Sex abuse by South­ern Baptist work­ers chron­i­cled

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world -

SAN AN­TO­NIO — Hun­dreds of South­ern Baptist church lead­ers and work­ers have been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct over the past 20 years, in­clud­ing dozens who re­turned to church du­ties, ac­cord­ing to a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion by two news­pa­pers.

The San An­to­nio Ex­press­news and Hous­ton Chron­i­cle re­ported Sun­day that their six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion found about 380 South­ern Baptist church lead­ers and work­ers who have been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct since 1998, vic­tim­iz­ing more than 700 peo­ple. Some were as young as 3 years old while oth­ers were adults when they were abused, the news­pa­pers re­ported.

About 220 of­fend­ers — among them pas­tors, min­is­ters, Sun­day school teach­ers, dea­cons and church vol­un­teers — have been con­victed or have taken plea deals, with dozens of cases still pend­ing. Nearly 100 are still in prison, ac­cord­ing to state and fed­eral records. Dozens of oth­ers made plea deals and served no time. More than 100 are reg­is­tered sex of­fend­ers, and some have re­turned to the pul­pit. At least 35 church pas­tors, em­ploy­ees and vol­un­teers who ex­hib­ited preda­tory be­hav­ior were still able to find jobs at churches.

Sev­eral past pres­i­dents and prom­i­nent South­ern Baptist Con­ven­tion lead­ers have been ac­cused by vic­tims of con­ceal­ing or mis­han­dling abuse com­plaints within their churches or sem­i­nar­ies, the news­pa­pers re­ported. In 2008, the church’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee re­jected a vic­tim’s pro­pos­als for the church to track sex­ual preda­tors, act against con­gre­ga­tions that har­bored abusers and es­tab­lish sex­ual abuse pre­ven­tion poli­cies.

The Rev. J.D. Greear, who was elected as the South­ern Baptist Con­ven­tion’s pres­i­dent last June, said the abuses de­scribed in the news re­port “are pure evil.”

“I am bro­ken over what was re­vealed to­day,” Greear wrote in a se­ries of posts on Twit­ter. “The voices in this ar­ti­cle should be heard as a warn­ing sent from God, call­ing the church to re­pent.”

He said the 47,000-church de­nom­i­na­tion must do bet­ter in pre­vent­ing abuse, com­mit to full co­op­er­a­tion with le­gal au­thor­i­ties when it does oc­cur, and of­fer bet­ter care to abuse vic­tims.

“We lead­ers in the SBC should have lis­tened to the warn­ings of those who tried to call at­ten­tion to this,” Greear tweeted. “I am com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure we never make these mis­takes again.

“We can­not just prom­ise to ‘do bet­ter’ and ex­pect that to be enough. But to­day, change be­gins with feel­ing the full weight of the prob­lem.”

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