The president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Monday called for a “season of lament, sorrow, and repentance” over a sexual abuse crisis, and provided a list of 10 churches, including Second Baptist Church in Houston, that he said should be scrutinized for their handling of sexual abuses and potentially removed from the nation’s largest Baptist group.
Two of the other 10 churches are in Houston in addition to Second Baptist, a 60,000-member congregation that has long been pastored by former SBC President Ed Young. They are Brentwood Baptist Church and Cathedral of Faith.
“Brothers and sisters, there is a problem,” current president J.D. Greear said at a speech to other SBC leaders in Nashville. “This is not a fabricated story made up by people with a secular agenda. We’ve not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands, and sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims.”
“It’s time we back up our words with actions.”
A spokesman for Second Baptist declined comment Monday.
However, in January the church provided a one-page statement response to questions from the Chronicle.
It read in part: “Second Baptist takes allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse very seriously and constantly strives to provide and maintain a safe, Christian environment for all employees, church members and guests… our policy and practice have been and will continue to be that any complaint of sexual misconduct will be heard, investigated and handled in a lawful and appropriate way.”
Among the actions Greear said he will take: More resources for churches to deal with sexual abuse; more background checks for SBC leadership groups and entities; and changes to the SBC bylaws that would allow for the removal of churches that show a “wanton disregard for sexual abuse.”
The SBC president stressed that “every option is on the table,” including a registry of convicted or credibly accused church leaders and volunteers. That registry has long been requested by survivors of sexual assault and activist groups, and has recently gotten the support of multiple other SBC figures.
Greear’s speech came days after the Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found hundreds of SBC church leaders and volunteers had faced criminal charges and convictions since 2008, when leaders rejected reforms such as a database. All told, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders have been accused of sex crimes or misconduct. They had more than 700 victims.
Some predators, the newspapers found, were able to operate without oversight or legal scrutiny for years thanks, in part, to Baptist policy that says every church is self-governing and autonomous.
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SOURCE: Houston Chronicle, Robert Downen