The leaders of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were accused of masking and disregarding reports of sexual abuse by clergymen for nearly two decades, in an effort to protect their own reputation. An independent investigation released by the 13-million-member SBC revealed horrific details in the 288-page report.
An independent firm, Guidepost Solutions, contracted by the Executive Committee carried out the largest investigation in SBC history with a total investment of $4 million. The report contains more than 300 interviews conducted in a period of eight months.
According to the Huff Post, the investigation revealed that survivors, advocates and other concerned Southern Baptists had repeatedly approached the SBC's Executive Committee with the allegations but were only met with resistance and outright hostility.
With claims that a staff member of the Executive Committee kept a list of the Baptist ministers accused of abuse, the report mentioned that there was no authority that could be held responsible for ensuring the offenders were no longer in positions of power.
Several SBC leaders were also caught lying about the list, saying that SBC's functioning does not allow for the maintenance of such a database. The investigators discovered that the most recent version of that list had 703 names, nine of which are still active in ministry, as reported by The Tennessean.
The investigation uncovered several accounts of child sexual abuse as well as shocking allegations against former SBC president Johnny Hunt of sexually assaulting another pastor's wife in 2010.
Many survivors stated that leaders spoke ill about them behind their backs and often disregarded their sufferings. The leaders were also advised by the Convention's law firm on multiple occasions to ignore any reports about the abuse whenever they were approached by a survivor, the report concluded.
In some cases, the leaders sided with convicts or offenders who had already confessed, helping them personally.
The historic report took the social media by storm with hundreds and thousands of posts and comments using hashtags #ChurchToo and #SBCToo as citizens were appalled that America's largest Protestant denomination was even capable of associating in such a denigrating act towards victims of sexual abuse.
Russell Moore, former president of the SBC's policy arm, wrote in Christianity Today on Sunday that "the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be." Further mentioning that while he called for the investigation, the report findings stunned him.
The present SBC president Ed Litton in an official statement expressed his grief and disappointment over the details uncovered by the investigation. Highlighting the failures of the Southern Baptists he told Christianity Today, that changes and reforms are an urgent need because the time is now to come up with an appropriate response.
The law firm, Guidepost Solutions, proposed that the Convention should now divert all its attention towards establishing a unit solely dedicated for a proper addressal of any sexual abuse crime and setting up of a compensation fund program for the survivors.
Apart from this, suggestions were made towards creating an online database of abusers with limitations on non-disclosure agreements underlined in a systematic order.
Thousands of Southern Baptists are scheduled to meet next month in Anaheim, California, one year after they voted to conduct the investigation, to hold further discussion on the recommendations made in the report.