Southern Baptists meet to vote on sexual abuse, new president

know about Southern Baptists meet to vote on sexual abuse, new president

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA. — Nearly 10,000 members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination gathered in Anaheim, California, this week to discuss how Southern Baptists should respond to the startling findings of an independent investigation into the handling of sexual abuse cases. Members of the Southern Baptist Convention plan to vote Tuesday on the proposals, as well as choose the next president of the convention.

In May, Southern Baptist leaders released a report detailing a years-long cover-up of sexual abuse within their denomination. For 15 years, the report alleges, leaders said they were unable to compile a database of sexual abuse perpetrators, but secretly kept a list of their own. The same week they released their report, they also released the secret list, which consisted of hundreds of names of suspected abusers, including many convicted of sexual abuse crimes.

“This is our punch in the gut,” Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton, a pastor from Mobile, Alabama, told attendees Tuesday, referring to the sexual abuse report.

“We have to do something,” Litton said. “We must do what is right and just in the eyes of our God.”

Andrew Hébert, a pastor of about 1,000 Southern Baptists in Amarillo, Texas, who is part of the SBC’s sexual abuse task force, said the task force contacted a dozen sexual abuse survivors named in the report. and asked if they could be apologized by name from the stage.

Southern Baptists will vote Tuesday on the task force’s sexual abuse recommendations.

“I feel very optimistic. I think Southern Baptists are ready to do the right thing,” Hébert said. “I think this is an acknowledgment that these are common sense reforms.”

On Tuesday morning, Southern Baptists published a list of nine resolutions they plan to vote, including two on sexual abuse and others on the issues of abortion, Ukraine and Native Americans.

A resolution on sexual abuse states that Southern Baptists urge state politicians to pass laws that provide consistent definitions of sexual abuse by pastors, and also urge lawmakers to “empower churches by protecting them from civil liability.” when they share information about alleged abuse.” In another resolution, they focus on the Southern Baptist Convention’s failings around sexual abuse, naming and apologizing to specific survivors with their permission.

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In ruling on abortion, Southern Baptists urge the Supreme Court to overturn abortion-related precedents set in Roe vs. Wade Y Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. They also point to a recent federal report about the troubling legacy of federal Native American boarding school policies, calling “atrocities committed against Native Americans in the name of religious ‘conversions’… reprehensible.”

For years, survivors of church sexual assaults have called on churches to admit the extent of the abuse. He helped spawn a movement called #ChurchToo, an offshoot of the broader #MeToo movement, which denounces not only sexual predators but also religious leaders involved in cover-ups or other mishandling of allegations of abuse.

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Like other conservative evangelical groups across the country, Southern Baptists have been divided in recent years over issues like racial justice, female preachers and fears liberalism will take over the denomination. They meet annually in cities across the country. This year, about 8,800 people pre-registered, mostly from California and other states where many of the largest Southern Baptist churches are located. such as Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.

The denomination, which eschews a hierarchical structure and is highly democratic, passes resolutions every year that often point the way thousands of its members want to go. In 2021, the convention passed a resolution on the abolition of abortion, which called for ending abortion in all cases, with no exceptions. In previous years, there have been flashpoints about “far-right white supremacy” and critical race theory.

This time, the assembled Southern Baptists, called “messengers,” are expected to consider the reforms proposed by their sexual abuse task force, including creating a website to track abusive pastors and church workers. The denomination’s relief arm, Send Relief, announced it would designate $4 million in existing funds to support the recommendations, including $1 million in survivor care.

Rachael Denhollander, an attorney, survivor and advocate who advises the SBC on its anti-abuse reform measures, said Tuesday that if the reforms fall short at the meeting, “it’s a death sentence for the SBC. What has transpired over the last year and the level of corruption and re-traumatization of the SBC leadership has been exposed.”

If the SBC doesn’t address its sexual abuse issues, Denhollander said, “it’s the end of the SBC as we know it.”

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“If they refuse to deal with the evil amongst themselves, that is a complete abandonment of their principles in a way that will cause an exodus from the SBC,” he said.

The report released in May also suggested that a prominent Southern Baptist leader, Johnny Hunt, was considered “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting a woman during a beach vacation in 2010, a month after his term as president ended. SBC president. He has denied the abuse allegations on Twitter. The allegations rocked the Southern Baptist world because Hunt was previously beloved throughout the denomination and mentored young pastors.

Key Takeaways From Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Bombshell Report

Griffin Gulledge, a pastor who leads a congregation of more than 200 people in Madison, Ga., and is in Anaheim to vote this week, said he believes most Southern Baptists believe the sexual abuse cover-up was carried out by a small group of Southern Baptist leaders, but that the vast majority want to be part of the solution.

“Everyone I talk to says, ‘We want to get this right,’” he said. “And getting it right means addressing what we’ve done in the past, reforming our systems and sending a message to survivors that we’re ‘sorry’ we didn’t do it sooner.”

The messengers are also expected to choose their next leader, which could shape the direction of the 13.7 million-member denomination. Leading candidates include rural Texas pastor Bart Barber, who has been a strong advocate for anti-sexual abuse reforms. While he is still theologically conservative, he is considered more of a centrist within the denomination.

On Monday, Barber was photographed in twitter talking with sexual assault survivor Debbie Vasquez, who was named in the sexual assault report and was speaking to messengers at a booth inside the convention halls. In 2019, some abuse survivors were asked to stay out of convention halls because they were no longer Southern Baptists.

Another prominent candidate, Florida pastor Tom Ascol, on the other hand, attacked third-party research after Guidepost Solutions tweeted earlier this month in support of the LGBTQ community.

“Is this who we gave our tithe dollars to? I and 47,000 other SBC pastors, plus millions of faithful members feel betrayed”, Ascol tweeted. “We pay millions of dollars to a proud and LGBT-affirming organization to guide us in moral and spiritual matters!? Is there no fear of God?

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In a statement, Guidepost spokesman Montieth M. Illingworth said the organization’s tweet reaffirms its position against discrimination.

“We believe that our anti-discrimination position only strengthens our ability to conduct independent, fair and bias-free investigations like our SBC investigation,” the statement said. “In addition, our work for faith-based organizations seeks to be consistent with the principles and practices of the faith. In the Guidepost Solutions SBC EC report, we consulted with Baptist policy experts to ensure our recommendations were consistent with Baptist policy and practice.”

Ascol is backed by the far-right wing of the denomination, called the Conservative Baptist Network, and if he were elected or received a substantial number of votes, he could signal the future direction of the SBC. Ascol is part of a movement of abortion abolitionists who believe the procedure should be illegal even if the life of a pregnant person is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.

Some of the sexual assault survivors named in the report said they plan to be in Anaheim to push for change. Several of them recently released a list of recommendations, including the creation of a compensation fund for survivors, an independent commission to receive reports of abuse, and a memorial to survivors of abuse outside the SBC offices in Nashville.

Southern Baptists will decide whether to cut ties with California’s megachurch Saddleback Church, one of the largest in the denomination, which recently announced plans to hire a teaching pastor. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” announced plans to retire this fall and named Andy Wood, a San Francisco pastor, as his successor. Wood’s wife, Stacie, would also become a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Orange County, joining three other pastors who were ordained last year. The ordinations renewed a battle among Southern Baptists over whether women can be considered pastors, rather than have them serve as preachers or Bible teachers.

During last year’s meeting, a Louisiana pastor made a motion for the SBC to “break fellowship” with Saddleback, as well as all other churches that ordained women pastors. The motion is being considered by a committee, which may recommend expelling churches, and Southern Baptists could vote this week.

Official business will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, although most of the important votes are expected to take place on Tuesday.