Monday, May 23, 2022

Report Finds Southern Baptist Convention Mishandled Sexual Abuse Allegations

Yesterday, the report of an independent investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations was released. The 288-page report (full text) (Appendix 1 & 2) summarizes its findings in part:

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....

The Report also disclosed:

During the course of our investigation, an SBC pastor and his wife came forward to report that former SBC President Johnny Hunt (2008-2010), who was the immediate past SBC President at the time, had sexually assaulted the wife on July 25, 2010. The allegations include grooming of the wife during Dr. Hunt’s term as SBC President. At the time of the allegations, Dr. Hunt was also Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia.

The Report also sets out a series of recommendations to improve SBC's response to sexual abuse and misconduct allegations in the future.

Houston Chronicle has more on the Report.