Southern Baptist Presidential Hopeful Addresses Abuse Report Ahead of Convention

Sage Showers on May 31, 2022

A message of renewal must be more than just talk of action. It requires long-term faithfulness, confronting patterns of misdirection, and a return to biblical justice and mercy. Occasionally, this will mean revisiting structure and procedures that have failed the church in the past, or the lack thereof, and acknowledging deficiencies and need for reform. Some will resist this conversation, but that resistance will ultimately stagnate and discourage church reform.

If we want to see our institutions flourish, we must be willing to change.

This week, Tom Ascol, Graham Gunden, and Voddie Baucham hosted a conversation on the Sword and the Trowel, a podcast produced by Founders Ministries, a network of Calvinist Southern Baptists. The conversation is titled “TS&TT: Voddie Baucham | Regenerate Church Membership & Sexual Abuse in the SBC | #ChangeTheDirection” . Ascol is the president of Founders Ministries and the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. He is also an SBC presidential hopeful. Gunden is the Assistant Pastor at Grace Baptist Church, and co-hosts The Sword and The Trowel podcast with Ascol. Baucham is an SBC 2023 Pastors Conference presidential candidate, and currently serves as Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia.

Founders Ministries addresses contemporary issues facing the church from a complementarian, religiously conservative perspective. The group has been criticized by SBC members who believe Ascol represents a return to hyper-traditionalism. Ascol and leaders in his circle have been vocal in their criticism of the current SBC Executive Committee, and released a statement to that effect on the Founders website, “But the Southern Baptist Convention badly needs a change of direction. While baptisms and evangelism continue their freefall, a small group of leaders steers our institutions ever closer to the culture, from radical feminism masked as ‘soft complementarianism’ to the false gospel of Critical Theory and Intersectionality.”

The podcast conversation revolved mainly around the recent Sexual Abuse Task Force Report commissioned by the SBC that outlines two decades of sexual abuses in SBC churches.

“I think the SBC is in trouble. I really do,” Baucham said, describing the “magnitude of unfaithfulness” in the SBC over the last few years, alluding to a “ripple effect” of issues and a need for the change in direction. Ascol called the report “heartbreaking.”

Ascol said that the problem lies in falling away from the Bible, and attributed the issues in the SBC to a “rebelling” against God.

“We must humble ourselves, confess our sins, and look to God for mercy, and pray that He will show us that. And commit ourselves to doing what the Word says, regardless of the cost or consequences,”Ascol insisted. 

At one point Ascol said that the SBC has an opportunity to address the sexual abuse task report as a part of a large problem of “living contrary to the Word of God.” Ascol made the crucial point that “sin is inevitable. Sin is not what wrecks a church, it’s how we choose to deal with it.”

The conversation took a concerning turn when Baucham implied that more women in leadership in the modern world is part of the problem.

“There are a lot of people who are coming at this and saying that the problem is not necessarily our polity, but the problem is our position on women. And that if we had more women in positions of authority, then that would mitigate this problem. And if you believe that, then I would ask you to look at the government education system, which is overwhelmingly female, at every level, and has far more sexual abuse than anything the SBC has ever seen. It is far more egalitarian, and does not hold to our positions on leadership, on male leadership. And it is a far less comfortable place, far less safe place for women, and for children, than the Southern Baptist Convention has been,” Baucham declared.

The claim was met with overwhelming approval from the other men.

“Your point about the egalitarianism in the public school education system is a brilliant point, because that’s another thing I’m afraid people are going to try and do,” Ascol commended Baucham.

Disappointingly, Gunden’s only contribution revolved around the culpability of women in situations of abuse.

“This brings up another issue in broad evangelicalism,” Gunden commented. “Sometimes we behave as though men are sinful human beings and women really not so much so. So we tend to minimize the sin of women, the sins of women are kind of lesser sins, the sins of men, those are the real serious sins driving the church into destruction.” He denied that this viewpoint is “victim-blaming” and said that the church needs to “get serious” about the sin of everyone in the church. “The sin of women can be just as destructive to families, to churches, to our nation, as the sin of men.”

Gunden seemed unaware of the content of the report in question. If he had knowledge of the horrifying evidence in the recent report of consistent victim-blaming that has occurred against women in Southern Baptist churches, he would have chosen better wording. Instead, his ignorance belied the troubling cycle of denial and ignorance found in SBC leadership.

If Ascol truly desires a recommitment to the Word of God as he stated, he must wake up. Is further denunciation and belittling of women really a restorative path forward for church discipline? The SBC must answer that question in their June Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA. How will they condemn past sin and ensure this trauma cycle ends? We can hope, and pray, for the best.

  1. Comment by David Gingrich on June 4, 2022 at 7:44 am

    Great thanks to Pastor Bruce Frank for his leadership in this important issue. This issue will never be 100% removed from any large organization, but the SBC is showing integrity and faithfulness here. Praying for their work.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.