Southern Baptist Leaders Apologize to Sexual Abuse Survivors, Vow to Issue List of Alleged Offenders
22:44 GMT 24.05.2022 (Updated: 14:07 GMT 14.02.2023)
The US Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has been under fire since the Sunday release of a damning report alleging that the administrative arm of the 13.6-million-member convention was responsible for perpetuating a cycle of abuse by mishandling and covering up claims of sexual misconduct.
The US Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee announced in a public meeting on Tuesday that it would be making strides to reform the largest Protestant denomination in the US after an internal investigation by Guidepost Solutions showed that the SBC repeatedly mishandled sexual assault claims and silenced survivors of such abuse for more than 10 years.
Gene Besen, a lawyer for the SBC’s administrative arm, took a moment to apologize to sexual abuse survivors within the more than 47,500 churches tied to the convention, noting that a list of known abusers will be published “as soon as we are confident we have redacted all survivors' names, confidential witness names and any unsubstantiated allegations.”
“It is our commitment and intent to review the unsubstantiated allegations, and if more can be substantiated, we will release those as well,” Besen added.
The public meeting, which was not attended by all members of the executive committee, was open to the public via livestream.
The convention also released a statement addressing September 29, 2006, remarks made by then-SBC Executive Committee Vice President and General Counsel D. August Boto, who claimed that a “continued discourse between us [the Executive Committee and survivor advocates] will not be positive or fruitful.”
“The SBC Executive Committee rejects this sentiment in its entirety and seeks to publicly repent for its failure to rectify this position and wholeheartedly listen to survivors,” wrote the SBC Executive Committee.
Willie McLaurin, interim president of the SBC Executive Committee, argued during Tuesday’s livestream that it was “time to change the culture” of the convention to one that is “proactive” and transparent.
“That’s the absolute bare minimum we must do,” McLaurin said.
Sunday’s report came as the product of a seven-month internal probe ordered by the SBC Executive Committee, and was released ahead of the convention’s annual meeting in June.
The document, which traced allegations of sexual abuse within the denomination from year 2000 to present, determined that leaders “were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC” and therefore ignored, disbelieved, or created roadblocks for survivors and others who reported abuse.
These actions were taken by the SBC “even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” according to Guidepost investigators.