Dear Houston's First Family,
I would like to share my heart and thoughts about the recent report concerning the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and Executive Committee. I, like you, was dismayed and grieved by the terms of the report.
Thousands of Southern Baptist messengers representing millions of people requested this report last year in Nashville at the SBC Annual Meeting in order to identify the problems, sins, and issues surrounding sexual abuse and its handling. As difficult and heartbreaking as the report is, we requested it to bring needed change.
While the report’s primary focus concerns the SBC Executive Committee, on which there are no Houston’s First church members or staff members serving, I want you to know what your church is doing to protect against sexual abuse.
As you know, I just finished teaching about Song of Songs. Each week, I strongly and lovingly declared God’s plan for sexual intimacy inside a lifelong and sacrificially loving marriage between a man and woman.
In addition to biblical preaching, our church believes in effective policies. Before the report was commissioned or presented, we were actively reviewing and strengthening our own policies. The fortification of our procedures at Houston’s First is not a reaction to the latest news but a purposeful long-term plan.
In January 2022, we released our revised CYSNA (Children, Youth, Special Needs Adults) Protection Policy. Every adult volunteer and staff member who works with our CYSNA community must complete a 10-step process before being approved to work in any CYSNA ministry, including a background check. In addition, minors wanting to volunteer must complete certain CYSNA requirements for approval to serve with our CYSNA community. To take it further, we require every staff member at every campus, regardless of their job, to go through this training and approval process. I have personally completed this training as well. From the pastor to the pew, staff and volunteers know we are serious about this. To our church’s credit, our people have welcomed these processes.
We have two full-time staff members leading our CYSNA process and our church has spent a tremendous amount of time and resources to make Houston’s First a safe place. Learn more about our CYSNA Protection Policy and our dedicated staff members here: A Culture That Cares.
Of course, we want to protect people of all ages. We as a church are heartbroken for anyone who has experienced abuse of any kind, and we seek its prevention. We have established guidelines in place for how we will respond to any allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of the ages of those involved. The victim-centric guidelines address detailed steps to be taken during the accusation and investigation phases, safety measures to be provided for the victim during the process, how the matter will be deliberated, and what potential next steps will be taken.
Finally, even though I am grieved deeply by the SBC report, my faith makes me hopeful. If you have experienced abuse of any kind, I am so sorry. I pray that our church can be an oasis of healing for your pain. We are broken-hearted for your pain, yet also hopeful that the Lord can meet you in your greatest need. Let us as individuals and as a church body do everything possible to prevent abuse of any kind and to give care to those who have been abused.
Prevention and care are our goal and heart. Our CYSNA Protection Policy and related staff training are examples of our efforts of prevention, and our guidelines for responding to allegations demonstrate our desire to care for victims and to hear their stories. Every one of our ministries, especially the Julianna Poor Memorial Counseling Center, desires to be active in caring for those in need. Let us not give up on the Lord or His church. Jesus is real and alive, and He truly loves us and restores us.
Houston’s First family — you are loved! Let’s continue to seek the Lord together for His glory. The church in God’s hands and following God’s heart can make a God-sized difference.
In the hope of Jesus,
Pastor Gregg Matte