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Southern Baptists address abuse in the church

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear Associated Press/Photo by Mark Humphrey

Southern Baptists address abuse in the church

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has recommended changes for handling claims of sexual abuse in its churches ahead of the denomination’s annual meeting this week in Birmingham, Ala. The SBC formed the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group in July 2018 and the group issued a report on Saturday containing first-person accounts from survivors and acknowledging a variety of failures in how the SBC has responded to abuse, including minimizing incidents and failing to report crimes.

In February, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News released an investigative report detailing abuse accusations from more than 700 victims within the denomination against 380 Southern Baptist leaders.

The advisory group’s report offered 10 recommendations and cited action the denomination has already taken. A nine-member team has put together a training curriculum for churches and seminaries to improve responses to abuse. Among other measures, the study group also is considering new rules for background checks of church leaders.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, encouraged all members of the denomination to read the report, calling it a “starting point, not the final word from this group or on this issue—but a significant document nonetheless.” Delegates from the SBC meet Tuesday and Wednesday, with the advisory group presenting its findings on Wednesday.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C.



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not silent,

There are those who point to the problem of the institution covering up for wrongdoers (and to the extent that has happened, that is clearly wrong, though it's much more difficult to go back to the time things happened and ascertain exactly who knew what) and say that the same mindset that left us with inaction there is the mindset that's locked into complementarianism today. Both are seen as protecting the institution as it has been. The idea, then, is that both need to go.

But, being wrong on one issue simply does not imply anything with respect to the next issue. There has been wrongdoing all on sides that have sought shelter under the SBC umbrella. Nobody comes to the complementarian  versus egalitarian dispute without some reckoning over past misdeeds to account for. The issue, then, must focus on what the Bible teaches, not the misdeeds belonging to any particular side of the debate. Even at that, the alleged misdeeds are far from universal to a particular side of the debate.


What I would like to know is whether the Southern Baptist problem is significantly larger than the Roman Catholic problem, the Boy Scouts of America problem, or the problems at any other institution. Or are we just chasing at sin generally and trying to blame institutions for the problem? Certainly, church-based institutions ought to have a better record on this kind of issue, but the church is filled with sinful people not yet rid of their sinful tendencies (some true believers and some not). So, we bear with these problems until all things are made new. And we weep a lot. In the long run, though, I think we'd do better to calculate sin as sin and not try to find its root in institutions. Blaming institutions helps keep us at arm's length from recognizing how deeply sin touches us all. It helps us keep the self-righteous myth intact.

What this article glosses over is that there's considerable movement afoot in the SBC to conflate this issue with complementarianism. The two are wholly separate issues and any effort to ride the momentum of one into a conclusion on the other is an effort not arising from good theology or practice.