A REPORT, to be presented during the Southern Baptists’ annual meeting starting today (Monday) in Birmingham, Alabama, reveals sexual abuse in churches ‘has been and still is more widespread than anyone has realized.’
The report is the result of almost a year’s work by a Sexual Abuse Advisory Group commissioned by SBC President J D Greear, who, for the record, is disliked among certain hardline Baptists.
Beneath a video posted to YouTube in April this year by the KJV-TV Florida Baptist Network , the following words appear:
J D Greear is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention & pastors a church with over a 1,000 NAMB & IMB missionaries on the denomination’s payroll. But, he embraces abortion providers in his church, advocates for the rights of LGBT agenda, & gives his best efforts to the world & his worst to the church as he dresses in form fitting skinny jeans to ‘serve God’ but gives his best efforts to the Liberal Fake News Media.
The “Caring Well” report is based on an investigation involving “hundreds” of sex abuse survivors, church leaders and national experts.
It also summarises a range of next steps to address the issue, including educating congregations about abuse, preparing them to help survivors and fostering abuse prevention.
The 52-page report says:
We lament the fact that it took a national movement of reckoning for abuse to force us to take this issue seriously in our own convention. It should now be obvious that the problem has been and still is more widespread than anyone has realized, affecting our congregations all over the country, from the smallest church pastored by a bivocational minister to the megachurch with hundreds on staff.
The issue has also affected seminaries, agencies and missions boards, the report said, adding:
All too often, it has not been handled justly.
The first clergy abuse survivor quoted in the report used the word “epidemic” to describe the extent of sexual abuse in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
Says Susan Codone, above, who alleged she was abused by her youth minister and by her pastor who fired him and then continued the abuse, said:
The cause of sexual abuse in the SBC is rooted in our culture of casual indifference to predatory sexual behavior. Worn like a shield, indifference results in the catch-and-release practice of catching predatory staff members in the act and releasing them to move freely among other churches and organizations and harm others.
The report repeatedly refers to sexual abuse as “evil,” and calls the “meager efforts” outlined in the report only the beginning of what is hoped will be:
A movement of healing and reform.
The report said that the term “clergy abuse” does not apply solely to misconduct involving children.
Clergy abuse not only encompasses abuse to children, but also a ‘consensual’ adult sexual relationship between a clergy member and a congregant. The power and spiritual influence that a member of the clergy wields over their congregants essentially renders consent impossible.
Codone said in the report that the pastor who abused her also had an inappropriate relationship with her Sunday school teacher.
Among the numerous failures named in the report were inadequately training staff and volunteers, declining to report suspected perpetrators to law enforcement and instead recommending them to new employers, and improperly citing church autonomy to avoid acting appropriately.
The report concludes by asking Southern Baptist churches to take an eight-step “Caring Well Challenge” over the next year to help them:
Be safe for survivors and safe from abuse.
The document follows other actions by Greear and fellow SBC executives since the last SBC meeting.
In February, Greear said the SBC Executive Committee should investigate ten churches named in a report by Texas newspapers that found 380 current and former Southern Baptist ministers and volunteers had been accused of sexually abusing more than 700 victims in the past 20 years.
An Executive Committee workgroup responded less than two weeks later by saying just three out of the ten merited investigation.
More recently, SBC leaders have considered setting up an official “Credentials Committee” that would review complaints about how member churches handle abuse allegations. If it is approved by the Executive Committee, Baptists would vote on the proposal during their meeting in Alabama.