Southern Baptists Sexual Abuse Victims Throw Stones at Walls: Report
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, have criticized and smeared survivors of clerical sexual abuse for nearly two decades while seeking to protect protect their own reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative report released Sunday.
The report said these survivors and other related Southern Baptists shared the allegations repeatedly with the SBC’s Executive Committee, “only to meet again and again.” different from the outright resistance, obstruction, and even hostility from some within the EC”.
The seven-month investigation was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent company contracted by the Executive Committee after delegates attending last year’s national meeting coerced outsiders to investigate.
“Our investigation found that, over the years, a number of senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse… and specifically focused on shirking responsibility for SBC,” the report said.
“To serve this goal, survivors and others who have reported abuse have been ignored, mistrusted, or faced with the continued restraint that SBC is unable to take action on its own behalf. their bodies regarding church autonomy – even if it means convicted harassers continue in ministry without notice or warning to the existing church or congregation theirs,” the report added.
The report asserts that an Executive Committee employee maintained a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication that anyone “has taken any action to ensure that the accused ministers no longer hold positions of power in the SBC churches.”
The most recent list includes the names of hundreds of abusers believed to have been affiliated with the SBC at some point. Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers.
SBC President Ed Litton, in a statement Sunday, said he was “deeply saddened to my core” for the victims and thanked God for their work that has pushed SBC to this point. He called on Southern Baptists to lament and prepare to change the sect’s culture and implement reform.
“I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these setbacks and chart a new course when we meet in Anaheim, ,” said Litton, referring to the California city that will host the SBC’s national meeting June 14-15.
Among the main recommendations of the report:
– Create an independent committee and then create a permanent administrative organization to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms related to sexual abuse and related misconduct in the SBC.
–Create and maintain a Crime Information System to alert the community to known offenders.
– Provides a comprehensive Resource Toolbox that includes protocols, training, education, and factual information.
– Limit the use of nondisclosure agreements and civil settlements that bind survivors to confidentiality in sexual abuse matters, unless the victim requests it.
Interim leaders of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin and Rolland Slade, welcomed the recommendations and committed to making full-time efforts to eliminate sexual abuse in the SBC.
They say, “We realized that there are no shortcuts. “We must all meet this challenge through judicious application and prayer, and we must do so with Christlike compassion.
The executive committee will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the report.
The sex abuse scandal was brought to the spotlight in 2019 by a landmark report from the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases at Southern Baptist churches, including some cases of alleged perpetrators are still in office.
Last year, thousands of delegates at the national SBC meeting made it clear that they did not want the Executive Committee to oversee an investigation into its own actions. Instead, they voted overwhelmingly to create a task force responsible for overseeing the third-party audit. Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, appointed the panel.
The task force had one week to review the report before it was made available to the public. The task force recommendations based on the Guidepost findings will be presented at the SBC meeting in Anaheim.
The report lays out shocking details of how Johnny Hunt, a pastor who lives in Georgia and was a former SBC president, sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife during a beach vacation in 2010. In an interview with investigators, Hunt denied any physical contact with the woman, but did admit he had interactions with her.
Kevin Ezell, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, said on May 13, Hunt, senior vice president of evangelization and leadership at the North American Missions Division, SBC’s domestic mission agency , has resigned. Ezell said, prior to May 13, he was “not aware of any alleged misconduct” on Hunt’s part.
The report details a meeting Hunt arranged days after the alleged attack between the woman, her husband, Hunt, and a consulting pastor. Hunt admitted to touching the victim inappropriately, but said “thank God, I didn’t satisfy the relationship.”
Among those who strongly reacted to Guidepost’s report was Russell Moore, who previously headed the SBC’s public policy wing but left the sect after accusing the Executive Committee’s top leaders. has stalled efforts to address the sexual abuse crisis.
“Crisis is too small a word. It’s an apocalypse,” Moore wrote to Christian Today after reading the report. “In light of the dark view I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovered a far worse and more systematic reality than I had imagined.”
According to the report, Guidepost investigators, who spoke with survivors of various ages, including children, said survivors were equally traumatized in the way that researchers church reacts to their reports of sexual abuse.
Survivors “talked about the trauma of initial abuse, but also told us about the debilitating effects of the response of churches and organizations like the SBC that didn’t trust them, ignore them.” , mistreating them and not helping them,” the report said.
It cites the case of Dave Pittman, who between 2006 and 2011 phoned and sent letters and emails to SBC and the Georgia Baptist Board to report that he had been beaten up by Frankie Wiley, a youth pastor at the House. worshiped Rehoboth Baptist abuse when he was 12 years old. to 15 years old.
Pittman and several others went public to report that Wiley sexually abused and raped them, and that Wiley admitted to abusing “multiple victims” at several Georgia Southern Baptist churches.
According to reports, an official with the Georgia Baptist Convention told Pittman that churches are autonomous and that he could do nothing but pray.
The report also tells the story of Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teenager by the minister of youth and education at her church SBC.
When she disclosed the abuse to the music minister after months of abuse, she was asked not to talk about it, according to the report, which said her abuser also continued to serve in Southern Baptist churches. in many states.
Brown, one of the most outspoken survivors, told investigators that over the past 15 years she had received “a lot of hate mail, horrible blog comments, and malicious phone calls.” “.
After reading through the report, Brown told The Associated Press it “basically confirms what Southern Baptist cleric sexual abuse survivors have been saying for decades.”
“I view this investigative report as a beginning, not an end. The work will continue,” Brown said. “But no one should forget the human cost of what they put in to get SBC to get to this starting point of starting to deal with clerical sexual abuse.”
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