'Caring Well Challenge' on abuse to launch Sunday

By Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press on August 21, 2019

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The "Caring Well Challenge" to help Southern Baptists address sexual abuse will launch this Sunday (Aug. 25) in about 750 churches.

Caring Well Sunday will mark the next step in an eight-part, 12-month effort to help equip churches to prevent abuse and to care for survivors. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study jointly announced the "Caring Well Challenge" in early June and invited all Southern Baptist churches to participate.

Churches may continue to sign up for the challenge at caringwell.com.

The "Caring Well Challenge" is part of a multi-faceted effort in the Southern Baptist Convention to address a crisis involving the failure of churches to protect and care for hundreds of sex abuse victims and to prevent perpetrators in many cases from continuing their abuses.

Caring Well Sunday -- whether Aug. 25 or another date -- is an opportunity for participating churches to launch and explain the initiative.

"I am grateful so many churches are committed to the challenge to become safe for survivors and safe from abuse," ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. "This unified call to action, the 'Caring Well Challenge,' is a resource to equip churches to do everything we can to combat the satanic evil of sexual abuse. I pray this coming Sunday is a significant first step as churches across our convention launch many needed efforts."

In a video for Caring Well Sunday, SBC President J.D. Greear said the challenge is a process of "first listening, then learning, assessing and launching needed initiatives to ensure that a church is doing everything it can to prevent abuse and to care for abuse survivors. [T]he church should be a place of refuge for the most vulnerable. It takes all of us working together to help prevent abuse and to care for survivors."

According to information on the challenge at the ERLC's website, Caring Well Sunday enables each participating church to:

-- Acknowledge the need to become more aware of, prevent and respond to instances of abuse;

-- Explain the "Caring Well Challenge;"

-- Introduce its "Caring Well" team of members who will lead the effort;

-- Pray for survivors processing their own abuse, the "Caring Well" team and the growth of the church in the area of abuse.

Resources provided at caringwell.com/challenge/launch/ for Caring Well Sunday include videos of Greear and Moore, bulletin inserts and a prayer of lament Greear offered at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June.

The ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study began their collaboration when Greear -- pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area -- formed the fluid study group shortly after his election as SBC president in June 2018. The group has received input from hundreds of people, including abuse survivors and their advocates, lawyers, pastors, law enforcement officials, counselors and denominational leaders.

The ERLC and the Advisory Study worked with LifeWay Christian Resources to produce "Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused." The new, free multimedia resource released in early June is a comprehensive training curriculum that consists of a handbook with 12 video lessons from experts in a variety of areas.

The Sexual Abuse Advisory Study issued a 52-page report, also in early June, that recommended several steps of action intended to help combat abuse and to care for survivors. The Advisory Study made a presentation at the SBC's annual meeting June 12.

Each church that participates in the "Caring Well Challenge" makes a commitment to take eight steps during the next year:

-- Commit to the "Caring Well Challenge."

-- Build a "Caring Well" team to lead the church's effort.

-- Launch the "Caring Well Challenge" on Aug. 25 or a similar date.

-- Train your team at the 2019 ERLC National Conference, which is Oct. 3-5 in Grapevine, Texas. The conference theme is "Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis."

-- Equip leaders through the "Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused" curriculum.

-- Enhance church policies, procedures and practices related to abuse.

-- Dedicate Sunday services on May 3, 2020, or a similar date to address abuse.

-- Reflect on the "Caring Well Challenge" at the 2020 SBC annual meeting.

All the SBC's entities, 37 Baptist state conventions, and many Baptist associations and colleges have encouraged the "Caring Well" effort. Moore will preach at Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn., as it launches the “Caring Well Challenge.”

Registration for the ERLC National Conference is available at erlc.com/upcoming-events/2019-erlc-national-conference.

See J.D. Greear discuss the Caring Well Challenge:

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