Report: Southern Baptist Convention leaders covered up decades of alleged sexual abuse and misconduct while ignoring victims
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • one month ago • 1 comments
By: Dan Carson, Chron Senior Editor (Chron)
FILE - The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., is seen on Dec. 7, 2011. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, the Southern Baptist Conventionas Executive Committee has offered a public apology and a confidential monetary settlement to sexual abuse survivor Jennifer Lyell, who was mischaracterized by the denominationas in-house news service when she decided to go public with her story in March 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Southern Baptist Convention leaders routinely avoided punishing known sexual abusers in its churches for decades while silencing and intimidating victims of abuse, according to a bombshell report published Sunday by third-party investigator Guidepost Solutions.
Commissioned by Messengers of the Convention—a delegation of church leaders from across the country—in September 2021, the report alleges that for nearly two decades a small circle of leaders within the convention's 86-person Executive Committee stonewalled and ignored appeals by abuse survivors asking for help while collecting a list of alleged abusers without informing church members.
"Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior [Executive Committee] leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the [Executive Committee's] response to these reports of abuse," the report's summary states. "They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations."
The 400-page report consists of seven parts and two appendices, and is the product of 330 interviews and reviews of internal SBC documents dating back as far as January 1, 2000. It claims that former SBC President Johnny Hunt, who held office from 2008-2010, was among those accused of sexual abuse by members of the church. The document states that Hunt sexually assaulted the wife of a longtime SBC pastor on July 25, 2010 after "grooming" her and her husband with compliments and attention.
"The couple stated that, after the assault, they were silenced by Dr. Hunt and the staff counselor at First Baptist Church Woodstock, who convinced them they should not talk about what happened," the report states.
The investigation documents include testimony from former leadership, some of whom admitted to delaying or covering up instances of abuse when survivors came forward. It also details the SBC Executive Committee's continued resistance over the years to reform measures that would potentially protect its members from abuse, part of a sustained effort to shield the Convention from liability and potentially costly lawsuits.
"In recent years, as some within the SBC have been more open to reforms, they were met with opposition and antagonism from those resistant to change," the report states. "Finally, at the 2021 Nashville Convention, calls for reform reached a crescendo - the Messengers overwhelmingly voted to approve a Task Force to supervise an independent investigation into the EC's handling of sexual abuse allegations."
Investigators claim that Executive Committee leaders compiled abuse complaints and created a list of 703 accused abusers, 409 of which were believed to be affiliated with SBC at some point. Nine of these alleged abusers remain active in SBC ministry or are still connected to the church, according to the report.
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