Southern Baptist Convention in United States agrees to open investigation into handling sexual abuse

After three weeks of meeting, dozens of statements and hours of debate, the Southern Baptist Convention agreed to submit to a third party investigation into their handling of sexual abuse. 

The Southern Baptist Convention executive committee voted 44 to 31 to have the attorney client privilege lifted as part of an investigation into their handling of sexual abuse within their denomination.

This vote, which comes after the resignation of half a dozen members and after several of them have changed their minds in favor of this derogation, sparked many heated discussions.

Christianity Today reports the relief expressed at the end of this decision by the president of the executive committee, Rolland Slade, in charge of supervising the debates. He added, however, that he wanted to express “his sorrow” for the conduct displayed by the Southern Baptists in this context.

The committee's decision authorizes a contract with an independent company, Guidespot Solutions, to review how staff and members of the Southern Baptist Convention have responded to allegations of abuse and to victims of such abuse over a period of time. 20 years. A report that is expected to be made public before the denomination's next annual meeting in June 2022.

Committee members opposed to the legislation passed on Tuesday fear that such transparency threatens the entity. However, this requirement to waive the professional secrecy which binds a lawyer to his client, had been approved in June by the members of the Convention during its annual meeting. Several seminary presidents and thousands of pastors lobbied for it to be accepted.

According to Jules Woodson, a victim of sexual abuse who is part of a group of survivors of the Southern Baptist Convention, “it's a small step”. She believes that there is still "a long way to go".

The fact that it took so much time and exchanges for the executive committee to agree to the terms of the investigation is a red flag for the abuse survivor who is concerned that the denomination is divided on this subject.

After the committee vote, Pastor Ed Litton, president of the Southern Baptist Convention since last June, said he was "grateful" thatafter "many weeks of difficult discussions, the full, transparent and unimpeded investigation can now begin", before recalling that this was not the end, "but the beginning of the process". 

“Sexual abuse is contrary to the gospel of Christ. It has no place in the Southern Baptist Convention. And I pray that all Southern Baptists remain committed in their commitment to prevent abuse, care for survivors, and take whatever steps are necessary to implement reforms. " he added.

Camille Westphal Perrier

Image Credit: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock.com

Article originally published in October 2021.

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