Bart Barber, the newly-elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), recently bared the composition of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF).

According to a report by The Baptist Messenger, Barber issued the announcement as part of the task given to him by the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) led by Bruce Frank.

Frank, a North Carolina pastor, heads the SATF.

ARITF Composition

The Baptist Messenger article identified the ARITF members as follows:

  • Chairperson - Marshall Blalock

  • Vice-chairperson - Mike Keahbone

  • Members - Todd Benkert, Jarrett Stephens, Melissa Bowen, Jon Nelson, Brad Eubank, Gregory Wills, and Cyndi Lott

Barber explained that ARITF members would have assistants joining them in their tasks. 

He added that he would soon announce the names of those consultants.

The SBC president likewise said that the group comprises individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Barber revealed that the members include attorneys, clergy sexual abuse survivors, pastors, and teachers. One member was falsely accused of sexual abuse, Barber revealed.

He said that ARITF members belong to the SBC

The members reportedly represent different church populations within the SBC's jurisdiction.

Barber added that ARITF, which would operate for a year subject to renewal, would benefit from its members' and consultants' different fields of expertise.

The Baptist Messenger report said that the experts have backgrounds in law, sexual abuse, trauma-informed counseling, the Bible, and Southern Baptist polity and history.

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Why ARITF Was Created

The report said that Barber's creation of ARITF was part of SATF's recommendations, which came from the SBC's Anaheim meeting.

The Baptist Messenger bared that SATF recommendations followed Guidepost Solutions' investigation and study into SBC's Executive Committee. 

The study reportedly lasted for one year.

"The purpose of this task force is to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention in our efforts to shut the doors of our churches to those who would act as sexual predators and to wrap our arms around survivors and those who love them," The Baptist Messenger quoted Barber saying.

Other SATF Recommendations

Aside from the creation of ARITF, SATF's recommendations provided for creating a website called "Ministry Check."

The article said ARITF would handle the website creation. 

The same task force would also send a report to SBC, including the website's cost, feasibility, and effectiveness.

The Ministry Check website would be crafted and maintained by ARITF's recommended third-party contractor, The Baptist Messenger revealed.

About Bart Barber

According to an NBCDFW report, Bart Barber won the SBC presidency in June this year during its annual meeting in Anaheim, California.

Barber reportedly garnered 61% of the total votes, while his closest competitor, Tom Ascol, got 39% of the votes.

The report said that Barber heads the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and is a known Southern Baptist conservative.

The 52-year-old pastor was SBC's first vice president from 2013 to 2014 before his election as SBC president this year.

The same report added that Barber served as Texas Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's trustee for 10 years (2009-2019).

During his stint in the seminary, Barber reportedly co-authored a bill that shields charities and churches from any civil liability for identifying and reporting individuals with sexual abuse allegations.

That same proposal became Texas law in 2019, the article said.

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