Sex abuse by Southern Baptist workers chronicled
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.”