Marslender names Arizona Sexual Abuse Response Team

Jun 13, 2022

Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network President Jack Marslender has appointed a Sexual Abuse Response Team to review the recommendations coming out of Guidepost Solutions’ investigation, which was released publicly by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force May 22.

The Arizona team will “report to our annual convention in November with specific recommendations on what our Arizona network can do to make sure that we have the necessary tools and procedures to protect our children, members, and attenders,” Marslender wrote in his announcement of the team.

Ashley Evans, senior pastor of 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tucson and former Arizona Southern Baptist Convention president, is leading the team. Other team members are:

  • Lauren Belcher, northern region program administrator for Arizona Baptist Children’s Services and member of Challenge Church in Flagstaff;
  • Dr. Lynn Coppola, an obstetrician/gynecologist and member of Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson;
  • Karla Cox, a stay-at-home mom and member of Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix, who is working on a biblical counseling certification;
  • Amy Medley, ministry assistant for the Church Life Team of the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network and member of Avondale Baptist Church, who is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical counseling through Wayland Baptist University;
  • Chad Murrell, lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale and Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network Zona Camp director;
  • Dan Snead, a retired financial industry executive with experience in insurance, security, safety, crisis response and investigations and member of North Phoenix Baptist Church; and
  • Robert (Bob) Van Horn, lead pastor of Real Life Church in Yuma, who has assisted in developing policy and procedures for “protection of minors in a ministry environment.”

Summer Nowak, director of abuse prevention and response administration for the International Mission Board, will serve as a consultant to the team.

David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network executive director, and Marslender will also meet with the team.

“I ask you to pray for the team,” Marslender said. “They have an important task and a short turnaround time. We want to be able to move forward with great confidence, knowing that we have done everything possible to make sure that our churches are safe and protected.”

Both Johnson and Marslender issued statements following the release of the Guidestone Solutions report.

“[W]e grieve over the reports of sexual abuse that have taken place in SBC churches, institutions, and entities over the past 20 or more years,” Johnson said. “We are saddened by the conduct of our leaders, and our hearts are broken for the victims and their families.”

He noted that resources for churches are available at azsbc.org/caring-well/.

“The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention stands against sexual abuse of any kind and has posted policies and procedures for our churches to follow to aid in preventing this type of behavior in our churches and among our leaders,” he said.

“We recognize the gravity of the recommendations made by Guidepost and the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force, and we commit to continue working toward making our churches and convention a safe place to be,” he concluded.

Marslender said he was “dismayed and disappointed” to read the Guidestone Solutions report.

“I went through the full range of emotions from disbelief to anger to frustration to a deep sadness — and ultimately to the commitment that we cannot just read the report and move forward without doing all that we can to make the necessary changes,” he said.

“We need to do better,” he continued. “We can no longer afford to use Baptist polity as an excuse. We can no longer let the fear of lawsuits keep us from doing a better job of loving and protecting our children and all who attend our churches.”

You may read the full announcement, which includes more information about the team members, and the full statements of Johnson and Marslender at azsbc.org/statement.

Updates from the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force may be viewed at sataskforce.net, and the full report may be accessed on their downloads page.

If you are/have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, please reach out for help at 202-864-5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com. All calls are confidential.

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