A week after an investigation highlighted more than 700 victims of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention leaders and volunteers, the organization’s president, J.D. Greear, suggested the possibility of expelling churches and creating a registry of offenders.
In an address to the SBC’s executive committee on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee, Greear proposed a range of reforms to help make churches safer. The 10 “calls to action” include repenting, providing free training for ministry leaders, encouraging churches to review and strengthen their policies on abuse and a re-examination of the ordination process.
He also recommended requiring background checks for SBC leadership groups and entities, and changes to governing documents that would allow for “disfellowshipping” churches that mishandle abuse.
He noted that “every option is on the table” to address the problem, including a registry of convicted or credibly accused church leaders and volunteers. That registry was previously floated as an idea in 2008 but struck down because SBC leaders could not force churches to report such information to a registry, The Houston Chronicle reported. In recent times, however, it has received the support of many SBC figures.
“If we don’t get this right, our churches will not be a safe place for the lost,” Greear, who also leads The Summit Church in North Carolina, told the leaders. “That is not something that I am OK with … I know that it is not something that you’re OK with either.”
The Houston Chronicle published the first report in a three-part series just over a week ago. It found more than 700 victims of alleged sexual abuse by 380 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers since 1998. Some 220 have been convicted and 100 are still in prison.
Many of the victims, who were children when the abuse occurred, accused other Southern Baptist leaders, including past presidents, of concealing their ordeal. Some of those who were accused of sexual abuse also reportedly left their congregations and were able to find jobs in other Southern Baptist churches.
During the Executive Committee meeting, Greear called for an evaluation of the churches that were highlighted in the Chronicle investigation to determine “if their standing aligns with our faith and practice.” One of the churches called out in the investigation was the more than 60,000-member Second Baptist Church in Houston. The churches have been accused of having “displayed a wanton disregard for the seriousness of abuse.”
“I am not calling for disfellowshipping any of these churches at this point, but these churches must be called upon to give assurances to the Southern Baptist Convention that they have taken the necessary steps to correct their policies and procedures with regards to abuse and survivors,” Greear said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair