Guidepost removes paragraph that included out-of-context Richards quote

Jim Richards, SBTC's executive director emeritus, preaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2017. SBTC PHOTO

GRAPEVINE—Guidepost Solutions recently removed a paragraph from its report on how the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee handled sexual abuse issues after repeated requests for clarification were made by Jim Richards, executive director emeritus of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

On page 105 of the original report, a Nov. 16, 2018, conversation between Richards and Phillip Bethancourt is referenced. Bethancourt, who pastors Central Bryan College Station, at the time served as executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. During that conversation, which focused on a conflict between the SBTC and ERLC’s scheduling of events, Richards is quoted as saying, “If you want a war, we’ll give you a war.”

In comments to the Texan on Tuesday, Richards admitted his remarks to Bethancourt were out of character for him, but said he had been frustrated that the ERLC had not been considerate of the state convention and scheduled an event at the same time of the SBTC’s Annual Meeting. However, when the remark was included in the Guidepost report, Richards felt that many construed it as being made in opposition to efforts within the SBC to create structures of accountability regarding sexual abuse practices and prevention—something he said is false.

“I would just like to get the truth out there that my name should have never been included in that report,” Richards told the Texan, “and that my conversation with Phillip had nothing to do with sexual abuse.”

Richards pointed out SBTC’s track record under his leadership in 2019 regarding sexual abuse issues, which included committing $250,000 in funding for MinistrySafe to assist affiliated churches with sexual abuse awareness, training, and prevention; providing $3,700 for church leaders to be trained at ERLC’s Caring Well Conference; and a decision by its Credentials Committee to adopt guidelines that would provide a process to disaffiliate any church that was considered being “indifferent to sexual abuse.”

Since his name was included in the 288-page report, which was released to the public on May 22, Richards said he has made multiple attempts to protest its inclusion and seek clarification so that his remark could be understood in its proper context. Part of that effort included contacting Bethancourt, who in turn communicated to Guidepost that Richards’ comment “was not related to sexual abuse at all” and that he was “grateful for the work that Jim and the SBTC did on matters related to sexual abuse.”

Richards also began reaching out to Guidepost, which he said never contacted him before publishing his name in the report. In response to Richards’ request, Guidepost completely removed the paragraph from the report. Even so, Richards still felt that a footnote should be added to page 105 of the report noting why the paragraph including the quote had been removed.

As of this publication, the paragraph remains omitted and no footnote has been added by Guidepost.

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Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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