Here is Kate Shellnut at Christianity Today:
Armed with a secret list of more than 700 abusive pastors, Southern Baptist leaders chose to protect the denomination from lawsuits rather than protect the people in their churches from further abuse.
Survivors, advocates, and some Southern Baptists themselves spent more than 15 years calling for ways to keep sexual predators from moving quietly from one flock to another. The men who controlled the Executive Committee (EC)—which runs day-to-day operations of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—knew the scope of the problem. But, working closely with their lawyers, they maligned the people who wanted to do something about abuse and repeatedly rejected pleas for help and reform.
“Behind the curtain, the lawyers were advising to say nothing and do nothing, even when the callers were identifying predators still in SBC pulpits,” according to a massive third-party investigative report released Sunday.
Read the rest here.
Here is the executive summary of the 288-page report:
For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (“SBC”) Executive Committee (“EC”) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. They made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies, and contacted the press…only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.
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. 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. 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.
As survivors became more vocal and the issue of sexual abuse became more prominent in the media, divisions became apparent within EC leadership. 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. 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. The Motion called for inquiry into the actions and decisions of EC staff and members from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021, with respect to allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, patterns of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives. Our findings in these categories are summarized below:
Read the entire report here.
Here are some of the findings:
- SBC president Johnny Hunt (2008-2019) had sexually assaulted the wife of an SBC pastor on July 25, 2010. Yesterday Hunt resigned his position on the SBC’s North American Missions Board. Hunt denies the claims
- The Executive Committee’s approach to handling claims of sexual abuse in the SBC is summarized this way: “Their main concern was avoiding any potential liability for the SBC…those who who reported abuse were often ignored or told that the SBC had no power to take action.”
- The Executive Committee leadership knew about ministers charged with sexual abuse for more than ten years and did nothing. These men continued to hold positions of power in SBC churches. Nine of these men are still in “active ministry” with the SBC.
- The survivors of sexual abuse were often denigrated by members of the Executive Committee as “opportunistic” or having a “hidden agenda of lawsuits” or “wanting to burn things to the ground” or acting as a “professional victim.” Augie Boto, the Executive Committee’s general counsel, said that these survivors were engaged in a “satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism. He described their success in getting the word out about their abuse as “the devil being temporarily successful.”
- Baptist Press, the Executive Committee’s communication arm, “was also used to portray survivors in an unflattering light.”
- Former SBC President Steve Gaines admitted that, as senior pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, “he had delayed reporting a staff minister’s prior sexual abuse of child of “heartfelt concern and compassion for th[e] minister,” while acknowledging that he should have “brought it to the attention of our church leadership immediately;”
- Trump court evangelical Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, “allegedly allowed an accused abuser of young boys to be dismissed quietly in 1989 without reporting the abuse to police.” The abuser later abused young boys in Mississippi.
- Paige Patterson was fired from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 “after it was revealed that he told a student not to report a rape in 2003 and, in 2015, emailed his intention to meet with another student who had reported assault, with no other officials present, so he could ‘break her down.”
- Former SBC Vice-President, and leader of the conservative takeover, Paul Pressler, has been accused of sexually abusing young boys
- Augie Boto, the Executive Committee’s counsel, testified as a “character witness” for a gymnastics coach charged with sexual assault against a minor.
- Efforts to create an SBC database of accused molesters was rejected by the Executive Committee
- A 2014 effort to hold a sexual abuse education conference was rejected by Boto.
- When former SBC president J.D. Greaar mentioned the names of churches cited in a Houston Chronicle article series exposing sexual abuse in the church, the Executive Committee criticized him and Boto called-up one of the churches to apologize for Greear’s actions.
- Ronnie Floyd, president of the Executive Committee, opposed a Task Force to investigate the Executive Committee’s response to the sexual abuse in the SBC.
Here are some of the initial reactions to the report:
Tom Buck makes it about him:
Addendum (8:40am–May 23, 2022):