Have you seen anything about this 300-page report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention? As I said at the top, it’s stunning and sad.
From the Associated Press: “A blistering report on the Southern Baptist Convention’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations is raising the prospect that the denomination, for the first time, will create a publicly accessible database of pastors and other church personnel known to be a abusers.”
Here’s how we got here. The Southern Baptist Convention itself asked for this report on sex abuse allegations. Guidepost Solutions compiled it. What the SBC got back is shocking to almost every member of the denomination. I say almost every member because the victims had to know.
There is a lot to digest here. The Washington Post has four key takeaways from this bombshell report.
1. Top leaders repeatedly tried to bury sex abuse claims and lied about what they could do. The report describes how key leaders engaged in a pattern of ignoring, stonewalling and even “vilifying” sex abuse survivors.
2. A former SBC president was considered “credibly accused” of sexual assault. Johnny Hunt was considered “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting a woman during a beach vacation in 2010, a month after his tenure as SBC President ended. Hunt has denied he abused anyone. “To put it bluntly: I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report. I have never abused anybody,” Hunt wrote in a statement.
3. Unheeded warnings went on for decades. The report describes a series of instances when leaders ignored warnings by sex abuse survivors and advocates. In fact, accusations were made with no follow up from the SBC.
4. Leaders seemed to put concern over potential litigation over people’s safety. The report says, “it is striking that many reform efforts were met with resistance, typically due to concerns over incurring legal liability.
Let me say this here. I was raised a Southern Baptist. I went to church three times a week in Paris, Texas. The First Baptist Church. Sometimes, I went even more. It was just the way it was back then.
Was it for my faith or social life that I went to church so often? Not sure. There wasn’t a lot to do in Paris, Texas, in the 1970’s.
Like so many, I left the church. Left religion. I learned I can practice my faith quite well on my own.
Did this report surprise me? Yes. Of course, you know that bad things happen. I’m not naive. What surprises me is that how many people in leadership roles in the Southern Baptist Convention knew and did nothing about it. That’s the worst part of all.
Now what? What does the SBC do with this report? Members are shaken. Upset. Ready for change.
The Southern Baptist Convention is set to meet for its annual meeting in the coming weeks. Whatever had been on the agenda, you can be certain this report will take priority.
Recommendations from the report include providing support for survivors of abuse and a survivor compensation fund.
Whatever the Southern Baptist Convention decides to do next, here’s the one big thing… it cannot be ignored.