An investigation by two Texas newspapers has exposed that roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, with 220 predators convicted or accepting plea deals.
Church leaders are vowing to take action after it was revealed that more than 700 victims were violated by offenders, and dozens of accused perpetrators were still able to find jobs within conference churches after being reported.
What are the details?
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News teamed up to investigate the sexual abuse allegations, and built a database of the records because, according to the outlets, "The Southern Baptist Convention has declined to keep a list of key church officials and volunteers convicted of sex abuse crimes." The reports were published on Sunday.
According to the Chronicle, "many of the victims were adolescents who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors," and "victims as young as 3 were molested or raped insides pastors' studies and Sunday school classrooms."
The newspaper also reported that "it's clear, however, that SBC leaders have long been aware of the problem," and pointed out that the organization has no tracking system or mechanisms for preventing further abuse. Reporters spent months compiling the information by scouring sex offender registries, prison records, court documents, and cross-checking news stories.
How did church leaders respond?
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, retweeted the Chronicle's report on Twitter, saying "this is nothing short of a scandal and a crisis."
This is nothing short of a scandal and a crisis. There should be no tolerance for, or covering up of, sexual abuse… https://t.co/N6u27geqds— Russell Moore (@Russell Moore)1549799753.0
Moore also wrote about the revelations on his blog, calling them "alarming and scandalous," and saying, "no church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle's reporting, but should thank God for it."
SBC President J.D. Greear — who was elected to his position last summer — took to Twitter saying the church should repent, and he vowed to expend whatever resources necessary to stop the "predators in our midst."
I am broken over what was revealed today. The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil. I join… https://t.co/SwRVkKXy7U— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825867.0
The voices in this article should be heard as a warning sent from God, calling the church to repent. As Christians,… https://t.co/6tdHTgg2Vh— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825898.0
We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alo… https://t.co/nTvxXKr6OU— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825930.0
We—leaders in the SBC—should have listened to the warnings of those who tried to call attention to this. I am commi… https://t.co/cNOx0JPbqH— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825943.0
It’s time for pervasive change. God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (p… https://t.co/YJkyEEOOI2— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825959.0
I will pursue every possible avenue to bring the vast spiritual, financial, and organizational resources of the Sou… https://t.co/jo89mVZYNe— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825972.0
There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for th… https://t.co/WAWulVJhxz— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549825984.0
The Baptist doctrine of church autonomy should never be a religious cover for passivity towards abuse. Church auton… https://t.co/P9NVgKxLak— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549826010.0
As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to “do… https://t.co/W3TRe82aeM— J.D. Greear (@J.D. Greear)1549826065.0