(The following is a summary of the recent SBC Sex Abuse Report. I relied on the report itself and numerous articles to condense the findings. Read accordingly.)
For decades, within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), there have been accusations and rumors of sexual abuse and coverup by some pastors and denominational leaders. At the 2021 Annual Meeting in Nashville, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion to establish a Sex Abuse Task Force (SATF) that would hire an independent firm to investigate these issues.
The 400-page report, compiled by Guidepost Solutions, was published last Sunday, May 22. And it is damning.
Guidepost’s findings are shocking. Gut-wrenching. Saddening. Grieving. Infuriating. And so much more. The bottom line is this: Russell Moore was right. Rachael Denhollander was right. And most importantly, the countless abuse victims who tried to speak up over the years were also right. It only took 20 years and $4 million dollars to uncover the truth. Sad but true.
The report documents a clear and intentional pattern by a “few Senior Executive Committee (EC) Leaders” to ignore, silence, and even belittle abuse victims who asked for denominational help. (The EC oversees day-to-day operations for the SBC.) These leaders and our attorneys repeatedly cited legal protection as their primary grounds for dismissing or even covering up abuse reports. They also rejected repeated calls for implementing policies that would raise awareness of sexual abuse and abusers to help our 45,000 churches.
There is far too much in the report to include it all here but here are some key revelations. The report states that:
- Key SBC leaders, including legal counsel, buried sexual abuse claims. They recommended a “say nothing and do nothing” policy. Internal emails show that several of these individuals engaged in stonewalling and even intimidating victims repeatedly for speaking out. (These includes SBC insiders such as Augie Boto, Roger Oldham, and Jim Guenther.)
- These same leaders lied about keeping tabs on abusers. EC leaders and legal counsel publicly insisted that keeping a list of abusers was not feasible or in keeping with our Baptist polity. However, Guidepost uncovered that they were in fact keeping their own secret list – which included over 700 names of abusers and child molesters, most of whom served at SBC churches. (As of Monday, the EC has now committed themselves to make this list public.)
- A former SBC president, Johnny Hunt, sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife. This happened months after he was president. Efforts were made to silence the victim and squelch the accusation. Last week, days before the report was published, Hunt resigned from his role at NAMB. On Sunday, via Twitter, Hunt denied the allegation of abuse. According to the report, he previously characterized it as a consensual relationship with a married woman who was 24 years younger than him.
- Several well-known pastors mishandled abuse cases within their own churches. The report cites instances of two former SBC presidents, Steve Gaines and Jack Graham, who had known abusers on their church staff which they dismissed quietly without disclosing the situation to law enforcement or their congregations.
In short, it appears that there has been an insular group of SBC elites who, rather than acting in the best interest of our churches, acted in the best interest of their own “good ol’ boy network.” As Christianity Today noted, these leaders wanted to “protect the denomination from lawsuits rather than protect the people in their churches from abuse.”
The Guidepost Firm not only compiled the report but have also made recommendations for action. These include, but are not limited to:
Creating an online database of known church leaders guilty of abuse.
Offering compensations for survivors.
Publishing a toolbox for training local churches and leaders in abuse.
Establishing a new SBC entity dedicated to responding to abuse.
We do not know which, if any, of these recommendations will be acted upon at the Annual Meeting in a few weeks. The Sex Abuse Task Force will, I suspect, present motions to the messengers based on Guidepost’s recommendations.
There are so many things to grieve over and pray for, but I urge you to join me in praying for the following:
- Pray for the victims. As sad as the report is, the reality for these victims is far sadder. Many have endured decades of being ignored or gaslighted by supposedly godly men. Psalm 9:12 says, “The Lord does not forget the cry of the afflicted.” Indeed, God has heard them. Now, it is our turn to hear them loud and clear. Instead of fighting against them, we should fight for them.
- Pray for this year’s SBC Annual Meeting from June 14-15 in Anaheim. Pray for me and Pastor Joe as we go, serving as messengers from our church. May the Lord give us, and the thousands of messengers present, wisdom, and courage as we consider, listen, and vote so that we might “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matt 3:8)
For more information and to access the full report, visit: sataskforce.net
*Pastoral Note: To our church members, if you have been the victim of sexual abuse, please come talk to me, another elder, or one of our wives. We will listen, hear, and act. Sexual abuse is a crime. Law enforcement should be involved. Perpetrators must be stopped. We are here for you.