Does the SBC Have a Systematic Sexual Abuse Problem

Does the SBC Have a Systematic Sexual Abuse Problem May 30, 2024

Does the SBC Have a Systemic Sexual Abuse Problem?

While they have many disagreements, the men running to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) agree on at least one thing: there is no systematic sexual abuse crisis in the SBC. Individuals have committed abuse. Local congregations have failed to protect their members and have even enabled abuse in some cases. The SBC, however, remains unsullied. According to these candidates, their supporters, and other SBC members, there is no systematic sexual abuse crisis in the SBC.

Monochrome portrait. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Paige Patterson

According to the Houston Chronicle in 1987, Paige Patterson helped troubled minister Darrell Gilyard gain employment at a congregation despite knowing of allegations of improper sexual encounters with numerous women.[1] At his new congregation, Gilyard abused more women, and finally was convicted of sex crimes. Patterson’s unwillingness to believe the reports about Gilyard do not reflect on the SBC because the SBC does not have a systematic sexual abuse problem.

Paige Patterson mishandled two rape cases while he served as President of SBC seminaries. In an infamous statement about one of the victims, he wanted to “break her down.” He was eventually fired from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for, among other transgressions, publicly gawking over a young woman in a sermon. Even though Patterson was a leader of the Conservative Resurgence, two-time seminary president, and SBC President, his behavior is no reflection on the SBC as a whole. He is merely an individual and the SBC has no systemic sexual abuse problem.


Paul Pressler

In 2004 Paul Pressler won the election to serve as the Vice President of the SBC. His election to the office cements his legacy as one of the most important leaders of the SBC in the last 50 years. Pressler and Paige Patterson were the architects of the Conservative Resurgence. Meeting in New Orleans, they schemed a plan that has reached fruition. The SBC, once led by moderates, is now fully in the hands of unwavering conservatives. Pressler, however, was no saint. In 1978, the church where Pressler served as a youth pastor forced his ouster after credible accusations of his predatory behavior toward teenage boys.

Pressler’s criminal behavior continued. His church, First Baptist, in Houston, TX became aware of his disturbing behavior, even going so far as to write a letter to him denouncing it. When he was running to become the SBC Vice President in 2004, a phone call alerted the SBC of the evil Pressler was inflicting on numerous teenagers. The call was received. No action was taken. Even though Pressler was a leader of the SBC and elected to serve in office, there was no institutional cover-up. Pressler is just one person. He is not the SBC. This horror is not a reflection of the SBC, which does not have a systematic sexual abuse crisis

Open Bible

Johnny Hunt

Former SBC president Johnny Hunt and his wife went on vacation with another clergy couple in 2010. While on their trip, Hunt was in a room with the other pastor’s wife. She claims he forcibly kissed and groped her in language. Her language is that of a sexual assault. In his defense, Hunt claims the actions were consensual. He has gone through counseling and is now “restored to ministry.” His actions, while reprehensible, are not a reflection on the SBC because they are not an institution acting. The SBC itself does not have a systematic sexual abuse problem.


FBI Investigation

Matt Queen, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC, has been indicted for giving false statements to the FBI.[2] While he was Interim Provost at Southwestern Theological Seminary (SWTBS), Queen lied about knowledge of an abuse case and falsified documents, the FBI alleges.[3] Queen denies the charges. Even if guilty, however, this is not a reflection on the SBC at large.

The reporting on the Matt Queen incident is incomplete. Names of the others involved in this situation are just now being reported. According to the Department of Justice, Queen heard one of his direct reports instruct another employee to destroy documents about a reported rape.[4] The staffer, Chief of Staff Heath Woolman,[5] ordered Dean of Women Terri Stovall to make the document “go away.”[6] [7]

The report itself was a report of rape allegation by a seminary student and had not been reported to the FBI even though such reports had been subpoenaed.[8] While falsifying information, lying to the FBI, and ordering the destruction of documents does smack of a criminal cover-up, it is no reflection of the SBC as a whole. SWBTS has fired those responsible and is fully cooperating with the FBI. This incident is no reflection SWBTS or the SBC as a whole. These were just rogue employees coping with a difficult situation. This is no evidence of a systematic sexual abuse scandal in the SBC.

The Houston Chronicle Report

In 2022 the Houston Chronicle documented sexual abuse in the SBC citing over 700 victims. This is a tragedy. It is unconscionable. The victims deserve justice. While the Chronicle’s report is true, it misses context. 700 victims over 20 years is actually rather small in comparison to similar systems. The SBC has around 48,000 churches and 13 million members. Similar-sized institutions have thousands of reports of sexual abuse every year. While the report is sickening and damning, the SBC needs to make no actual change because of it. The report does not indicate a sexual systematic sexual abuse scandal in the SBC.


The Executive Committee

The Executive Committee (EC) functions as the day-to-day administrator of the SBC. Its role is to implement the will of the SBC while the SBC is not in session. While the SBC wished to give compassion to the survivors of abuse, members of the EC were privately disparaging some of them. They called a survivor a “whore” and “Potiphar’s wife.”[9]

On at least 3 occasions, the EC has received phone calls with credible information about sexual abuse in the SBC. On each occasion, the EC did nothing. The EC was not as interested in protecting the victims but in protecting the institution. Ronnie Floyd, onetime EC President believed the most important task was to “protect the base.” The incidents are not representative of the EC or SBC as whole. Individual members acted very inappropriately, but because it was not the EC acting as a group, it is not systematic. The SBC does not have a sexual abuse problem.

… or maybe it does…

If the behavior of SBC Presidents, an SBC Vice President, members of the EC, and seminary leaders do not constitute a systematic sexual abuse scandal, what does?














Also by Layne Wallace:

Bart Barber and SBC Abuse

The Reckoning



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