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Investigation uncovers sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches

A rally protesting abuse outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas in June Associated Press/Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter

Investigation uncovers sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches

Hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced accusations of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, according to a report by two Texas newspapers released Sunday. The six-month investigation by the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle found that since 1998, nearly 400 church leaders were accused of victimizing more than 700 people, including small children.

Hundreds of alleged offenders have been convicted or have taken plea deals, with dozens of cases still pending, according to the report. More than 100 are registered sex offenders, and some have returned to the pulpit. The report also said victims have accused several past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention and other church leaders of concealing or mishandling abuse complaints.

Russell Moore, who heads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke out forcefully in support of the story and commended the investigative reporting.

“The report is alarming and scandalous, the courage and grace of these survivors is contrasted with the horrific depravity of those who would use the name of Jesus to prey on them,” he said in a statement. He also said churches should report all suspected instances of child sexual abuse to police, and the self-governance of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention “is no excuse for a lack of accountability.”

Kent Covington

Kent is a reporter and news anchor for WORLD Radio. He spent nearly two decades in Christian and news/talk radio before joining WORLD in 2012. He resides in Atlanta, Ga.



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