Best Southern Baptists Locked Up by Stone Wall, Victims of Sexual Violence – NBC10 Philadelphia
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, have killed and denigrated survivors of sexual abuse of the clergy for nearly two decades in a bid to protect their own reputations, according to a scathing report.
These survivors, as well as other concerned southern Baptists, have repeatedly shared the allegations with the SBC Executive Committee, “only occasionally encountering resistance, comments and even open hostility from some in the EU,” the report said.
A seven-month investigation was conducted by the independent firm Guidepost Solutions, with which the executive committee contracted after delegates to last year’s national meeting demanded an investigation from outsiders.
“Our investigation has shown that over the years, several senior EC officials, together with outside lawyers, have largely monitored the EC’s response to these allegations of abuse … and have focused exclusively on avoiding responsibility for the SBC,” the report said.
To this end, survivors and others who reported abuses were ignored, disbelieved, or faced with the constant refrain that the SBC could not take any action because of its political activities regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that the convicted offenders continued to serve with no messages or warnings for their current church or congregation, ”the report added.
The report alleges that an Executive Committee member kept a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication that anyone “has taken any steps to ensure that the accused ministers no longer hold positions of authority in SBC churches.”
The latest list includes the names of hundreds of abusers who are believed to have been linked to the SBC at some point. Survivors and defenders have long called for a public database of abusers.
SBC President Ed Lytan said in a Sunday statement that he “mourns to the heart” for the victims and thanked God for their work, which has prompted the SBC so far. He urged southern Baptists to grieve and prepare for a change in denominational culture and reform.
“I pray that Southern Baptists will begin preparations today to take deliberate action to address these setbacks and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim,” said Litan, referring to the city in California to host the national meeting. SBC June 14-15. .
Among the main recommendations of the report:
– Establish an independent commission and then set up a permanent administrative structure to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms related to sexual violence and related violations within the SBC.
—Create and maintain an information system on offenders to alert the community to known offenders.
– Provide a complete set of resource tools, including protocols, training, education and practical information.
– Restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements and civil agreements that oblige survivors to maintain confidentiality in matters of sexual violence, except when the victim so requests.
The interim heads of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaren and Roland Slade, welcomed the recommendations and promised to make every effort to eliminate sexual violence in the SBC.
“We acknowledge that there are no labels,” they said. “We must all respond to this challenge through a thoughtful and prayerful application, and we must do so with Christ’s compassion.”
An extraordinary meeting of the executive committee is planned to be held on Tuesday to discuss the report.
The sexual assault scandal came to the fore in 2019 thanks to a landmark Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News report documenting hundreds of cases in southern Baptist churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remain in the ministry.
Last year, thousands of delegates to the SBC National Assembly made it clear that they did not want the Executive Committee to oversee the investigation into their own actions. Instead, they overwhelmingly voted in favor of setting up a task force to oversee third-party reviews. Litan, pastor of the Church of the Redemption in Saraland, Alabama, appointed a commission.
The task force had a week to review the report before it was published. The recommendations of the task force, based on the findings of the Guidepost, will be presented at the SBC meeting in Anaheim.
The report provides shocking details of how Johnny Hunt, a pastor from Georgia and former SBC president, sexually abused another pastor’s wife during a 2010 beach vacation. In an interview with investigators, Hunt denied any physical contact with the woman, but admitted he had communicated with her.
On May 13, Hunt, who was senior vice president of evangelization and leadership at the North American Missionary Council, the SBC’s internal missions agency, resigned, said Kevin Ezel, the organization’s president and CEO. Ezel said that until May 13, he “was not aware of any alleged violations” by Hunt.
The report details a meeting Hunt organized a few days after the alleged attack between the woman, her husband, Hunt and the pastor-counselor. Hunt admitted that he had inadequately touched the victim, but said that “thank God I didn’t end the relationship.”
Among those who reacted sharply to the Guidepost report was Russell Moore, who previously headed the SBC’s public policy wing but left the denomination after accusing top executives of hampering efforts to address the sexual violence crisis.
“Crisis is too small a word. This is an apocalypse, ”Moore wrote for Christianity Today after reading the report. “No matter how gloomy my view of the SBC Executive Committee is, the investigation reveals a reality far more vicious and systemic than I imagined.”
According to the report, Guidepost investigators who spoke to survivors of all ages, including children, said the survivors were equally traumatized by how churches responded to their reports of sexual abuse.
The survivors “spoke of the trauma of the initial abuse, but also spoke of the debilitating effects of the reaction of churches and institutions such as the SBC who disbelieved them, ignored them, mistreated them and failed to help them,” the statement said. report.
It cites the case of Dave Pitman, who from 2006 to 2011 called and sent letters and emails to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Convention Council, reporting that he had been abused by Frankie Wiley, a youth pastor of the Rehoboth Baptist Church when he was 12 years old. . up to 15 years.
Pitman and several others have publicly stated that Wiley harassed and raped them, and Wiley confessed to abusing “numerous victims” in several Baptist churches in South Georgia.
According to the report, a spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention told Pitman that the churches are autonomous and he has nothing left but to pray.
The report also tells of Christa Brown, who says that as a teenager she was sexually abused by the Minister of Youth and Education at her SBC church.
When she told the music minister about the abuse after months of abuse, she was told not to talk about it, according to a report that said her abuser also continued to serve in southern Baptist churches in several states.
Brown, who was one of the most outspoken survivors, told investigators that over the past 15 years she has received “numerous hate mailings, horrific blog comments and scathing phone calls.”
After reading the report, Brown told the Associated Press that it “fundamentally confirms what has been said for decades by sexual assault survivors from the southern Baptist clergy.”
“I see this investigation as the beginning, not the end. The work will continue, ”Brown said. “But no one should ever forget the human cost of what it took to even get the SBC to get closer to this starting line of the fight against sexual violence in the clergy.”
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