Top Southern Baptists stonewalled sex abuse victims, report finds

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Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination, stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy enactment maltreatment implicit astir 2 decades portion seeking to support their ain reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative study issued Sunday.

These survivors, and different acrophobic Southern Baptists, repeatedly shared allegations with the SBC's Executive Committee, "only to beryllium met, clip and clip again, with resistance, stonewalling, and adjacent outright hostility from immoderate wrong the EC," said the report.

The seven-month probe was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an autarkic steadfast contracted by the Executive Committee aft delegates to past year's nationalist gathering pressed for a probe by outsiders.

The office  of the Southern Baptist Convention is seen successful  Nashville, Tenn., connected  Dec. 7, 2011. The office of the Southern Baptist Convention is seen successful Nashville, Tennessee, connected December 7, 2011. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

"Our probe revealed that, for galore years, a fewer elder EC leaders, on with extracurricular counsel, mostly controlled the EC's effect to these reports of maltreatment ... and were singularly focused connected avoiding liability for the SBC," the study said.

"In work of this goal, survivors and others who reported maltreatment were ignored, disbelieved, oregon met with the changeless refrain that the SBC could instrumentality nary enactment owed to its polity regarding religion autonomy – adjacent if it meant that convicted molesters continued successful ministry with nary announcement oregon informing to their existent religion oregon congregation," the study added.

The study asserts that an Executive Committee staffer maintained a database of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but determination is nary denotation anyone "took immoderate enactment to guarantee that the accused ministers were nary longer successful positions of powerfulness astatine SBC churches."

The astir caller database includes the names of hundreds of abusers thought to beryllium affiliated astatine immoderate constituent with the SBC. Survivors and advocates person agelong called for a nationalist database of abusers.

SBC President Ed Litton, successful a connection Sunday, said helium is "grieved to my core" for the victims and thanked God for their enactment propelling the SBC to this moment. He called connected Southern Baptists to lament and hole to alteration the denomination's civilization and instrumentality reforms.

"I commune Southern Baptists volition statesman preparing contiguous to instrumentality deliberate enactment to code these failures and illustration a caller people erstwhile we conscionable unneurotic successful Anaheim," Litton said, referring to the California metropolis that volition big the SBC's nationalist gathering connected June 14-15.

Among the report's cardinal recommendations:

Form an autarkic committee and aboriginal found a imperishable administrative entity to oversee broad semipermanent reforms concerning intersexual maltreatment and related misconduct wrong the SBC.Create and support an Offender Information System to alert the assemblage to known offenders.Provide a broad Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and applicable information.Restrict the usage of nondisclosure agreements and civilian settlements which hindrance survivors to confidentiality successful intersexual maltreatment matters, unless requested by the survivor.

The interim leaders of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin and Rolland Slade, welcomed the recommendations, and pledged an all-out effort to destruct enactment maltreatment wrong the SBC.

"We admit determination are nary shortcuts," they said. "We indispensable each conscionable this situation done prudent and prayerful application, and we indispensable bash truthful with Christ-like compassion.

The Executive Committee is acceptable to clasp a peculiar gathering Tuesday to sermon the report.

The enactment maltreatment ungraded was thrust into the spotlight successful 2019 by a landmark study from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases successful Southern Baptist churches, including respective successful which alleged perpetrators remained successful ministry.

Last year, thousands of delegates astatine the nationalist SBC gathering made wide they did not privation the Executive Committee to oversee an probe of its ain actions. Instead they voted overwhelmingly to make the task unit charged with overseeing the third-party review. Litton, pastor of Redemption Church successful Saraland, Alabama, appointed the panel.

The task unit had a week to reappraisal the study earlier it was publically released. The task force's recommendations based connected Guidepost's findings volition beryllium presented astatine the SBC's gathering successful Anaheim.

The study offers shocking details connected however Johnny Hunt, a Georgia-based pastor and past SBC president, sexually assaulted different pastor's woman during a formation abrogation successful 2010. In an interrogation with investigators, Hunt denied immoderate carnal interaction with the woman, but did admit helium had interactions with her.

On May 13, Hunt, who was the elder vice president of evangelism and enactment astatine the North American Mission Board, the SBC's home missions agency, resigned from that post, said Kevin Ezell, the organization's president and CEO. Ezell said, earlier May 13, helium was "not alert of immoderate alleged misconduct" connected Hunt's part.

The study details a gathering Hunt arranged a fewer days aft the alleged battle betwixt the woman, her husband, Hunt and a counseling pastor. Hunt admitted to touching the unfortunate inappropriately, but said "thank God I didn't consummate the relationship."

Among those reacting powerfully to the Guidepost study was Russell Moore, who formerly headed the SBC's nationalist argumentation helping but near the denomination aft accusing apical Executive Committee leaders of stalling efforts to code the enactment maltreatment crisis.

"Crisis is excessively tiny a word. It is an apocalypse," Moore wrote for Christianity Today aft speechmaking the report. "As acheronian a presumption arsenic I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the probe uncovers a world acold much evil and systemic than I imagined it could be."

According to the report, Guidepost's investigators, who spoke with survivors of varying ages including children, said the survivors were arsenic traumatized by the mode successful which churches responded to their reports of intersexual abuse.

Survivors "spoke of trauma from the archetypal abuse, but besides told america of the debilitating effects that travel from the effect of the churches and institutions similar the SBC that did not judge them, ignored them, mistreated them, and failed to assistance them," the study said.

It cited the lawsuit of Dave Pittman, who from 2006 to 2011 made telephone calls and sent letters and emails to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Convention Board reporting that helium had been abused by Frankie Wiley, a younker pastor astatine Rehoboth Baptist Church erstwhile helium was 12 to 15 years old.

Pittman and respective others person travel guardant publically to study that Wiley molested and raped them and Wiley has admitted to abusing "numerous victims" astatine respective Georgia Southern Baptist churches.

According to the report, a Georgia Baptist Convention authoritative told Pittman that the churches were autonomous and determination was thing helium could bash but pray.

The study besides tells the communicative of Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused arsenic a teen by the younker and acquisition curate astatine her SBC church. When she disclosed the maltreatment to the euphony curate aft months of abuse, she was told not to speech astir it, according to the report, which said her abuser besides went connected to service successful Southern Baptist churches successful aggregate states.

Brown, who has been 1 of the astir outspoken survivors, told investigators that during the past 15 years she has received "volumes of hatred mail, atrocious blog comments, and vitriolic telephone calls."

After speechmaking done the report, Brown told The Associated Press that it "fundamentally confirms what Southern Baptist clergy enactment maltreatment survivors person been saying for decades."

"I presumption this investigative study arsenic a beginning, not an end. The enactment volition continue," Brown said. "But nary 1 should ever hide the quality outgo of what it has taken to adjacent get the SBC to attack this starting enactment of opening to woody with clergy enactment abuse."

In the U.S., assistance is disposable for survivors of intersexual unit and their families. RAINN offers resources astatine 1-800-656-HOPE and connected their website, www.rainn.org

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