US Southern Baptists maintain list of sexual abusers after claims ignored

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The pledge does not meet the demands of some survivors, including a compensation fund and stronger independent oversight.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SCB), the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, has voted to create a database to track down pastors and other church employees who are credibly accused of sexual abuse and for a group, with a mandate of one year, to handle abuse claims.

The vote on Tuesday, which took place at the denomination’s annual national meeting in Anaheim, Calif., follows a report from an outside adviser that details decades of mishandling of allegations of sexual abuse and abuse of victims by the SBC.

Despite accusations against pastors and others that repeatedly reached SBC executives, accusers faced “resistance, opposition and even outright hostility,” while officials “remained exceptionally focused on avoiding liability,” according to Guidepost Solutions’ report released last month. was released.

Among the damning findings was the revelation that staff members of the SBC’s executive committee kept a list of ministers accused of abuse, but there was no indication that the committee “took any action” to ensure the ministers were not in a position to where they could harm others.

‘Absolutely minimal’

The measures fail to meet the demands of some survivors, including a victims’ compensation fund and a permanent independent commission to oversee the Church’s handling of abuse claims going forward. It also met opposition from some denominational representatives, who questioned the integrity of the outside adviser who conducted the report.

Bruce Frank, who led a task force recommending the reforms, called the steps the “absolute minimum” and said “protecting the sheep from the wolves” is essential to the Church’s mission.

“How are you going to tell a watching world that Jesus died for them…when his church won’t even go out of her way to protect them?” Frank early gathered representatives of SBC churches from around the country, who called themselves messengers. The SBC claims 13 million members in the US and 40 million worldwide.

At least one abuse survivor, Christa Brown, who has championed the issue for more than a decade, called the reforms disappointing.

She and other survivors had sought a permanent committee to oversee compliance, while Tuesday’s vote only gave a one-year term for such a task force, with an option to extend it. She also called for a more “survivor-oriented” treatment of the list of accused clerics.

“I know people like happy endings, but I don’t feel it,” she tweeted. “I feel sadness. It’s better than nothing, but that’s such a low bar.”

Meanwhile, survivors Tiffany Thigpen and Jules Woodson told the Associated Press that they were overwhelmed with support for the task force’s recommendations. Woodsen called the measures “a small step and a healthy, healing step in the right direction”.

The alleged abuses at SBC churches and widespread institutional inaction received national attention in 2019 when the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported on hundreds of cases. Those include several whose alleged perpetrators remained in service.

The scandal echoed that of the Roman Catholic Church, which was rocked by a deluge of sexual abuse allegations spurred on by a 2002 report from the Boston Globe newspaper documenting a decades-long campaign of cover-ups. According to BishopAccountability.org, which follows the matter, the U.S. Catholic Church has paid an estimated $3.2 billion to date to resolve cases of clergy abuse.

On Tuesday, at least one church representative questioned the report. “We have a group that celebrates sexual sin and advises us on how to deal with sexual sin of abuse,” said Indiana pastor Tim Overton.

He referenced Guidepost Solutions tweeting in support of Pride Month. The denomination states that homosexuality is “sin, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverse,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, which supports LGBTQ+ rights.



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