Southern Baptist Pastor Wade Burleson Says Denomination Has ‘Moral Obligation’ to Fund Database of Sexual Offenders

When the Houston Chronicle published its expose piece on the Southern Baptist Convention’s mishandling of sexual abuse by clergy (and a database of offenders), you might not have known that this isn’t the first time the largest Protestant denomination in America has been pressured to build a database of sexual offenders. Wade Burleson, the pastor of Emmanuel Church in Enid, Oklahoma, has been pressuring the SBC to do this since 2007.

Even though the Houston Chronicle has done what the SBC would not, Burleson believes even more needs to be done—by the SBC this time.

“I suggest the SBC has a moral obligation to fund an independent, non-profit agency who keeps the database, for not just Southern Baptists, but for evangelicals as a whole,” Burleson told ChurchLeaders.

The Houston Chronicle Article Did the SBC a Service

While Burleson says the Houston Chronicle has done a “needed service” to the SBC through its reporting, he feels there is room for improvement on their database. Due to legal pressure and lack of information, Burleson says “many, many stories” were left out of the reporting. A more thorough database is needed, he says, one constructed by an independent company. Burleson has two such companies in mind, but he is adamant that the SBC not try to build it on its own—just provide the funds to make it happen.

As far as who should be included in the database, Burleson wants to see Southern Baptist ministers “who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse.”

When Burleson originally approached the senior leadership of the SBC at the denomination’s annual meeting in 2007, he was disappointed by their lack of action. He had asked for the Executive Committee (EC) to conduct a study on the feasibility of such a database. A year later, the EC “declined” to build the database, saying it was not feasible. Burleson was not given any more information on the supposed study they conducted. Even in 2008, journalists could appreciate the news-worthy nature of their decision. Time Magazine called the SBC’s refusal to take Burleson’s suggestion “one of the most underreported stories in America.”

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Source: Church Leaders