More than 200 Southern Baptist Church officials and volunteers have been found guilty of sex abuse over the past two decades, a report said.
Ministers, pastors, deacons, volunteers and Sunday school teachers were among those named by the Houston Chronicle in an expansive investigation of abuse in the church.
Around 250 church leaders and volunteers have been charged – but roughly 380 have faced allegations of sexual misconduct since 1998.
There are believed to be as many as 700 victims, with some of them as young as three years old, a year-long investigation found.
‘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,’ the report said.
‘Some victims as young as three were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms.’
But while the majority of those convicted of sex crimes are now registered offenders, the report also discovered that 35 pastors, employees and volunteers suspected of predatory behavior still found work at churches.
Church leaders had also failed to alert authorities about complaints or allegations of misconduct in some cases, the report said.
JD Greear, the 62nd president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was ‘broken’ over Sunday’s report.
He wrote: ‘I am broken over what was revealed today. The abuses described in this Houston Chronicle article are pure evil.
‘I join with countless others who are currently “weeping with those who weep.”
‘The voices in this article should be heard as a warning sent from God, calling the church to repent.
‘As Christians, we are called to expose everything sinful to the light. The survivors in this article have done that—at a personal cost few of us can fathom.
‘We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them.
‘Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary.’
Pastor Wade Burleson, 57, proposed the creation of a sexual predator database for the second time in June last year.
The Southern Baptist Convention, a fellowship of more than 47,000 Baptist churches, then passed a resolution condemning predators in support of the victims, NBCNews reported.
It said: ‘We call on all persons perpetrating and enabling abuse to repent and confess their sin to Jesus Christ and to church authorities and to confess their crimes to civil authorities.’
Speaking of the new report, Burleson said: ‘The thing that makes me saddest is that we didn’t do it ourselves.
‘That’s why you need a free press in America.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Faith Ridler