Southern Baptists Exposed For Widespread Sex Abuse

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Hundreds of people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals. It’s not just a recent problem.

In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found.

That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state. They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

The Washington Post reports:

The investigation found more than 380 clergy and volunteers had been charged with sexual misconduct over two decades, leaving behind more than 700 victims to deal with the aftermath. The stories set off the sort of shock waves in the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Convention that similar blockbuster investigations have been causing ever since the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team exposed abuse in the Catholic Church in 2002.

In an essay published on his personal website Monday, Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the leading voices in the denomination, called for an independent, third-party inquiry into sexual abuse within the convention. He said any church that knowingly protects sexual abusers should no longer be considered “in friendly cooperation” with the convention and should be stripped of its membership.

The Associated Press reports:

In 2008, a victim implored SBC leaders to track sexual predators, act against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers and establish sexual abuse prevention policies such as those adopted by other faiths, including the Roman Catholic Church. But the SBC Executive Committee rejected the proposals.

The committee’s interim president, August Boto, who drafted that rejection document, expressed “sorrow” on Sunday about the newspapers’ findings.

“It would be sorrow if it were 200 or 600 cases. Sorrow. What we’re talking about is criminal. The fact that criminal activity occurs in a church context is always the basis of grief. But it’s going to happen. And that statement (he drafted in 2008) does not mean that we must be resigned to it,” he told the newspapers.