The Department of Justice is investigating the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse crisis
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention confirmed the investigation Friday and vowed to cooperate
The Department of Justice is investigating the Southern Baptist Convention’s response to its sexual abuse crisis, according to a new report from the Houston Chronicle. Convention leaders confirmed the investigation in a statement released Friday and vowed to cooperate with government officials.
“While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future,” the statement from the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee said.
The extent of those “past mistakes” was outlined in a shocking report on the sexual abuse crisis released in May. Third-party investigators found that church leaders had repeatedly lashed out against victims rather than work to remove abusers form their leadership roles.
“Survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy — even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” the report said.
After the release of the report, members of the executive committee issued a formal apology to survivors of sexual abuse and vowed to take steps to solve the crisis, as the Deseret News reported at the time.
At the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June, church members approved some major reforms aimed at rooting out sexual abuse. For example, they decided to launch “an official database of credibly abused pastors,” Christianity Today reported.
The executive committee acknowledged those reform efforts in its statement on the Justice Department’s investigation.
“Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse,” Southern Baptist leaders said.
They ended the statement by calling on Southern Baptists across the country to pray for the church in the days ahead and ask God to be with government officials conducting the investigation.
“While so many things in the world are uncertain, we can be certain that we serve a mighty God. Nothing, including this investigation, takes him by surprise. ... We ask God to grant wisdom and discernment to each person dealing with the investigation,” the statement reads.