Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Database To Be Created Following Years of Covering Up Credible Claims
Delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in California voted this week to create a database of pastors, volunteers and other members who have been credibly accused of sex abuse, following a scathing report that outlined how the church leadership has covered up decades of claims.
More than 8,000 delegates, known as Messengers, met in Anaheim, California this week, to choose new church leadership and address a recent report that highlighted widespread sex abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant organization in the U.S.
Southern Baptist leadership, known as the Executive Committee (EC), have previously maintained that its member churches have autonomy, limiting the control that the organization could exert. However, an independent investigation recently revealed that the leadership has exerted influence by actively covering up reported claims for decades, focusing those efforts on avoiding liability, instead of preventing women and children from being sexually abused.
The investigation was launched at the demand of members at the annual meeting last year, amid fears that the Southern Baptist Convention was hiding problems of clergy abuse similar to those being dealt with by the Catholic Church in recent years.
Southern Baptist leaders have previously indicated they were unwilling or unable to do things like maintain a database of potential abusers. However, privately, the 300-page report indicated that the executive committee did maintain exactly such a list, but kept it secret.
That list contained the names of 703 alleged abusers, with 409 of those suspected of being affiliated with Southern Baptist Convention, including some who are still in the ministry or associated with an SBC church, according to the report.
On Tuesday, the Southern Baptist messengers voted overwhelmingly to release a public version of that database, which will track pastors and others who work for SBC churches who have faced credible accusations of sex abuse. The messengers also voted to create a formal group to handle sex abuse allegations in the future, and surprised some pundits by voting for leadership from the more liberal wing of the church.
The votes closely followed recommendations from the report, which called for a number of reforms, including the creation of a system to alert SBC members of known offenders, the creation of an abuse-prevention program, and the creation of a new administrative group to oversee sexual abuse reforms.
The findings of the report mirrored many of the clergy abuse problems found in both the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, who have faced tens of thousands of lawsuits as a result. The Boy Scouts, which similarly maintained a list of sexual predators, known as the “perversion files” was ultimately driven into bankruptcy by the allegations, and is still trying to negotiate a settlement which would move it out of bankruptcy.
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