Their Cross to Bear | Ariana Thompson
As of May 22, 2022, The Southern Baptist Convention has released a report detailing the church’s history of stonewalling sexual assault accusations against ministers. The report came after delegates at the denomination’s meeting last summer voted to commission the report, resulting in a nearly three hundred-page report detailing the church’s twenty-year-long history of abuse reports against church employees.
Despite claims from the church that as a decentralized organization they aren’t able to make demands of their individual churches, a seven-month investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions has shown the Southern Baptist Church’s Executive Committee may carry some liability.
The report writes, "Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC's response to these reports of abuse ... and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC.”
"In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its policy regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation."
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention may have been implicated in much of the coverups within the church. The report finds that Ronnie Floyd, the past president of the SBC “had resisted creating a task force to investigate the executive committee. Additionally, former presidents Steve Gaines, Jack Graham, and Paige Patterson reportedly “protected or even supported abusers.” Finally, the report also alleges that Johnny Hunt, another past Southern Baptist Convention president, was himself guilty of sexually assaulting an SBC pastor’s wife during his presidency.
Part of the reason for the resistance towards acknowledging assault allegations is monetary. Leaders of the Southern Christian Baptist church hope to escape legal liability for the sexual assault cases that happen as a result of the members of their church.
The report isn’t entirely negative – it also includes recommendations for the SBC moving forward. It advises forming an administrative entity to oversee long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse, creating an information system warning church members of abusers, and ending the use of nondisclosure agreements or civil service settlements to silence survivors. Hopefully, with these reforms, the Southern Baptist Church can move forward and do better, not just for members that have already been wronged, but for future generations of Christians who will need their protection.