Report says Southern Baptist Convention leaders mishandled allegations of sexual assault

The report concluded that “survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with persistent inability for the BBC to take action,” even if this meant that convicted harassers continued to be in the ministry without notification or warning to their current stream. . Church or congregation.

According to an investigative report by Guidepost Solutions, abuse survivors and others within the Southern Baptist community contacted the SBC Executive Committee (EC) to raise awareness of child molestation and other forms of abuse perpetrated by people working in the church. As well as those who were on the pulpit, but were met with inaction.

Russell Moore, theologian and columnist for Russell Moore magazine, said theologian and columnist at Christianity today, in an interview with CNN’s Tom Foreman on Monday. “This report reveals that the crisis is just one word. This is the end of the world, revelation, collapse.”

In a statement, SBC said in part: “For members of the survivor community, we are saddened by the results of this investigation. We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent cases of sexual assault in churches in the future, to improve our response and care, to remove reporting barriers.”

SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with Estimated 14 million members across more than 47,000 churches. Last year, its members voted during the organization’s conference in Nashville to approve a task force to oversee an independent investigation after accusations and stories of abuse surfaced in the media.

The investigative firm combed through documents and interviewed current and former European Commission staff, guardians, witnesses, and survivors of sexual assault. The report indicated that a total of 330 people were interviewed. The investigation targeted the period between January 1, 2000 and June 14, 2021. This is what it found.

Report: The top priority was to avoid responsibility

The report sets a timeline for the Peacebuilding Agreement Executive Committee’s response to sexual assault issues from 2000 to 2021.

The European Commission is governed by 86 secretaries who serve for limited terms. During the SBC’s internal investigation, decisions about sexual assault were “largely left to the discretion” of the Executive Committee Chairman and CEO as well as his closest staff advisors, with “high-level issues” brought to the head of the SBC, according to the report. She said the trustees were not informed and did not participate in the decision-making process.

As a result, the report says, SBC’s response to allegations of sexual assault over the course of two decades has been driven in large part by a “small cadre of staff” as well as its outside lawyers.

The report stated that “allegations of abuse are often mishandled in a way that involves abuse of survivors,” adding that the main concern of staff and SBC law firm “was to avoid any potential liability to SBC.”

The report highlighted that the list, which began as early as 2007, was maintained by a European Commission employee who had been documenting reports of abuse for more than a decade; However, there was no indication that European Commission staff had “taken any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of authority in the SBC churches.”

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According to the report, the latest list prepared by the employee “included the names of 703 assailants, and 409 are believed to have belonged to SBC at some point.” As part of the review, Guidepost Solutions’ investigative team found that nine people accused of abuse were still in active service or associated with an active ministry, and two of them appeared to be linked to the SBC Church.

Several accounts included in the timeline indicate that some within the European Commission leadership have attempted to downplay or ignore the allegations to protect the SBC’s reputation and “avoid the risks of legal liability for sexual abuse” in its churches.

The report went on to say that victims who sought to shed light on the cases were considered “opportunists”, had a “hidden agenda of lawsuits” or “acted” like a professional victim.

the communications arm of the organisation, Baptist PressIt also helped avoid defendants to make them appear “unattractive and mischaracterize allegations of abuse,” the report said.

“We now know that the same people who were saying there can’t be a database – legally or in terms of Baptist policy – know there can be some kind of shadow database and themselves, not to protect the victims but to protect themselves,” he said. Moore, Christian Today’s columnist.

One of the top leaders named in the investigation was former SBC chief Johnny Hunt, who reported an SBC pastor and his wife sexually assaulted her on July 25, 2010, according to the report.

Chase Responding to the report’s request on Twitter by saying in part, “Frankly: I vehemently deny the circumstances and descriptions set forth in the Guidepost report. I have never mistreated anyone.”

The report said investigators found the allegations of sexual assault credible, in part because it was confirmed by witnesses. CNN has reached out to Hunt for further comments.

The timeline of events, the report says, shows how “the degrading attitude of survivors by some members of the European Commission continued into 2021”.

Changes will require ‘a significant amount of work’

Guidepost Solutions has proposed recommendations to improve how the SBC responds to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

“Some recommendations will require a significant amount of work, while others recognize the need for education and cultural change,” the report said. “Comprehensive implementation of these recommendations should help create safe spaces for children and all members of the Convention.”

Recommendations include:

  • Create and maintain an Offender Information System database to alert communities to known criminals.
  • Creation of an independent body, then a permanent administrative entity, to oversee comprehensive reforms.
  • Provide a Resource Toolbox that includes protocols, training, education, and practical information.
  • Restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements and civil settlements that require confidentiality.
  • Honor those affected with a sincere apology and a concrete gesture, accompanied by dedicated advocacy support for survivors and a compensation fund.

“Honestly, there has to be more than just structural reform, there is a cultural issue here that needs to be addressed,” Moore said. “I’m talking about a culture that can allow the kind of intimidation, harassment, and revenge against innocent people. The kind of cruel brutality that we can see in these reports. Not only would that require the bad guys to be held accountable, although that’s true, but good people not to look Away “.

SBC’s Executive Board will meet on Tuesday to discuss the report.

“We have asked the members and staff of the SBC Executive Committee to closely examine the findings and recommendations of this report and to begin formulating how they are incorporated into the structure and structure of the Southern Baptist Convention,” the SBC statement said.

The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting will be held next month in Anaheim, California.