williams affirms under oath, I want to say something very clearly:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS IS LITERALLY A CRAZY PERSON, AS IN CERTIFIABLY MENTALLY ILL.
And while that may sound extremely harsh, I think by the end of this section, you will see it is probably not as harsh as it sounds. Just from the Complaint itself, you can see that Hannah Kate is making HUGE claims (some of them are quite odd) with literally nothing backing them up. Here is what she claims her father did to her:
15. The first recollection that Plaintiff has of illegal conduct by Williams is around age four or five, her father began physically abusing her as punishment for what he deemed as “misbehavior”. This took a variety of forms. A particularly despicable form given that Williams was studying to be a Christian pastor was the he would “baptize” the Plaintiff as a form of punishment. Williams would fill up the bathtub, place the Plaintiff on her back, and forcibly submerge her while telling her that her “sin” meant she needed to be baptized again. This, and other physical and psychological, abusive conduct continued through the time Plaintiff lived in the home with Williams.
16. On or around May 14, 2003, the Plaintiff was sexually abused by Williams for the first time. The act by Williams included digital penetration of the vagina and cervical canal.
17. The Plaintiff is able to date the this first act of sex abuse by Williams, as it occurred during the week of her eighth birthday.
18. From this point until the Plaintiff left the home at sixteen, the physical and sexual abuse against her was ongoing and regular.
In the next paragraph, she claims that her father, James Ray Williams, “admitted” all of the actions in the report. The only problem is that if this were true, he would be in prison. BUT HE IS NOT IN PRISON.
And even if he wasn’t in prison, he would at least be on the list of SBC pastors who have been credibly accused of sexual assault. BUT HE IS NOT ONL THE LIST (which you can see in the previous post in this series). At least, he’s not on the UNREDACTED list. He may be on the list, but Guidepost Solutions thinks it is too big of a liability risk to publish this accusation.
And this is not some minor oversight. In fact, this was a high-profile accusation. Importantly, Rachael Denhollander – who is famous for being the first woman to accuse Larry Nassar of wrongdoing, who is an advocate for sexual abuse victims, and who was also an advisor on the Guidepost Report – publicly advocated on behalf of Hannah Kate Williams and her claims in 2019. This was around the same time Rachael Denhollander was advocating at the Caring Well Conference held by the ERLC of the SBC. You can watch the entire video by clicking at this link. Shortly after this conference, Rachel Denhollander spoke up about Hannah-Kate Williams and the inaction by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an SBC organization on the Hannah-Kate Williams allegations:
And so, obviously this is a REALLY BIG DEAL, right?
The only problem is that Hannah-Kate Williams IS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE GUIDEPOST REPORT. Her father, James WIlliams, IS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE GUIDEPOST REPORT. The allegations that she had about long-running sexual abuse ARE NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE GUIDEPOST REPORT. The “inaction” of SBC leaders IS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE GUIDEPOST REPORT.
And don’t think that this was some minor oversight. Guidepost Solutions SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED all documents related to the allegations of Hannah-Kate Williams (that’s on page 19 of Appendix 1 of the Guidepost Report), nothing of her situation made the final report.
And as far as I can tell, Rachel Denhollander has since gone silent on the support for Hannah Kate Williams.
And if you think THAT’S why I’m calling Hannah Kate Williams a “literal crazy person,” that’s not the case. I do not believe that this is enough evidence to call someone crazy. I’m a lawyer, and I know that there are many things that I’ve seen that TOTALLY HAPPENED, even though I can’t get enough information together to prove it to someone else. So that is not at all why I am calling Hannah-Kate Williams “crazy” and “certifiably mentally ill.”
No, you see, the reason I call Hannah Kate Williams a crazy person is that she swore – under oath – that she struggles with mental illness to such an extent that she cannot sustain employment or pursue education. No joke, read it for yourself:
23. As Plaintiff grew older and left the house at sixteen, she battled the consequences of ten plus years of physical and sexual abuse. She dealt with serious mental illness, difficulty sustaining employment and pursuing education. Despite this, Plaintiff, as part of her recovery, began to advocate and seek justice. This included accountability from the Southern Baptist denomination for not protecting her, and likely her siblings, from the abuse perpetuated upon her by Williams when it was first reported in 2003 and made worse by allowing him to continue to serve at churches in the denomination.
So…. let me explain why I call Hannah-Kate Williams crazy and certifiably mentally ill:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS SWORE UNDER OATH THAT SHE IS MENTALLY ILL TO THE POINT WHERE SHE CANNOT PURSUE EDUCATION OR HOLD A JOB.
It appears to be so bad, that she may even be crazier than the lawyer who filed this complaint. The reason I say that is because the following paragraph shows how the SBC did not protect her, in paragraph 20:
20. The Plaintiff first reported the physical and sexual abuse to an employee of SBTS sometime during the summer of 2003 on either a Tuesday or a Thursday. SBTS offered a physical education class at its facility to children of tis students who were being homeschooled. The class known as “Kidsfit” was held in the SBTS student recreation center which also had a pool. On the day that Plaintiff reported, the instructor (upon information and belief, an employee of SBTS), was leading the children in some type of aquatic activity. The Plaintiff was there with her brother, and neither child would go into the pool and became upset. When asked why, the Plaintiff responded that she did not want to get baptized. The Kidsfit instructor asked what she meant, and Plaintiff described what her father did to them as punishment involved a bathtub and was called baptism. During the questioning, Plaintiff also reported that Williams touched her “down there”, pointing at her crotch. The instructor gave Plaintiff a hug and promised that would never happen again.
Reading this sounds like the most awkward day on the job for a young lifeguard ever. But the person (who Hannah Kate only THINKS was an employee) seems to have handled it pretty well when Hannah Kate and her brother did not want to go into the pool .
This problem is that’s LITERALLY the only report Hannah Kate Williams ever made: a SINGLE oral report in 2003, when she was eight years old. No follow-up, no documentation, no 911-calls, nothing. We didn’t even get anything after she left her home. All she did was casually and vaguely mention something about being touched “down there,” pointing at her crotch. Keep in mind, this happened with someone she only BELIEVES was an employee. All we know is that this person was something of a lifeguard at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At the time, Hannah Kate was eight years old.
The next time she reported this horrific abuse was to…. The police? The department of child protection? The FBI? Nope. She did it to Al Mohler in 2019, around the time of the ERLC Caring Well Conference:
24. The second attempt to address the horrific conduct of Williams with the SBTS occurred in October 2019, when the Plaintiff was twenty-four. She met with President Albert Moehler, the president of SBTS, her brother, and the SBTS Title XI coordinator for the purpose of seeking some mechanism to hold Williams accountable and protect their other siblings still in the home. Moehler indicated that the matter was not on his radar and was unknown to him in 2003, that he would pray for Hannah, her brother, and the whole family. There was no further contact from Moehler or SBTS.
And after that, she got a helpful PR blast from the one and only Rachel Denhollander. Then, when the Guidepost Investigation was in full swing, she filed suit in August of 2021 for unspecified damages.
If Hannah Kate Williams actually wanted to DO SOMETHING about the alleged abuse THAT SHE STILL CLAIMS IS GOING ON IN HER FORMER HOME, she should have made a complaint to child protective services. But for some reason that only God knows, Hannah-Kate Williams went to her father’s employer, as if the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has the power to decide custody of it’s employees.
AND RACHEL DENHOLLANDER SEEMS TO BE ON BOARD WITH THAT STRATEGY.
And you’d think that would be it, but no! The hits keep on coming. Look at what we read in the Complaint:
Beginning in 2000 and continuing through the most recent Southern Baptist Convention held in Nashville in June 2021 [when you saw her crying behind the pastor asking to create the sexual abuse task force], Plaintiff has engaged in advocacy to demand the denomination and its related institutions such as Defendants seriously investigate claims of sexual abuse, develop effective policies and procedures to prevent these from occurring it its churches and institutions, and to provide resources to victims.
So, yes, Hannah-Kate Williams is claiming that she is advocating for the type of things we see in the Guidepost Report.
At this point, you might be upset that I am being so harsh to Hannah-Kate Williams. You might think that no matter how “crazy” someone appears (or may truly be), it is wrong to be so harsh against someone who is just trying to get compensation for her alleged sexual assault. That would be a reasonable thing to believe, but here’s where things get REALLY weird:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS’ DID NOT FILE A COMPLAINT SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT.
Wait, what? Yep. You read that right. She is not seeking compensation for sexual assault. Instead:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS IS ONLY SUING FOR DEFAMATION AND CONSPIRACY TO DEFAME.
Let me repeat that if you didn’t catch it:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS IS NOT SUING BASED ON SEXUAL ASSAULT.
All she is doing is suing for defamation. The Kentucky Law that requires civil suits like this to be sealed (which you can read here, and which I avoided by requesting the complaint either before the motion was filed or before the law was changed) does not require that the Complaint be BASED ON that childhood sexual assault. Instead, it only applies when a sexual assault is ALLEGED, just ask Hannah-Kate Williams did.
So, let’s look at what is happening here. There is an ABSOLUTELY BONKERS complaint for DEFAMATION. But it MENTIONS an alleged childhood sexual assault, and so everybody reasonably believes this is ABOUT sexual assault. But the complaint is about DEFAMATION, and it is filed against the following people:
- The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Inc.
- The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Inc.
- James Ray Williams
- Hershael York
- Timothy Pigg
- Rod Martin
- Jared Moore
- Mike Stone
- Matthew Nowlin
- Tim White, and
- Jon Moyers
All of these people were officers or “agents” of one of the corporate defendants, and all of them are big-wigs in the SBC organization. For example, Mike STone was a candidate for SBC president in 2021. However, J.D. Grear WHO WAS THE SBC PRESIDENT IN 2021 is not a defendant in this crazy lawsuit. Isn’t that STRANGE?
And look at what we read about the basis of this defamation suit:
Specifically, these published statements directed towards the Plaintiff in furtherance of this conspiracy to silence her or frame her as a liar, charlatan or crazy person below are defamatory, were made by the speaker Defendant knowingly that it was false or that it was made recklessly without any regard as to whether it was false.
That’s in paragraph 30. So, being a lawyer myself, let me explain why Hannah Kate Williams is not going to win on this defamation case. In defamation, truth is an absolute defense, and:
HANNAH KATE WILLIAMS IS AN ABSOLUTELY BONKERS CRAZY PERSON.
But that’s enough about Hannah Kate Williams. We need to get back to the subject of this post. That would be the Guidepost Report. The reason I mention Hannah Kate Williams is that she was the “face” of the motion to get the sexual abuse task force started, which hired Guidepost Solutions, which produced the report. AND SHE’S BONKERS.
But it doesn’t end there. Because even though she is just as bonkers as she always was, and even though the lawsuit she filed is just as baseless as before, AFTER the Guidepost Report was released, that’s when we get reports like the following:
Isn’t that STRANGE? Let me remind you of that line from the Daily Wire story:
Many people within national SBC leadership circles told me, on condition of anonymity, that the subject of abuse has become a political football that various factions have been leveraging to settle bitter scores and sway the direction of the denomination on issues that have nothing to do with abuse
Yeah…. ya think??? And keep in mind, we haven’t even gotten to the substance of the Guidepost Report yet.
3. Literal Illegal Things Were Done to Get the Guidepost Report, Which Did Not Deliver
After the SBC in Nashville voted to approve the Sexual Abuse Task force, then came the request to waive attorney client privilege. The reason for the waiver of attorney-client privilege was given in the letter of engagement to Guidepost which appears on pp. 5-6 of Appendix 1 to the Report:
3.2 The key principles of Guidepost’s work will include but not be limited to the following best practices:
• Trauma-Informed Survivor and Witness Interviews: Compassion and Care.
• Anonymity and Confidentiality for Survivors and Witnesses, where permitted by law.
• Independence: No Attorney-Client Privilege.
• Transparency: Public Report.
• Dedicated, Publicly-Advertised, Reporting System for Survivors and Witnesses to
Contact Guidepost and Provide Information.
• Voluntary Listening Sessions, Focus Groups and Sexual Abuse Climate Survey
focused on the specific requirements in the Motion, such as resistance to sexual abuse
• Structural Audit of the Credentials Committee and Practical Recommendations that
are Trauma-Informed and Scripturally Guided.
• Commitment to Provide the SBC with a Comprehensive Framework to Implement
Sexual Abuse Reforms in a Fully Transparent Manner.
However, “independence” is not really the right word for that. You can have both independence and an investigation that does not waive attorney client privilege. You do it by hiring a firm that is able to look at your A/C privileged materials, and give you an honest assessment of your organization. Then, they can release this report (without the underlying A/C privileged info included) so that the organization both knows ABOUT the information without having the information waived.
But that’s not what was done. Rather than “independent,” they wanted it to be “third party.” That’s a big difference. The difference is important for the following reason:
IT WAS LITERALLY ILLEGAL FOR THE TRUSTEES TO WAIVE THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE OF THE SBC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.
And I know this because the managing partner at my firm is an expert in church and non-profit law and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, right up until the moment when his professional obligations required him to resign. He told me about the legal advice that the SBC Executive Committee got, and it was DARN GOOD advice, and it was NOT to waive attorney client privilege.
Here’s my summary of why you can’t waive attorney-client privilege: The trustees of the organization have a legal obligation to protect the organization, because the organization is keeping guard over millions and millions of dollars that were given to the trustees for safe-keeping. This is true for a fortune 500 corporation, or a public university, and also includes the SBC. As such, the Trustees are free to help the victims of sexual abuse who are associated with SBC organizations, but they are LEGALLY OBLIGATED not to do it in a way that puts the millions of dollars in their care at severe financial risk. This was the reason that the decision to waive attorney-client privilege became such a big issue. Even if you don’t want to have an “internal” investigation that you later release in a redacted form, there are other LEGAL ways for an organization’s attorney-client privilege to be waived. However, these LEGAL ways involve a JUDGE with the power to do so. That’s because if a judge breaks attorney-client privilege, then it is not your fault. But if you waive attorney-client privilege, or if you give authority to a “special master” to waive attorney client privilege, then that is YOUR FAULT.
And the legal obligations of Trustees require that they DO NOT do something so reckless as waive attorney-client privilege of an organization holding onto MILLIONS OF DOLLARS that were donated by churches, because that is legal mismanagement of charitable donations.
Further, if you as a Trustee waive attorney-client privilege, insurance companies will not cover your organization, because your organization is putting itself in a position of extreme vulnerability to a million Hannah-Kate-Williams clones (not to mention the ones who have legitimate cases). Even if those lawsuits do not win or have no merit, it still costs money to fight them off. Further, when you as a Trustee put an organization at so much risk by waiving attorney-client privilege, the Trustee (whose legal job is to protect the organization) can be found PERSONALLY LIABLE for any damages that result on that Trustee’s actions.
This is why all of the members of the Executive Committee began resigning before the vote came out. This includes people who SUPPORTED the Guidepost report, as you can see here. As for other stories of Executive Committee higher-ups resigning, see here, here, and here. This is the reason all of the members and trustees of the organization started to resign.
And so with all of that hulabaloo, what exactly did we learn from the waiver of attorney client privilege? Not much that I can see. Most of the stuff that involves attorney-client privileged information is stuff we already knew generally about the reason the SBC did not want to get involved in policing the churches for sexual abuse allegations. The things that I saw attorneys advising the SBC is precisely what I would expect attorneys to advise an organization. There were no lies, no fraud, and no malfeasance. All that we revealed is what we already knew: The Southern Baptist Convention does not exercise authority over churches, and therefore does not have liability for what goes on in those churches, and any attempt to exercise authority over those churches could invite liability for what goes on in those churches. They wanted to have a way to release suspected abusers, but nobody knew how to do so in a good way.
And if you want to know how crazy this is, you should note that EVEN THOUGH ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE WAS WAVED, we still have REDACTED sections of the “secret list” of abusive pastors that the report was proud to release. Look for yourself:
In other words, EVEN GUIDEPOST SOLUTIONS did not think this information was worth revealing to the public. So, we went through all that trouble and legal risk for what?
Isn’t that STRANGE? It’s not so strange when you remember the “private” conclusion of anonymous SBC insiders:
Many people within national SBC leadership circles told me, on condition of anonymity, that the subject of abuse has become a political football that various factions have been leveraging to settle bitter scores and sway the direction of the denomination on issues that have nothing to do with abuse
Yeah….. YA THINK???
4. The Guidepost Report Lacks of Definition of the Word “Survivor”
Now we finally get to the text of the Guidepost Report. The first problem I noticed is the word “survivor.” The word appears 522 times in the 228 pages of the report. Since the SBC paid $2 million for this report, you think that this would be there. You would think that the Report would use phrases like “survivor of child abuse” or “adult survivor of inappropriate sexual advances” or “survivor of sexual harassment.” But that is not how the Report uses the word survivor. The problem I see is this:
THE WORD “SURVIVOR” IS NOT DIFFERENTIATED BETWEEN CONFIRMED SURVIVORS OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE AND “SURVIVORS” OF CONDUCT THAT INVOLVES SEXUAL RELATIONS BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS.
But the report would never call any of this activity “consensual,” but that’s a topic for other sections. We’re just talking about the definition of “Survivor” in this section. Here is the closest the report comes to defining it is the following sentence:
We are deeply grateful to the survivors of sexual abuse who contacted us to share their histories and opinions. . . . In total, we spoke with 22 survivors over the course of the investigation. (Guidepost Report, p. 27)
In other words, a survivor is someone who “contacted us” to “share their histories and opinions” on sexual abuse. Hm…. okay. But… surely it can’t MERELY be that, right? I mean, RIGHT?
We would expect “survivor” to be someone who is somehow determined to have been the victim of “sexual abuse.” Unfortunately, I need to keep that phrase “sexual abuse” in quotation marks, because the Guidepost Report also does not define “sexual abuse,” either. But that’s the next section.
A normal-person understanding of the word “survivor” would be someone who survived a crime of sexual violence. The problem is that is simply not true when it comes to the Guidepost Report. Instead, the way the word “survivor is used in the following sentence gives a better idea of what it really means:
We interviewed the 2000-2002 SBC President James Merritt, who stated that during his term of service he was not informed of any sexual abuse allegations nor did he have contact with any survivors. (Guidepost Report, p. 42).
In other words, a “survivor” is merely someone who claims they are a victim of “sexual abuse.” As reading the report makes clear, all that is required to be called a survivor is to claim one is the victim of sexual abuse. Did you get that?
The problem is that some of the claimed “sexual abuse” is completely legal activity. And by “legal,” I mean legal in a secular sense. It consists of consensual sexual encounters between adults. Some of it might break HR codes, all of it is against the standards of the Bible, and all of it would be absolutely scandalous at a church of seminary.
But Guidepost is not talking about “scandalous” sexual activity. Instead, they are using “sexual abuse” to describe something that is vague, undefined, and non-criminal. You’d think these “experts” could be a little more precise, but they are not.
Boy is that strange!
In addition to the “sexual abuse” claims that are legal, some of these claims are vigorously disputed. Regardless, the individuals are STILL called “survivors.” On the other hand, some “survivors” actually ARE the victims of sexual assault and other crimes. That’s a problem.
The problem with the Guidepost Report is that it lumps victims of child molesters together with adult victims of disputed allegations of completely legal conduct. That diminishes the trials and experience of people who truly are survivors with people who merely claim the mantle of “survivor.” That is a problem.
5. The Guidepost Report Emotionally Uses the Word “Survivor”
But the problem with the word “survivor” in the Report is not merely it’s extremely wide and loose definition. Instead, there is a problem with the emotional way in which the term is used in the Report. The Report uses the word “survivor” so much that it often subtracts from the readability of the document.
As a lawyer, I am sympathetic to technical writing that can seem unreadable when it makes facts clear to informed readers. However, the use of the term “survivor” is not technical in the report. Instead, the problem is this:
THE USE OF THE TERM “SURVIVOR” IS EMOTIONAL RATHER THAN TECHNICAL AND IS USED TO BUILD CREDIBILITY OF CERTAIN PEOPLE IN THE STORY AND REDUCE THE CREDIBILITY OF OTHERS IN THE REPORT.
In August 2014, Brad Eubank, a minister for over 30 years who is also a survivor, another survivor, and Greg Love, an advocate for survivors, met with Dr. Page, Mr. Boto, and ERLC Executive Vice President Philip Bethancourt to discuss a proposal that the SBC host a conference to educate SBC members about sexual abuse. . . . According to Mr. Eubank, Mr. Boto controlled the meeting and claimed the EC could not do anything about sexual abuse allegations as per the SBC constitution. Mr. Eubank recounted that Mr. Boto rejected every idea that was brought up. (Guidepost Report, p. 70)
Now, Brad Eubank actually was a survivor, under any normal definition of the term. He was the victim of sexual assault as a minor, and the minister who committed the crime was convicted in a Court. But the point of putting “survivor” in that sentence is so that the reader feels bad when Mr. Boto cites the SBC constitution as a reason that nothing can be done.
Now, should we feel bad that nothing can be done? Maybe so. Maybe the SBC constitution should be changed (as it was changed in 2021 after this meeting). However, I note that despite every idea being “rejected” by Mr. Boto, the reason it was rejected is that, as the Guidepost Report recognized, QUITE LITERALLY NOTHING COULD BE DONE pursuant to the SBC constitution. This was explicitly affirmed in the Guidepost Report:
III. SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION (“SBC”)
The SBC is not a church itself; rather, it is a network of independent churches. The purpose of the SBC is “to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.” Currently, over 47,000 Baptist churches in the United States and its territories cooperate with the SBC. In total, the SBC network of churches encompasses over 14 million
A. Church Autonomy
Unlike hierarchical religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, where local churches follow the directives of a primary leader, the SBC does not dictate church practices or worship. A fundamental principle of the Southern Baptists is local church autonomy. Article IV of the SBC Constitution provides that: “While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.” Each church cooperating with the SBC functions independently and maintains responsibility to select its own leaders, adopt its own bylaws, set its own budget, determine its own policies, and launch its own ministries. Local church participation with the SBC is voluntary and cooperative.
Because the SBC is not a church, it has no role in ordaining pastors. Both initial ordination and recognition of previous ordination are addressed on a local church level. Every cooperating church decides individually whether or not to ordain an individual, or whether to require ordination of its pastor or ministry staff. The SBC does have the right to determine whether local churches are considered “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC – in other words, whether a specific local church is remaining in good standing with the SBC. To be deemed in friendly cooperation, a church must: (1) have a faith and practice which closely identifies with the SBC’s adopted statement of faith, (2) formally approve its intention to cooperate with the SBC, (3) make financial contributions through the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, or any other Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding, (4) not act in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse (emphasis added); and (5) not act to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity. It should be noted that the “sexual abuse” proviso was only recently added to the SBC Constitution.
. . .
Ultimately, the new amendment was approved by a two-thirds vote at the SBC
conventions in 2019 and 2021. (Guidepost Report, p. 29-32)
In other words, while the quote at the top makes you feel angry that Mr. Boto “shot down” all of these suggestions brought by the “survivors” in 2014, the problem is that Mr. Boto was TOTALLY CORRECT up until they year 2021.
This is a problem with the way that “survivor” is used in an emotional way in the report, it really shows itself when talking about the cases that are quite ambiguous, even when they are sympathetically described in the Report. That is the subject of the next section.
6. The Guidepost Report Lacks a Definition of the Phrase “Sexual Assault”
According to the Department of Justice, the phrase “sexual assault” means the following:
The term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.
In other words, “sexual assault” is ILLEGAL conduct pursuant to the laws of a state. However, that is NOT how the Report uses the term “sexual assault.” This is clear in the description of what was revealed by the report regarding Johnny Hunt, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the description of the event.
This is how the Guidepost Report uses the term to describe what happened between Johnny Hunt and an unknown woman:
During our investigation, an SBC pastor and his wife came forward to report that SBC President Johnny Hunt (2008-2010) had sexually assaulted the wife on July 25, 2010. We include this sexual assault allegation in the report because our investigators found the pastor and his wife to be credible; their report was corroborated in part by a counseling minister and three other credible witnesses; and our investigators did not find Dr. Hunt’s statements related to the sexual assault allegation to be credible.
In other words, a husband and wife claim that Johnny Hunt committed a crime in July of 2010. This was included because after speaking to Johnny Hunt to be “unreliable” and the accusers were “credible.” What does “credible” mean? That’s a good question. The only definition “credible” that comes forward in the Report is in footnote 760, on page 266:
“Credible” is defined as not manifestly false or frivolous
Further, the reason this account was “corroborated” is not that other people saw it. There were only two witnesses of the event in question. As such, the “corroboration” is that the woman told other people of the event, and the other people did not think her story was manifestly false or frivolous. And so, apparently it happened. However, not all of these “witnesses” (if that’s what we’re calling them now) agreed that it was sexual assault. One of them disagreed, but we’ll cover that later.
In contrast to how the Report describes the woman, Johnny Hunt is described as “unreliable,” which is a word that does not have a definition. The details of this accusation matter, and that’s why I need to go over them, especially since this is one of the only “new” revelations in the report. Here is the relevant part of the alleged “sexual assault”:
At the June 2010 annual meeting, Dr. Hunt invited the couple to come spend some time with him and his family at Panama City Beach while he was on sabbatical for the month of July. Pastor and Survivor looked up to Dr. Hunt as a spiritual father figure. Dr. Hunt is 24 years older than the couple, with daughters close in age to Survivor.
The couple did take a short vacation to the beach, staying at a separate location, and spent some time with the Hunts. At one point, Dr. Hunt kissed Survivor on the forehead and made inappropriate comments about Survivor’s figure.
After the trip, Pastor told Dr. Hunt that Survivor wanted to return to the beach before school started to hear Bobby Bowden speak at Highland Park Baptist Church in Panama City Beach. Pastor asked Dr. Hunt’s advice on securing a condo for her. Dr. Hunt gave him a phone number for a condo owner in his complex. Pastor called, and the owner told him to book directly on VRBO. Unbeknownst to Pastor, it was the unit next door to Dr. Hunt’s condo.
On Saturday July 24, 2010, Pastor texted Dr. Hunt and asked him to keep an eye out for Survivor, and Dr. Hunt responded that he would take care of her and that his family will keep an eye out. Pastor and Survivor said they trusted Dr. Hunt and were under the impression that Dr. Hunt and his family would be at the beach, and Survivor could contact them if she needed anything.
Dr. Hunt texted her asking what condo she was in. She responded with the number, and he replied that it was right next door and told her to step out on the balcony. Survivor was surprised that the condo her husband had rented was right next door to the Hunts’ condo. Dr. Hunt and Survivor conversed from their respective balconies. He brought her a bottle of water.
Survivor recalled Dr. Hunt shifting the conversation from ministry to flattery about her appearance, her clothing, and her perfume. Dr. Hunt remarked that he was hot from being in the sun, and Survivor said he could come sit in the shade on her balcony. Survivor described the balconies as side by side with no ability to cross from one to the other. Survivor assumed that Dr. Hunt’s wife and family were inside his condo unit.
Dr. Hunt came into Survivor’s condo and they continued their conversation on Survivor’s balcony. Dr. Hunt asked her if she felt safe and she said that she did. She did not know why he would ask such a question. He then told the Survivor to put her feet on his knee; he touched them while commenting
on their beauty and size. At one point, he remarked that he was uncomfortable sitting outside because he didn’t want to be seen so he suggested that they go inside.
Dr. Hunt pointed to the bedroom and said that he guessed that they didn’t need to go in there. She objected by emphatically saying “No!” In the living room, Dr. Hunt asked about ministry and church frustrations. Dr. Hunt slid closer while Survivor was telling a story of the stress that she and her husband were under at the church. He asked her more personal questions about her life – like “have you ever done anything like this before?” and “if she was wild growing up?” She was confused and not sure of what he
Dr. Hunt then moved towards Survivor and proceeded to pull her shorts down, turn her over and stare at her bare backside. He made sexual remarks about her body and things he had imagined about her. During this time, Survivor felt frozen. Survivor said these were some of the longest moments of her life. She mustered the courage to ask him could she turn back over, and Dr. Hunt said yes. When she turned back over, she began to pull up her shorts. Dr. Hunt then pinned her to the couch, got on top of her, and pulled up her shirt. He sexually assaulted her with his hands and mouth. Suddenly, Dr. Hunt stopped and then stood up. Survivor pulled down her shirt. Survivor said she did not want him to ruin his ministry, at which he responded he did not want to ruin hers. But he then forced himself on her again by groping her, trying to pull her shirt down, and violently kissing her. Survivor did not reciprocate, but rather stood eyes open and very stiff, hoping he would just stop and leave. He finally stopped and left. (Guidepost Report, p. 149-151)
Now, here is the problem. That is not at all the type of behavior we want to see from church and ministry leaders. But on the other hand, that is NOT a story of sexual assault. Notice what this involves:
- Before this encounter, Hunt and the woman shared an intimate kiss and suggestive comments.
- The husband of the woman arranged to have the woman stay in the same building as the woman.
- The woman was contacting Hunt, asking where he was staying and informing him that she was in the same beach-side building.
- The woman invited Hunt into her condo.
- Things were sexually suggestive before any physical contact was made.
- When the physical contact started, rather than being described as “non-consensual,” instead, we only read that the woman “froze.”
- When the woman did not reciprocate the sexual contact (which once again was NOT described as “non-consensual”), Hunt left the room.
However, despite this not being a story of “sexual assault,” that is what this Guidepost Report calls the encounter. The only places we get the idea that this was non-consensual is when we get terms like “force himself” and “violently kissing.” But while this could describe a rape, it could also describe an consensual encounter. I suppose if Guidepost Solutions had been paid $10 million instead of $2 million, maybe we could get some more physical details about exactly what it means to “force himself” and “violently kiss” the woman and what the woman was doing and saying during this time and how long this encounter lasted. It would also help to get the story from Hunt, who seems to agree that some things happened, but other things didn’t.
Importantly, this idea of mine that this was not “sexual assualt” is not an opinion. The event happened in Flordia, and in the state of Florida, “sexual assault” is called “sexual battery” and is defined by the criminal code in Title XLVI, Section 794.011:
(h) “Sexual battery” means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual battery does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.
And in order for that to be illegal, the event has to be done without consent, as described below:
(b) A person 18 years of age or older who commits sexual battery upon a person 18 years of age or older without that person’s consent, under any of the circumstances listed in paragraph (e), commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, s. 775.084, or s. 794.0115.
And the “circumstances listed in paragraph (e)” are the following:
- The victim is physically helpless to resist.
- The offender coerces the victim to submit by threatening to use force or violence likely to cause serious personal injury to the victim, and the victim reasonably believes that the offender has the present ability to execute the threat.
- The offender coerces the victim to submit by threatening to retaliate against the victim, or any other person, and the victim reasonably believes taht the offender has the ability to execute the threat in the future.
- The offender, without prior knowledge or consent of the victim, administers or has knowledge of someone else administering to the victim any narcotic, anesthetic, or other intoxicating substance that mentally or physically incapacitates the victim.
- The victim is mentally defective, and the offender has reason to believe this or has actual knowledge of this fact.
- The victim is physically incapacitated.
- The offender is a alaw enforcement officer [showing the authority of a law enforcement officer].
Importantly, NONE of these circumstances are at issue in the story that we were told about Johnny Hunt. And most importantly:
SEXUAL ASSAULT REQUIRES PENATRATION WITHOUT CONSENT, AND PENETRATION IS NEVER ALLEGED OR EVEN SUGGESTED BY THE GUIDEPOST REPORT, WHILE LACK OF CONSENT IS ONLY SUGGESTED.
The only place we get told that this interaction (which is all I can call it because the details of the physical contact are unclear) did not involve consent is the following paragraph:
Survivor and Pastor stated that Mr. Blankenship said that in his expert opinion an inappropriate relationship had developed, and that based on his information it was consensual. Survivor states that at the time she believed that, even though she did not consent to what Dr. Hunt did to her, she was made to feel it was consensual because she did not fight back. (Guidepost Report, p. 152)
And while the Guidepost Report did not tell Johnny Hunt’s side of the story, he did release his own side of the story which you can read here, where he said this:
One week ago, I saw the same task force report you saw at the time you saw it. All of us, in different ways, were shocked by the contents of that report.
I made a brief public comment then, but I would like to say more now. I owe you the opportunity to hear the truth from me directly.
Twelve years ago, right after my service as SBC president, and in the aftermath of my battle with cancer, I entered into a season of deep despair and probably clinical depression. I remember Janet asking me then how I felt and I said to her, “I feel like something inside of me has died.”
It was during that summer that I allowed myself to get too close to a compromising situation with a woman who was not my wife. It happened when she invited me into her vacation condo for a conversation. Against my better judgment – I chose to go.
Our brief, but improper, encounter ended when – in response to an overwhelming feeling of conviction – I stopped it and I fled the situation. I remember saying just before leaving the condo, “this is not right. I have no business being here. I love my wife.” I have never been in a room again privately with the woman involed.
I think God we did not go further than we did, but that is also no excuse for my grievous sin. I will regret that day for the rest of my life and I take responsibility for the situation because I chose to enter her condo.
I am sorry.
It was an awful sin but it was a consensual encounter. It was not abuse nor was it assault.https://www.ajc.com/news/former-sbc-president-johnny-hunt-responds-to-allegations-in-report/ONK7UQ24WNGATCWMBQOQNENMTY/
And regardless of whether you believe Johnny Hunt or think he is a creep, he is COMPLETELY RIGHT when he says it is not sexual assault.
However, let’s cover some things before we move on. We need to make clear that it is NOT TRUE that if someone “doesn’t fight back,” then that means the encounter was consensual. Not at all. The law above is a SINGLE crime of sexual violence in the Florida code, and even it makes the following point:
(a) “Consent” means intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission. “Consent” shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the alleged victim to offer physical resistance to the offender.
The details are different in different states, but it is mostly universal that “lack of resistance” does not automatically equal “compliance.”
However, what is true is that there needs to be some manifestation of a threat or a lack of consent to have any good chance of prosecution. This is where you have to prove lack of consent. But how would one do that? One easy way to show a lack of consent would be to deliver a swift kick to the crotch of a would-be abuser. Perhaps a nice slap across the cheek would be good if an unwanted kiss comes from a would-be abuser. If a would-be abuser pulls your pants down, it would be helpful to say “What the heck are you doing you creep!?” at any audible volume. But even a “Stop!” or “No!” at any point in the encounter would be good enough to demonstrate that this sexual encounter is not consensual.
Unfortunately, some of the WORST evidence for a lack of consent is EXACTLY WHAT THE GUIDEPOST REPORT DESCRIBES HAPPENED in the alleged “sexual assault” by Johnny Hunt. Go back and read it and you will se that the “survivor,” right after allegedly BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULTED, has this conversation with her abuser:
Survivor said she did not want him to ruin his ministry, at which he responded he did not want to ruin hers.
He apologized and said that she did not need what had happened and needed a pastor instead. He asked her to forgive him, and Survivor said that she would.
That’s really bad evidence, because to MOST juries in America, this would NOT sound like what happens during and after an actual crime of sexual violence (which is what “sexual assault” is). Instead, this sounds like what would happen in a consensual encounter between a 34 year old woman and a 58 year old man, where they both felt guilt and shame after the adulterous encounter (which is exactly what that was). So let me repeat:
The “Survivor” was a grown-ass 34 year old woman, and the “abuser” was a grown-ass 58 year old man, recovering from prostate cancer.
ou’d think that a $2 million Report would give some more details on that, but nope. Instead, we get the phrase “sexual assault.”
That is STRANGE, and borderline defamatory.
7. The Guidepost Report Inaccurately Uses the Phrase “Sexual Abuse”
Now we get to the point where I need to talk about Jennifer Lyell. It is impossible not to talk about Jennifer Lyell when reading the Guidepost Report, because Jennifer Lyell is mentioned a total of 125 times in the report, heavily occupying around 90 pages. As such, Jennifer Lyell seems to be someone who is the victim of horrendous sexual abuse.
But that’s not quite what we see. Instead, from this news story (with details not included in the Guidepost Report), you can see that the sexual relationship between Jennifer Lyell and David Sills first occurred when Jenn was 26 and David Sills was 49. According to Jennifer Lyell’s own recounting about this relationship (which you can read at this link), the relationship lasted for more than a decade:
I shared how Dr. David Sills, then a tenured professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, first sexually acted against me on a mission trip in 2004, a pattern that continued and escalated for more than a decade following that trip.
More than a decade? Yep. More than a decade. That’s the shocking part about this story that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
While it is POSSIBLE that the first time she had sexual relations with David Sills was not consensual, we don’t get any indication of that. Instead, it only seems there was an “imbalance of power” between her and David Sills, an imbalance that did not continue on for the entire relationship. In some ways, the power balance flipped. With the evaporation of this power imbalance, there is almost nothing that leads one to believe that this was an abusive relationship. Instead, there is another basic word that describes it:
Adultery. ə-ˈdəl-t(ə-)rē (noun) voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Look at what others have said about this supposedly “abusive” relationship between Lyell and Sills, based on observations of them at SBTS:
His former colleague, Old Testament professor Russell Fuller, was not especially friendly with Sills, but he recalled thinking, before Lyell’s accusations came to light, that their relationship appeared both intimate and consensual.
“I remember seeing the two of them eating and laughing with their heads very close together in the lunchroom at Southern Seminary,” Fuller said. “They were so public you almost thought, well, guilty people wouldn’t be that public. They would be more careful.”Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
In fact, at one point, Jennifer Lyell lived thousands of miles away from David Sills, but would still come to his home and continue the sexual relationship. However, Jennifer Lyell believes this was “abuse” because David Sills had ingratiated her into his family. The sexual relationship ended when Jennifer Lyell was 38 and David Sills was in his sixties.
But you don’t have to accept these summaries of the relationship, you can read Jennefer lyell’s own words, which, once again, you can view using this link. Here’s what she says:
By the time I shared about my abuse, I had been in counseling for more than two years, which had given me the tools and support I needed to extract myself from the situation. I had told my counselor, closest friends, as well as my pastor and his wife. I had not disclosed this to SBTS or the missions agency Dr. Sills led (on which I had previously served on the board) because of the very complicated, messy nature of the relationship and my fear of the collateral damage that telling would cause for those around him. That collateral damage was the reason that the abuse had continued for so long. The reason that a professor was able to continue grooming and taking advantage of his student was because I became like part of his family. This wasn’t by accident; I believe it was by design. Having known that I experienced sexual abuse growing up, Dr. Sills assured me that the first incidents that happened on that mission trip weren’t really my fault as I naturally felt—even though I had not initiated them and was shocked as the actions took place. He explained they were because of what happened to me when I was a child. He said that he could fix it by me becoming part of his family and then once I was part of his family, that sort of thing would never happen again. I now wonder if the only reason that a family relationship was ever presented as an option was to ensure I wouldn’t tell what had happened in those first instances.
But a family relationship did develop. Over the years I spent weekends with them, my holidays with them, became an “aunt” to their grandchildren, and their grown children became like siblings to me. It looked idyllic on the surface. Except the pattern of inappropriate sexual activity continued throughout the relationship.https://www.lyellstatementonabuse.com/abuse-disclosure-march-2019
Think about what that means. There was a TWELVE YEAR sexual relationship between Jennifer Lyell and David Sills. At one point, David Sills lived in Louisville KY while Jennifer Lyell lived in Chicago Illinois and Nashville, TN, keeping that sexual relationship alive. Then, coincidentally around the same time when erectile dysfunction begins in many men in their sixties (a correlation that I have no evidence involved any causation) the sexual relationship ended. And then, after she “realized” in “counseling” that this was not a consensual relationship, things changed:
It has been nearly a year since I wrote this statement and almost two years since my initial abuse disclosure. At the time of these disclosures I was still in the early phases of therapy working through what had happened, how it had happened, why it had happened, and struggling to reconcile how clearly those facts established abuse with the sense of guilt I had for not telling faster or being able to stop it. . . . Most notably, “compliant” does not mean “consensual” and it comes with a context that is in itself abusive. I won’t be any more specific about this because I’m still trying to find a way out of the trauma and confusion. That is also exactly why it is not best for someone to be encouraged to publicly disclose abuse while still in the process of recovery from abuse.https://www.lyellstatementonabuse.com/abuse-disclosure-march-2019
Let me just point out that while Jennifer Lyell is correct that “compliant” does not mean “consensual,” it is also the case that “Driving across the state of Indiana to continue a years-long sexual relationship” is NOT a “lack of consent.”
But that’s almost beside the point. You see, the “abuse” of Jennifer Lyell as it relates to the SBC is NOT that the SBC refused to act. Instead, as soon as she reported the incident, David Sills was IMMEDIATELY fired, and nothing happened to Jennifer Lyell.
Instead, the “problem” of the SBC regarding Jennifer Lyell is that after he was already fired, she decided to “tell her story” by reporting things to the Baptist Press, and (according to the Guidepost Report at page 84), three lawyers with at least two brain-cells to spare noticed that, according to Jennifer Lyell herself, Jennifer Lyell was driving across the state of Indiana to meet David Sills in an “abusive” relationship.
Aaaaaaand, they thought that insinuating that David Sills was an “abuser” in this situation would lead to defamation.
YEAH, YA THINK?
So, when the story came out, they described it in terms that made it sound like a consensual affair. Hm… I wonder why the Baptist Press would do that? Maybe because…
JENNIFER LYELL WAS A GROWN-ASS WOMAN THE ENTIRE TIME AND CONTINUED AN ALMOST OPENLY ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH A MARRIED MAN FOR TWELVE YEARS ACROSS MULTIPLE STATES WHILE SHE REMAINED CLOSE WITH THE MAN’S ENTIRE FAMILY.
Creepy? Yes. Bizarre? Absolutely? Sexual Abuse? Clearly not. David Sills was a professor of missions and cultural anthropology at SBTS, not a wizard of hypnosis and master of the dark arts.
THIS WAS A CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIP, PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
But the Guidepost Report calls it a clear case of “sexual abuse.”
That is a problem. But the story doesn’t stop there. You see, Jennifer Lyell recently came to a monetary settlement after the Guidepost Report supported her claim of “sexual abuse” from David Sills, based on the fact that SBC Executive Committee lawyers asked for the SBC news organization not to call this CLEAR CASE OF A CONSENSUAL AFFAIR a case of “sexual abuse.”
And in her open letter after the settlement, she even thanks “Hannah Kate” and other “survivors” who have “not yet received” their compensation:
As such, I cannot acknowledge my appreciation for the EC’s willingness to take action in response to a mistake they made that harmed me without noting that people whose stories I know, respect, and grieve over have not yet received resolution. So, while I hope with my whole heart it doesn’t hurt you all more for me to say so, I just want to acknowledge the courage, worth, dignity, and pain that Christa, Dave, Dee, Debbie, Tiffany, Jules, Hannah-Kate, and others I don’t know to name will go to sleep with tonight just as they have for countless nights before.https://www.lyellstatementonabuse.com/february-2022-statement
Let’s also not get lost on the fact that Rachel Denhollander’s “dear friendship” with Jennifer Lyell is a striking conflict of interest in this “independent report” that calls Jennifer Lyell a victim of “abuse” and “retaliation” by the SBC.
You see, Rachel Denhollander was an “adviser” for the report, but she also publicly advocated for Jennifer Lyell, who she called “one of our most treasured people” and a “survivor.” She did so in this video, at the Caring Well Conference in 2019, which was BEFORE the Sexual Abuse Task Force came into existence.
Note where Denhollander singles out Jennifer Lyell in the question at the 4:15 mark:
Here is the main text of what she says at the 4:50 mark:
But most importantly, we need to understand is that survivors’ fear of coming forward is very very well-founded, because most of the time when they speak up, they are trampled on. And this has happened in the SBC over and over and over again. In fact, there is a very prominent survivor – a precious friend of mine – that this happened to just a year ago. Most of you know Jenn Lyell. She works for Lifeway. She is one of our most treasured people in the SBC and the work she does in incredible. Over a year ago, in order to protect the people around her, and in order to keep her abuser from being able to prey on others, she came out publicly as a survivor of David Sills, a prominent professor as SBTS. And she spoke with the Baptist Free Press, because she trusted the SBC to protect her and to handle her story well. And instead of doing that, the Baptist Free Press changed the article after she saw it. They used the same language to describe her abuse that is used for consensual affairs. And a survivor of horrific predatory abuse, instead of being surrounded with love and care and support, was cast someone involved in a consensual affair. That happened last year to one of your own, by one of your own, including members of your executive committee. And that is to our shame. The SBC has over and over again trampled on these precious survivors. And that is why they are afraid to speak up. That fear is deserved.Author’s Transcript of video available at https://vimeo.com/365072432
This story was repeated almost verbatim in the Guidepost Report despite being nonsensical.
Are you seeing how STRANGE all of this is? Are you starting to see the possibility that maybe there is a grift here?
If you can’t see the grift, then let’s get to the final “strange” part of this report where the grift really begins to get explicit.
8. The Guidepost Report Gives a Long List of Strange Bureaucratic Recommendations
At the end of the report, there are a darn lot of recommendations. They are amazing in what they do and do not do. For example, they do not recommend any standard definition of “sexual abuse” or “sexual assault” or “sexual misconduct” or “survivor” or “victim” or “inappropriate behavior” or anything like that. Instead, rather than being helpful or practical, they are surprisingly BUREAUCRATIC.
One recommendation sticks out to me in this respect. The first key recommendation in the executive summary is described in the following way:
Upon completion of the SATF duties, first form an Independent Commission and later establish a permanent Administrative Entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct within the SBC; (Guidepost Report, p. 14)
One would expect that the Report would recommend certain goals to achieve after investigating abuse in the SBC Executive Committee. However, one would not expect the Report to give advice on the bureaucratic means to achieve these recommended goals by establishing a “permanent Administrative Entity.” But even further, one would CERTAINLY not expect a recommendation to establish a DIFFERENT administrative entity, called the “Independent Commission,” to be created to oversee the creation of the OTHER unexpected permanent bureaucratic entity. But that’s exactly what you just read.
Isn’t that STRANGE?
It’s not so strange when you realize that this involves the creation of a lot of work. I wonder if anyone would be paid to do that work. Haha. Of course I don’t wonder IF anyone would be paid to do that work. I only wonder WHO will be paid and HOW MUCH that work will cost.
Are you beginning to see the grift?
However, of all the summarized recommendations given in the Executive Summary of the Report, it is the last recommendation that gets rather explicit when it comes to the “grift” that I believe is a part of this strange report:
Acknowledge those who have been affected by SBC clergy sexual abuse, through both a sincere apology and a tangible gesture, and prioritize the provision of compassionate care to survivors through providing dedicated survivor advocacy support and a survivor compensation fund. (Guidepost Report, p. 14)
Wait….. what? A “survivor compensation fund”? What does that mean? Oh, you know what that means. It means to give money. And apart from the fact that “survivor” is not defined and only seems to mean people who CLAIM to be the victim of abuse, the reason it stands out to me is for the following reason:
THIS RECOMMENDATION TO CREATE A SURVIVOR COMPENSATION FUND IS COMPLETELY OUTSIDE OF THE SCOPE OF ENGAGEMENT OF THE GUIDEPOST REPORT
If you don’t believe me, look at the scope of engagement of the report, listed in Appendix 1 to the report on page 5-6:
3.1. In accordance with the SBC Motion, the purpose of the Engagement is for Guidepost to conduct an independent investigation into the Executive Committee of the SBC, and an audit of the procedures and actions of the Credentials Committee.
Specifically, and as directed by the SBC Motion, Guidepost will investigate:
• Allegations of abuse by Executive Committee members.
• Mishandling of abuse allegations by Executive Committee members between January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
• Allegations of mistreatment of sexual abuse victims by Executive Committee members from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
• Patterns of intimidation of sexual abuse victims or advocates from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
• Resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
In addition, Guidepost will perform an audit of the procedures and actions of the Credentials Committee after its formation in mid-June 2019, using best standards and practices designed to ensure accountability, transparency, and care for the wellbeing of survivors of sexual abuse.
Guidepost will only request documents and interview relevant to the items specified above from
. . .
3.4 At the conclusion of the investigation and audit, Guidepost will prepare a complete set of factual findings and a comprehensive recommended framework within which the SBC can operate in order to continue to address the concerns raised by the SBC Motion in a transparent, accountable, and scriptural manner that prioritizes survivor support and care and enhances practices for the prevention of sexual abuse, harassment, and violence. (Guidepost Report, Appendix 1, p. 4-5)
Notice that nothing about “compensation” is in that scope of engagement. And while you may think that the prioritization of “survivor support” is how this idea of “compensation” slips in there, I note that there is absolutely nothing in the recommendations that indicates how money should be paid. So the scope of engagement asks for PROCEDURAL steps to help the SBC be “supportive” of survivors. There was nothing in the scope of the representation that asked about whether compensation should be paid out of SBC money.
And yet…. …there it is: a recommendation to pay a broad and loosely defined population of people an undefined amount of money.
But that’s not the half of it. You see, not only do we get a recommendation to create a compensation fund, we also get a recommendation to construct A DANGE STATUE in front of the SBC headquarters in Nashville. No word yet on whether it will light up to signal people like Hannah Kate Williams and Jennifer Lyell (and their lawyers) that new funds are available.
And no, this is not a joke. Look at recommendation 15 to the Executive Committee:
EC-15. Acknowledge the Survivors of SBC Clergy Sexual Abuse
15(a). Written Apology: We recommend that SBC EC leadership and the SBC President issue a sincere written and spoken apology for past failures, identifying specific survivors such as Christa Brown, Jules Woodson, Tiffany Thigpen and others. The apology should include details as to how the SBC EC will work to support survivors and to assist churches to become safer spaces.
15(b). Memorial: We recommend consideration of a formal and permanent acknowledgement at the front of the SBC offices in Nashville relating to sexual abuse. Specifically, the SBC EC should consider a tangible gesture such as sculpture or garden as a way to publicly acknowledge mistakes in the past and the SBC’s commitment to reform.
In what world does someone pay $2,000,000 for an audit of your organization’s response to sexual abuse allegations, and as a part of the response, you get a recommendation to…. ….BUILD A PERMANENT SCULPTURE IN FRONT OF YOUR HEADQUARTERS OR PLANT A GARDEN?
Is that not just…. ….strange? Are you seeing the grift?
Hopefully the statue will be bronze or marble or something. Because the only thing worse that terrible grift in your organization is a statute that is not stylish. For an example of a statue that definitely IS stylish, I would like to show you a “statue” (if we can call it that) is what recently went up in New Orleans to celebrate Juneteenth and serve as a monument to um…. Black power? Black lives matter? Stylish hair-care? Eh… I don’t know, but just look at it.
That’s amazing isn’t it? It’s more than stylish. It is THE SOURCE of style.
However to get the full effect, I recommend watching the video of the unveiling with the sound on:
The jazz singer, drums, and trumpet (this is New Orleans, mind you) with the public’s stunned silence, not knowing what to do, is just amazing.
Another amazing thing is the public art grift, which is running stronger than I thought.
However, if you read the report and miss the grift, you can be forgiven, that’s because grift of this sort is always buried under RIDICULOUS bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. Speaking of that mumbo-jumbo, here are the VERY STRANGE recommendations summarized in the following headings on pages 259-274 of the Guidepost Report:
- Recommendation EC-1: Establish an Independent Commission to Implement and
- Recommendation EC-2: Consider the Creation of an Administrative Entity to
Provide a Permanent Resource for Prevention and Response Efforts related to
- Recommendation EC-3: Create and Maintain a Resource Toolbox for Prevention
- Recommendation EC-4: Provide Support for Establishing Safe Spaces Through a
- Recommendation EC-5: Enhance Prevention Resources
- Recommendation EC-6: Adopt a Declaration of Principles
- Recommendation EC-7: Devote Resources to Survivor Support
- Recommendation EC-8: Consider Prohibiting Confidentiality Agreements in Sexual
- Recommendation EC-9: Provide Adequate Funding for Reforms
- Recommendation EC-10: Consider Further Defining Southern Baptist Beliefs
Regarding Sexual Abuse
- Recommendation EC-11: Improve Governance at the SBC EC by Creating the
Position of Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer
- Recommendation EC-12: Establish a Document Retention Policy
- Recommendation EC-13: Enhance SBC EC Compliance Policies
- Recommendation EC-14: Create a Media Plan to Bring Awareness to Issues of
- Recommendation EC-15: Acknowledge the Survivors of SBC Clergy Sexual Abuse
- Recommendation EC-16: Enhance Awareness of Sexual Abuse within SBC Entities
- Recommendation EC-17: Implement Principles for Baptist Press
And while that may seem like a lot of recommendations, well, let me say two things. First:
You obviously don’t care about about survivors, do you? Misogynist.
THAT IS ONLY THE FIRST HALF OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE REPORT
Those were just the recommendations to the Executive Committee. There is a completely different category of recommendations right after that, summarized in the Guidepost Report from pages 275-288:
- Recommendation CC-1: Consider the Ideal Composition of the CC to Support
Sexual Abuse Submissions
- Recommendation CC-2: Improve Onboarding for CC Members
- Recommendation CC-3: Provide Trauma and Sexual Abuse Training for CC
- Recommendation CC-4: Increase the Number of CC Staff and Provide Greater
Support for Them
- Recommendation CC-5: Give the CC Access to Outside Resources to Support Their
- Recommendation CC-6: Formalize and Improve the CC’s Processes and
- Recommendation CC-7: Formalize CC Meeting Structure and Agendas
- Recommendation CC-8: Adopt Standards for CC Determinations
- Recommendation CC-9: Improve the Online Reporting Portal (RP) and Website to
Make It More User-friendly for Submitters
- Recommendation CC-10: Improve the Online Reporting Portal (RP), Access
Database and Website to Improve CC Functionality, Auditability, and Response
- Recommendation CC- 11: If necessary, give the CC the Ability to Engage and
Consult with Experts on an Extensive Inquiry for a Submission
- Recommendation CC-12: Provide Timely and Transparent Decisions
- Recommendation CC-13: Audit CC Processes to Ensure all Submissions Have
- Recommendation CC-14: Conduct a Full Audit of Submissions Since the Inception
of the CC
- Recommendation CC-15: Communicate the Processes and Procedures of the CC
to the Messengers and the General Public
- Recommendation CC-16: Provide the CC with Adequate Funding
While some rubes might be upset by the lack of definitions of things like “sexual abuse” or “sexual misconduct,” this is short-sighted. Surely you can feel the patriarchy crumbling beneath the sheer weight and authority of the “processes to ensure that all submission have been addressed,” right?
I mean, obviously we will never have another instance of sexual abuse in the SBC ever again if we just get that dang statue!
I’m kidding, of course, but the problem is that the Guidepost Report is not. They’re both ridiculously serious and seriously ridiculous all at the same time.
9. The Guidepost Report Never Recommends Calling the Police in Cases of Sexual Assault or Child Sexual Abuse
While we have already talked about the lack of any definition of “sexual abuse” or “sexual assault,” I want to draw attention to something that is NOT in the report that is so shocking, it deserves its own section.
Despite the long list of strange recommendations, there is one of the recommendation you WON’T see in the entire Guidepost Report. Namely:
THERE IS NO RECOMMENDATION FOR ANYONE TO CALL THE FREAKING POLICE WHEN SEXUAL WRONGDOING OCCURS AGAINST CHILDREN.
That’s right. There is not recommendation to call the police. And if you think it’s not relevant, because this should merely be assumed, I can show you that this is not the case. On page 7 of the Guidepost Report, we read the following about former SBC President Jack Graham:
Former SBC President Jack Graham, when he was pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church, allegedly allowed an accused abuser of young boys to be dismissed quietly in 1989 without reporting the abuse to police. The accused abuser, John Langworthy, later was charged with abusing young boys in Mississippi in 2011;
That story was an OLD story, mind you, and not one that Guidepost found itself. You can see the story here at this link, and the story is complicated by the fact that the guy was not at the church very long, and there was merely “inappropriate behavior” with the young boy, not sexual assault when he was fired. The sexual assault conviction came more than 22 years later, and it concerned separate behavior at a different church.
So here’s the question: What was former SBC President Jack Graham supposed to do?
Good question, because the Report doesn’t say. You’d think in light of this acknowledgement of the danger, we’d get some recommendation on how to handle that situation of “inappropriate behavior” better? Nope. Not at all. Instead, the recommendations seem to say that rather than being “quietly” dismissed, the solution is that he should have been LOUDLY dismissed by reporting him to a permanent administrative entity that will (hopefully) keep his name on a list at the SBC.
Rather than a recommendation to call the police when sexual misconduct occurs, the closest thing that comes is a recommendation to “Create and Maintain a Resource Toolbox for Prevention and Response.” But guess what’s not in that Toolbox? That’s right:
CALLING THE POLICE IS NOT IN THE TOOLBOX.
That’s right. Immediately after a recommendation to create safe spaces (nope, that’s not a joke), rather than “contact the police,” the “Toolbox” offers bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo for how the permanent administrative entity can train others to internally investigate the matter:
Investigative Guidelines: We recommend that the Resource Toolbox provide a comprehensive foundation for conducting assessments and/or investigations, offer the assurance of consistency throughout the process, and demonstrate a commitment to a fair and credible process. Investigative guidelines may include guidance on conducting a competent, thorough and trauma-informed child or adult sexual abuse investigation; good faith reporting; confidentiality; retaliation; the CC Reporting Portal; updates and links to applicable laws, regulations, policies and comprehensive mandatory reporting obligations under the Federal Child Abuse and Prevention Act (CAPTA). (Guidepost Report, p. 264)
What the heck does that mean? I have no idea.
What I do know is that the only place that “contacting law enforcement” appears in the ENTIRE GUIDEPOST REPORT is in the recommendations, on page 267 of the report. They are giving a potential scenario for “Survivor Care and Support Specialists” who would be part of a new administrative entity created in Recommendation 7. This is what they say:
One model for SCSS could function as follows:
• SCSSs will intake and triage reports of sexual abuse. SCSSs employed at the SBC level will receive cases submitted to the online Reporting Portal or Sexual Abuse Hotline. SCSS will communicate with submitters and will assist by determining immediate needs, may connect with law enforcement (including mandatory reports), if appropriate, connect the submitter with local supportive services or other necessary resources, and explain the investigation and resolution process to the submitter.
• The SCSS will assist the submitter throughout the case.
Did you catch that? The SCSS will “triage” reports of sexual abuse and then the SCSS “may” connect with law enforcement (including mandatory reports). Huh? MAY connect? MAY connect with law enforcement (including mandatory reports) when mandatory reports ARE MANDATORY????
The SBC paid $2,000,000 for THAT? Isn’t that STRANGE? You bet it is!
So now, let’s talk about how this is more than bad advice. Instead, it also appears to be a bunch of grift by corporate bodies seeking to capitalize on the #MeToo zeitgeist.
10. The Guidepost Report Peddles #MeToo Grift Instead of Actual Solutions to an Actual Problem
In the previous post, I covered how the situation with independent churches in the SBC is a difficult procedural hurdle. People who do things that are suspicious, but not actually illegal, can move from independent church to another independent church until the moment they are caught. If all of this stuff was happening in a single organization, an HR department could keep track of it. But since the SBC is not a single organization, no such thing can happen, and “suspicious” activity can be hidden from others until it is too late.
While individuals are free to report anything they see, (after all, they SAW it, regardless of whether it was criminal), an organization does not have that same freedom. Organizations need processes to vet reports to determine if they are true or false. Therefore, any “reporting” of these suspicions by a church organization could lead to a devastating defamation lawsuit if the report is not accurate. Even if the report IS accurate, if you can’t prove it in Court, that could still be a problem.
But that’s not the only difficulty. Here is one lawyer giving an explanation of the Guidepost Report’s process, and how the DETAILS of the reporting to the SBC can kill the usefulness of the reporting mechanism:
The possibility of a reporting mechanism that is counter-productive is not worth doing. If a process cannot turn “suspicions” into accurate and actional reporting, then that is not an EXCUSE not to act, but it does show that there is DIFFICULT WORK to be done to make that process better. This is what the Guidepost Report SHOULD have done to help the SBC navigate that problem.
Unfortunately, the Guidepost Report does not help the SBC navigate this. While the Report is heavy on salacious allegations, it is thin on basic definitions, thin on clear details, and absolutely bereft of workable processes for SBC churches. The same problem that existed BEFORE still exists NOW: if the SBC broadcasts that someone is a sexual abuser, if the SBC cannot back it up with hard proof, they’re going to get sued out of their shoes. And worst of all:
THE ONLY SOLUTION OFFERED BY THE GUIDEPOST REPORT IS TO CREATE A BUREAUCRATIC ORGANIZATION THAT WILL CREATE THIS REPORTING PROCESS.
But HOW? Nobody knows. Here is the type of language we have guiding us, on page 262-263 of the Guidepost Report:
Establish Clear Duties and Responsibilities: If created, we recommend that
the Administrative Entity’s work include, but not be limited to, the following
• Create and oversee the Sexual Abuse Prevention program to include policies, training, and a Resource Toolbox (see Recommendation EC-3);
• Create and oversee the creation of a publicly available Offender Information System (OIS) (see Recommendation EC-5(b));
• Establish written criteria and make recommendations regarding screening, background checks when requested (see Recommendation EC-5(a));
• Engage in continuing education and research on the issue of sexual abuse; and
• Establish, define, revise and routinely review new criteria for the CC’s mandate for church disfellowship (see Recommendation CC8(b)).
• Manage a Survivor Support and Assistance Program (SSAP) (see Recommendation EC-7(a));
• Establish and facilitate a Survivor Compensation Fund Program (see Recommendation EC-7(b));
• Conduct good faith assessments/inquiries, when requested, on sexual abuse cases submitted through the Reporting Portal when requested by the church, state convention, or local association (see Recommendation EC-7(a)); and
• Conduct good faith assessments/inquires for disfellowship of churches’ regarding sexual abuse (see Recommendation EC7(a));
3. Advisory Duties:
• Serve as a voluntary advisory resource to state conventions, local associations, entities, and churches on best practices in the area of sexual abuse;
• Form an advisory group consisting of the prevention and response administrators/liaisons from entities included under Bylaw 14; and
• Make recommendations to the CC based on these requested assessments/inquires.
4. Data Collection:
• Oversee, monitor and collect annual submissions of information from entities, and voluntary submissions from state conventions, local associations and churches to evaluate the effectiveness of
these Best Practices.
Um…. so how will we know that the reports will be accurate? “Because recommendation EC-2(c) says that after the report, we will have a “good faith” inquiry.” Um…. okay, but what is “good faith”? “That’s Faith that is good!” Um… but how do we know that we won’t get sued for defamation if we’re wrong?
The report doesn’t say. Maybe if we pay Guidepost another $2,000,000, they’ll tell us the answer the the problem the SBC was trying to figure out from the very beginning.
THAT IS STRANGE, ESPECIALLY SINCE GUIDEPOST WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AN INDUSTRY LEADER IN THIS FIELD OF COMPLIANCE AND PROTECTING PEOPLE FROM SEXUAL ABUSE.
So, yes, that’s a little troubling that we didn’t get an answer to the MAIN QUESTION that was plaguing the SBC.
But the real danger would be if the SBC was facing a difficult problem, and instead of getting clear solution, the SBC paid $2,000,000 to a corporate leech that is running a grift on PR-vulnerable organizations. It would be horrible if we ever saw evidence of that regarding Guidepost, a respected organization in the field of sexual ethics, wasn’t necessarily up to the task of advising the largest Christian denomination in the United States on sexual ethics.
OH LOOK! IT’S PRIDE MONTH!
But back to our story.
The danger here is the possible grift of the Guidepost Solutions Report. And we do have evidence of that grift in the Report. For example, we have a clear case of conflict of interest in this Guidepost Report that leads to some financial issues.
Remember that Rachel Denhollander was connected to Jennifer Lyell? Well, one of the recommendations seems to be TAILOR MADE to help Jennifer Lyell in her situation:
Recommendation EC-17: Implement Principles for Baptist Press
EC17. Implement Principles for Baptist Press
17(a). Baptist Press should commit to seek and report truth by: acting independently,
ensuring accuracy, verifying information, and using original sources where
17(b). Baptist Press should minimize harm by balancing the public’s need for
information against potential harm or discomfort. Baptist Press should use
heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and
sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent
(Guidepost Report, p. 274)
That is general and bureaucratic language that not-so-subtly says that the Baptist Press did a bad thing by not reporting on the DEFINITELY CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIP between Jennifer Lyell and David Sills in a pro-Lyell manner.
And it is not just me commenting on the conflict of interest. Here is what the Daily Wire reported:
Though Denhollander is not a member of a Southern Baptist Church herself, she has played an outsized role in how the denomination has approached abuse reforms. Three key motions led to the creation of the task force and set the parameters for investigating the executive committee. Denhollander helped craft all three.
Pastor Grant Gaines, who was a co-sponsor of the motion to form the task force, told me Denhollander offered him advice on how to make sure the investigation would be thorough, including a requirement that the executive committee waive attorney-client privilege, a blanket move several non-SBC attorneys I spoke to said they would never advise a client to make.
Once the task force was set up, Denhollander was also appointed to advise it. Multiple sources speaking under the condition of anonymity told me that not only was she instrumental in the decision to hire Guidepost, she was in regular communication with the company’s CEO, Julie Wood, as the investigation was ongoing.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
The story goes on to cite on-the-record legal experts who have serious problems with Denhollander’s involvement, and then concludes with the following:
There’s no question the language in the report is at times one-sided, as when it describes Lyell’s emails to the committee as “respectful,” but does not note that the committee’s replies are equally polite, even solicitous.
. . .
Denhollander is not critical of all SBC leadership, and among those she has highlighted as an ally is former SBC president and Raleigh megachurch pastor J.D. Greear.
The only mentions the report makes of Greear are positive, positioning him as one of the few top SBC leaders to make a sincere effort to address abuse. It makes no mention of the fact that in 2021, Greear hired executive pastor Bryan Loritts, aware that Loritts had been accused of covering up sex crimes at a previous church.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
Note that it seems the only reason we know what Jaime Jordan, Augie Boto, and Sing Oldham told the Baptist Press to do regarding Jennifer Lyell’s story is that ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGE WAS WAIVED. Why else are we reading the legal advice given by SBC attorneys? Also note that since the information was handed over, Jennifer Lyell was able to have a nice settlement with the Executive Committee.
Are you starting to see the grift?
Here’s another example of how “grift” can get inserted into this document. This is from the scope of engagement:
3.10 In order to provide appropriate support for survivors, Guidepost will consult with the Task Force to create a dedicated and trauma-informed resource to assist survivors by serving as an additional reference and communication point for the survivors during the investigation, including but not limited to assisting with access to accurate information and support. Guidepost will subcontract for this resource. (Guidepost Report, Appendix 1, p. 7)
This is weird, because Guidepost was ALREADY tasked with communicating with survivors during the investigation. But now, there is ANOTHER communication point for survivors during the investigation. It is confusing as to why Guidepost cannot provide “access to accurate information and support” for these survivors. Regardless, the command is given in the next sentence. Importantly: Guidepost WILL subcontract for this ADDITIONAL REFERENCE AND COMMUNICATION POINT. In other words:
THE SCOPE OF ENGAGEMENT TO GUIDEPOST EXPLICITLY ASKED FOR GUIDEPOST TO PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DUPLICATE TASKS ALREADY BEING DONE BY GUIDEPOST.
Isn’t that STRANGE?
ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE THE GRIFT?
And if there were hundreds and hundreds of these survivors calling Guidepost Solutions, I can understand how they would be overwhelmed by this task. It might be necessary to hire an outside vendor for this stuff. I wonder how many survivors they talked to? Oh, wait…. ….that’s in the report:
In total, we spoke with 22 survivors over the course of the investigation.
(Guidepost Report, p. 27)
That’s right. Two million dollars, twenty-two people.
ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE THE GRIFT?
Here’s another example of “grift” in the Guidepost Report. This comes in the recommendation to provide trauma and sexual abuse training to the Credentials Committee that is supposed to investigate whether churches are following the SBC’s guidance on sexual abuse:
CC-3. Provide trauma and sexual abuse training for CC members.
3(a). Training Requirements: All CC members should complete trauma and sexual abuse training such as Caring Well, ERLC standards of hiring, trauma care, reporting procedures, and how to interact with/care for survivors/submitters. New CC members should complete sex abuse training/Caring Well before the first CC member orientation meeting.
3(b). Training Expert: If the Convention establishes a new Administrative Entity, the trauma-informed experts on staff with the new Administrative Entity should provide training to CC members, including training on the definition of abuse in the context of church/resolutions. If the Administrative Entity is not established, the EC should contract with a third-party trauma-informed expert to provide formal training to the CC.
Hm…. ….I wonder who that “third-party trauma-informed expert” would be? Oh, Hello Rachel Denhollander, adviser to the Guidepost Report and Sexual Abuse Task Force who also happens to be a trauma-informed consultant who is able to provide formal training.
ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE THE GRIFT?
Here’s another example. In recommendation 16(b) to the Credentials Committee, we see the following language:
Key Factors for Budget: At a minimum, the budget should include funds for the CC to retain its own legal counsel when necessary, trainings, communication programs, staff resources and third-party investigation consulting when necessary.
I wonder what third-party would have experience not only with “trauma-informed” care, but also know whether or not large church organizations are following appropriate guidelines on sexual abuse and reporting sexual abuse? OH WAIT A MINUTE! HELLO AGAIN RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER
Do you get who the central figure is in all of this? And if so, let me ask again:
ARE YOU SEEING THE GRIFT OF THE GUIDEPOST SOLUTIONS REPORT?
In other words, some things don’t make sense only because you do not understand the REAL goal of the people who are doing these things that don’t make sense. When you see the real goal, things start to make sense.
The Guidepost Report does not make any sense in pursuit of making sense of the SBC issues with sexual abuse. It makes A TON of sense when it comes to settling political scores in the SBC and making certain high profile people very rich.
That is the grift.
11. There Are Multiple Levels of SBC Political Spats on the Inside and Outside of the Guidepost Report
This has been a long post, but I think it is worth it. I think we need to go back in time and remember the Caring Well Conference with Russell Moore and Rachael Denhollander.
The title of this talk was “What is a girl worth?” In light of everything I’ve seen surrounding this Guidepost Report, that’s a good question. In light of the strange importance that Rachael Denhollander has had with this very expensive report, I’m starting to wonder myself how much Rachael Denhollander is worth these days.
But at the time of this 2019 Caring Well Conference, there was a lot of strife in the SBC. Not very many people were happy about Russell Moore, and as the leader of the Executive Committee of the SBC, Mike Stone began looking into that, because it seemed to be having an effect of churches leaving the SBC. Russell Moore was not happy about this. He wrote about it in the two letters that were – ahem – LEAKED to the press, right before the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention, when Mike Stone was running for SBC president. This is also in the wake of Beth Moore leaving the SBC, saying that it was misogynistic organization. The issue of “Critical Race Theory” was all in the news and in SBC politics, because, if you don’t remember, the entire country caught on fire the year before in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Things go very heated when Russell Moore leaked – I mean… when SOMEONE leaked Russell Moore’s letters to SBC media organizations, causing a firestorm and leading to Ed Litton’s election to the SBC Presidency (which would soon thereafter go down in flames when it was revealed the was blatantly plagiarizing the sermons of the previous SBC President).
But this Caring Well Conference did not happen in a vacuum. It happened when there was a contentious SBC Presidential election in 2019, when the issue of “critical race theory” started to come up in the SBC. There was a race between Mike Stone, Al Mohler, and J.D. Greear (the incumbent), that was quite contintious because the issue of “critical race theory” started being raised.
Mike Stone (one of the targets of Hannah-Kate Williams’s lawsuit in 2021) was extremely upset at being called someone who covers for child-sex-abusers. That’s why he filed a lawsuit in federal court for $500,000 against Russell Moore. You can see the complaint below:
And if you think it is petty that Mike Stone would file this lawsuit just because he lost the SBC Presidential election, you should know that there was a bigger reason for Mike Stone to be upset by the insinuation that he was covering for child abusers. Namely, because Mike Stone himself was sexually abused as a child.
In other words, things are DIRTY in Southern Baptist Convention politics.
This whole firestorm really got out of hand when Mike Stone’s committee in the SBC investigated Russell Moore’s activities, after Russell Moore’s interviewed with Rachael Denhollander – which called Jennifer Lyell an abuse victim” – caused problems in the SBC from people who knew that Jennifer Lyell was not an abuse victim. But this same political disagreement is still playing out, and you can see it in the dozens of pages in the Guidepost Report in which Mike Stone himself is mentioned. On page 77, he is chastised because when a married male church employee at a church in Georgia sent inappropriate text messages to a woman in counseling. He was brought before the congregation and had to apologize. Pastor Mike Stone (then the leader of the SBC Executive Committee) helped him draft the apology. Here’s what we read about how that apology went:
According to witnesses, the pastor agreed to apologize to the congregation and ask for forgiveness. They stated that the apology was drafted with the assistance of Mr. Stone. The witnesses recounted that the apology made by the pastor was not accurate, and that the survivor was blamed. The witnesses stated that they felt intimidated by Mr. Stone for bringing the pastor’s behavior to the attention of the deacons in the church. One witness attempted to call Mr. Stone and was instead contacted by Mr. Stone’s assistant who told him that Mr. Stone planned to help the pastor, not the church.
Apparently that’s a bad thing. But here’s the strange part. If it’s not accurate, why is this Mike Stone’s problem? He’s no expert on the facts. Is it now wrong to help draft an apology to a church for admitted sexual wrongdoing?
This type of backroom back-biting is all over the place in SBC politics and in the Guidepost Report itself. And that is why this line from the Daily Wire story is so important:
Many people within national SBC leadership circles told me, on condition of anonymity, that the subject of abuse has become a political football that various factions have been leveraging to settle bitter scores and sway the direction of the denomination on issues that have nothing to do with abuse, like allowing women into the pastorate. The initiation of the task force itself, relying on leaked letters that were then used as the impetus to demand investigations smacks of the dealings of politics more than pulpits.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment
If you don’t think that there is enough hatred in the world to use a report on sexual abuse to snipe at your political opponents, then you don’t know what’s going on inside Southern Baptist Convention politics.
By the way, after the Guidepost Report was released, guess who showed up to contribute to the Russell Moore show at Christianity Today?
That’s right. Rachael Denhollander.
I spent a lot of time reviewing this report. I have not even discussed how unreadable and poorly organized it is. I don’t know who chose the font, either, but they needed to spend some of that money to improve the layout. If nothing else, they should have at least spent money on the Adobe PDF upgrade so that when you click on a section, it takes you to the section. That’s just minor stuff.
However, if you have a question for Guidepost about the report, at least they will direct you to a very nice man in New York City that is very prompt in giving responses. So, at least there’s that. I have no complaints on that end.
But here’s the problem: Two million dollars was paid to given to Guidepost Solutions to produce this report. The report doesn’t have BASIC information like:
- a definition of “sexual abuse”;
- a definition of “sexual assault”;
- legal requirements for churches and SBC organizations regarding background checks for those working with children;
- guidance for the SBC or churches when observed activity that is not quite “sexual abuse” should be noted and tracked;
- how a pattern of concerning conduct, but not quite illegal conduct, should be elevated;
- how to differentiate between consensual sexual relations between consenting adults and abusive sexual relations between adults;
- a section on sexual abuse allegations that were handled correctly and dismissed (like Hannah Kate Williams);
- descriptions of the proper actions that should have been taken in cases where improper actions have been identified;
- an explanation of legal reporting guidelines for sexual abuse and sexual assault;
- a statistical analysis of the information on abusers and the SBC that the report reviews;
To wrap up, I must once again conclude with the same quote that should guide your understanding of the very strange problems with the Guidepost Solutions Report on Sexual Abuse and the SBC:
Many people within national SBC leadership circles told me, on condition of anonymity, that the subject of abuse has become a political football that various factions have been leveraging to settle bitter scores and sway the direction of the denomination on issues that have nothing to do with abuse, like allowing women into the pastorate. The initiation of the task force itself, relying on leaked letters that were then used as the impetus to demand investigations smacks of dealings of politics more than pulpits.Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment – https://www.dailywire.com/news/southern-baptists-metoo-moment