A Guidepost Solutions report on an investigation of the alleged mishandling of a “crisis of sexual abuse” by leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention set to be released before the annual meeting of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in Anaheim, California, in June, has already exceeded more than $1.7 million in costs.
According to a report by the Baptist Press, the denomination’s official news service, while the budget submitted by Guidepost Solutions originally projected the investigation would cost between $1.3 million and $1.6 million, total invoices for the period October 2021 through February 2022 were $1,743,121.
Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Church in Arden, North Carolina who also chairs the Sexual Abuse Task Force said the cost of the investigation could have already exceeded $2 million had Guidepost Solutions not applied a $458,154 credit to the denomination’s February invoice.
“I am very grateful for the immense professionalism shown by Guidepost in dealing with a condensed time frame – due to EC delays – and a large project,” Frank told Baptist Press. “We are also grateful for the professional courtesy discount given by Guidepost due to this project’s importance.”
According to Baptist Press, trustees of the SBC’s Executive Committee originally voted to allocate up to $1.6 million for the investigation. At their February meeting, that allocation was increased to $2 million. Legal fees which were originally approved for $500,000, were also increased in February to $2 million.
The SBC Executive Committee announced on June 11 that Guidepost Solutions would review allegations made by the former leader of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, that SBC leaders intimidated whistleblowers and exonerated churches with credible claims of negligence of sexual abuse victims.
Guidepost Solutions was also commissioned to "review and enhance training provided to SBC Executive Committee staff and its board of trustees" as it relates to sex abuse and the organization’s "communications to cooperating churches and congregants in cooperating churches."
The investigation, funded by allocations from the Cooperative Program, is expected to cover the period from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021, and include a review of “actions and decisions of staff and members of the Executive Committee.” The investigation will also include an audit of the procedures and actions taken by the SBC Credentials Committee, a body formed at the convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, in June 2019.
Willie McLaurin, interim EC president and CEO, told Baptist Press that the current expenditures on the investigation reflect the wishes of Southern Baptists.
“The final authority and final accountability for how funds are spent is given by the messengers and the convention,” he explained. “Southern Baptist can be confident that while the investigation focused on the Executive Committee, the EC has diligently fulfilled the request of the messengers by funding the investigation. I am incredibly thankful that for such a time as this, reserve funds were available to use without having impact on our cooperative work.”
The SBC’s reserve funds are generated from gifts allocated through the Cooperative Program to the EC. Those reserves have been built over the years through investments and as of February stood at $15 million, with $12.2 million in unrestricted funds Baptist Press said.