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Friday, October 24, 2008

Southern Baptist Convention Requests Background Checks for Missionaries

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is urging short-term missionaries to pass background checks before leaving for the field.

Though not mandatory, a child protection policy would not apply to mission trips taken independently of the International Mission Board.

The policy reads, in part, "Because almost everyone serving on the mission field interacts with children, we are asking that all short-term mission trip participants ages 18 and older have child protection training and go through a background screening process.”

Effective January 1, 2009, the process will include references, a criminal background check and an interview by local churches.

Ken Winter, vice president of the International Mission Board, noted that having to consider such a policy was regrettable, but because of incidents within local churches, the policy is deemed necessary.

"We know that many Southern Baptist churches are already providing background checks and training for members who are serving in local church ministry, but it may not extend to those headed overseas as a part of a mission team."

Anyone refusing to submit to a background check will not be allowed to travel as a mission with the International Missionary Board. Too, anyone with a history of sexual abuse may not serve on board-related mission trips.

The Southern Baptist Convention has come under inquiry by abuse victims' advocates who have said their efforts to prevent sexual abuse have been unsatisfactory. In 2007, the group passed a decree of "moral outrage" about child sexual abuse.

Earlier this year, the SBC Executive Committee chose not to pursue a planned database that would track clergy who have been accused of sexual abuse. The decision was based in part on the autonomy of local churches.

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