Second Baptist Church Houston provides assurance of policies in place to prevent sexual abuse

HOUSTON—In response to a request from the Bylaws Workgroup of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Second Baptist Church, Houston, provided evidence of detailed procedures and policies in place to prevent abuse, ranging from mandatory background checks to sexual abuse awareness training.

The request was prompted by a Feb. 18 report by SBC President J. D. Greear in which he named nine SBC churches referenced in reporting on sexual abuse cases by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, and said they should be asked to show the convention they are working to correct their policies and procedures relative to sexual abuse.

Among the allegations of sexual abuse within SBC churches, the investigative series released in February included the case of former Second Baptist Church employee Chad Foster, hired in 2007 to serve the Cypress campus, then fired in 2010 for “lying and other inappropriate behavior,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Another area church not affiliated with the SBC hired Foster but by November of 2011 authorities charged him with online solicitation of a minor, and in a separate case, sexual assault of a minor. Both churches denied any knowledge of Foster’s illegal activities while he was employed by them. However, it was during Foster’s time as youth pastor at each church that he developed relationships with the victims. He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2013 and was sentenced to five years in prison. Released in 2017, he lives in College Station as a registered sex offender according to the Texas Sex Offender Registry.

In a Statement on Sexual Abuse that was offered to both the Chronicle and the SBC Executive Committee Bylaws Workgroup, Second Baptist Church assured the SBC and its community of strict policies dealing with sexual conduct and abuse.

According to material supplied by John Card, media relations director for the church, background checks on all staff were begun in 1994, and expanded in 2001 to church volunteers working with children and youth. New employee training addresses physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as clarification of abuse reporting requirements. Video cameras are positioned in all nursery areas to assist with security and maintain safe spaces.

In addition to prohibiting any form of sexual harassment, the church conducts a full day of sexual abuse awareness training for all staff working with babies, children and youth. Participants are taught to recognize characteristics of sexual abusers and behaviors in “grooming” a child for sexual abuse, how to avoid one-on-one situations, looking for physical barriers that impeded views of gatekeepers, as well as explaining proper and improper physical contact and inappropriate communications.

The Statement also outlines the process for ordination, including 45 to 50 hours of weekly classroom meetings on knowledge and skills needed for a pastoral position. Extensive required reading, research and response papers are completed prior to confirmation by an ordination council.

“Policies, systems and procedures have been and are in place to do everything we can to ensure each person that sets foot on any of our campuses is safe from sexual predators,” the statement reads. Admitting that Second Baptist “is far from a perfect church,” the statement acknowledges grief over “every hurting individual that walks through the doors of our church, including sexual abuse victims,” and pledges ministry to those affected by sexual abuse. Eleven licensed Christian counselors are available at no cost to church and Bible study members.

The Bylaws Workgroup of the SBC’s Executive Committee outlined a 4-point standard to judge whether a church is “evidencing indifference” to threats of sexual abuse. Violation of one of the following points would trigger an inquiry: employing a convicted sex offender, allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors, continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church, or willfully disregarding compliance with mandatory reporting laws.”

The committee concluded no further inquiry is warranted based on information provided by Second Baptist Church, Houston. “It appears that the church has had, and continues to have significant, detailed procedures and policies in place to prevent abuse and properly respond to charges of abuse.”

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