Abuse found at South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Gon­za­les

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Top lead­ers of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion promised to en­cour­age re­forms that pro­tect chil­dren and women af­ter a sweep­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion found more than 700 vic­tims of sex­ual mis­con­duct by church lead­ers or vol­un­teers.

The Hous­ton Chron­i­cle and San An­to­nio Ex­press-News com­piled more than 380 cases over the past 20 years of church lead­ers and vol­un­teers who have been charged with sex crimes. Most are now in prison or are reg­is­tered sex offen­ders, the re­port says.

J.D. Greear, pres­i­dent of the Nashville-based South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion, posted on Twit­ter that the abuse de­scribed in the re­port­ing is “pure evil.” He vowed re­forms.

“I will pur­sue ev­ery pos­si­ble av­enue to bring the vast spir­i­tual, finan­cial, and or­ga­ni­za­tional re­sources of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion to bear on stop­ping preda­tors in our midst,” said Greear, who be­came pres­i­dent last year.

South­ern Bap­tists are the largest Protes­tant de­nom­i­na­tion in the U.S. They be­lieve in lo­cal con­trol of the church.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was spurred on by South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion lead­ers’ un­will­ing­ness for more than a decade to cre­ate a list of sex­ual preda­tors from affili­ated churches, the news out­lets said. To­gether, the out­lets cre­ated their own.

Greear said the voices in the re­port “should be heard as a warn­ing sent from God, call­ing the church to re­pent.”

Rus­sell Moore, the Ethics and Re­li­gious Lib­erty Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent of the con­ven­tion, said in his blog that the con­ven­tion would work with co­op­er­at­ing churches and the scan­dal should be han­dled as a flock, not as a cor­po­ra­tion.

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