Southern Baptists Outraged After Recent Inner Church Scandals

By Seth Cutler | Sunday, 29 May 2022 20:30
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Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the most extensive Protestant sect in America, stonewalled and insulted survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades while striving to protect their reputations, according to a third-party examination sought by the church's leaders.

These survivors, and other concerned Southern Baptists, frequently shared allegations with the SBC's Executive Committee, “only to be met, time and time again, with opposition, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC,” stated a 288-page investigative report disclosed on Sunday. The seven-month investigation was led by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm hired by the Executive Committee after diplomats to last year's national meeting pressed for a probe by outsiders.

“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC's response to these reports of abuse... and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC,” the report stated.

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“In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” the statement reported.

The report claims that an Executive Committee staffer held a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication anyone “took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.” The most recent list includes the names of hundreds of abusers thought to be affiliated at some point with the SBC. Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers.

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SBC President Ed Litton, in a report Sunday, stated he is 'grieved to my core' for the victims and thanked God for their work propelling the SBC to this moment. He called on Southern Baptists to lament and prepare to change the denomination's culture and implement reforms. “I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these failures and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim,” Litton declared, referring to the California city that will host the SBC's national meeting on June 14-15.

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Among the report's key requests are to form an independent commission and afterward establish a permanent administrative entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and affiliated misconduct within the SBC. Creating and maintaining an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders is also being advised by third-party investigators while providing a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information on sexual abuse is also on the agenda.

Restricting the use of nondisclosure agreements and civil settlements which secure survivor's confidentiality in sexual abuse matters, unless requested by the survivor will likely take effect too. The debate over whether to do so led to the resignation of the Executive Committee's President, Ronnie Floyd, who was SBC President between 2014 and 2016 and was once on former President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory panel.

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