Pastor Mike Keahbone, of First Baptist Church in Lawton, helps lead the task force designed to create the database system.
In order to be placed in the system, people would need to be “credibly accused.”
Keahbone said the criteria is this:
- Confessing in a non-privileged setting
- Convicted of a crime
- Having a civil judgment rendered against them
“We don’t want to put somebody on this list that shouldn’t be on there,” said Keahbone.
He explained that SBC leadership will vet the submissions from members to make sure they meet the criteria.
There is also a fourth category that is being discussed amongst the task force, but it might be redundant given the other criteria, said Keahbone.
“It’s a determination by an independent third party that is based on a preponderance of evidence, which what people don’t understand a lot of times is that the same standard – a preponderance of evidence – is the same standard used in civil litigation and civil judgments,” said Keahbone.
The pastor said once the details for this fourth category is ironed out, the system will be published.
This new database comes a year after the Houston Chronicle released a list of accused sexual predators within the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Every single one of those families’ lives were changed forever,” said Keahbone. “And it happened on our watch.”
The idea for a database is not new.
Wade Burleson, a former president of the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, said he brought it up to leadership in 2007.
Burleson said for years church leaders turned a blind eye to the problem.
“They end up covering up what it was that was exposed,” said Burleson. “And that predator goes to another church without that new church knowing of the predator’s past.”
A background check system for the SBC would bring more assurances to members, said Burleson.
“When a victim feels like they’ve been heard and that somebody is believing their report and that there’s accountability for the person who has crossed the boundary with them, I mean, it’s great encouragement,” said Burleson.
Not all members of the SBC are supportive of the system.
“They were actually people who said out of over 14 million Southern Baptists, they were only 700 plus cases of abuse. That’s not a problem,” recalled Keahbone. “I couldn’t believe those words would come out of somebody’s mouth or would show up in somebody’s email.”
Burleson said it’s important for the Southern Baptist Convention to prop up leaders willing to “deal with the rotten apples and get them out of a good barrel of apples to benefit society.”
“I am not for the deconstruction of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Burleson. “I’m for the SBC, but people from within have got to fight for what is right.”