Over the past two decades, hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders and workers have been accused of sexual misconduct, a new investigative report conducted by two U.S. newspapers reveals.
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Over 700 victims, some as young as three years old, were assaulted by about 380 Southern Baptist church pastors and employees since 1998, the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.
Some 220 pastors, ministers, deacons, church volunteers, and Sunday school teachers have been convicted, twelve cases are still pending. Another 100 are serving time in prison. An additional 135 have returned to preach the Lord’s word, despite the fact that 100 of these are registered sexual offenders, state and federal records show.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) interim president, Augusto Boto said, “It would be sorrow if it were 200 or 600 cases. Sorrow. What we're talking about is criminal. The fact that criminal activity occurs in a church context is always the basis of grief. But it's going to happen... does not mean that we must be resigned to it.”
Last year’s SBC elected president Rev. J.D. Greear denounced the sexual abuses listed in the news report, “pure evil.”
"I am broken over what was revealed today. The voices in this article should be heard as a warning sent from God, calling the church to repent," Greear said on Twitter.
Eight years ago, a victim petitioned the SBC to track sexual predators, install a code of action for churches harboring such convicts, and to establish sexual abuse prevention policies. The movement was ultimately rejected, however, since then other survivors and supporters have campaigned for change in SCB establishments across the country.
An active critic of the culture of abuse and cover-ups in the church, Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former high-ranking lawyer, said, "I understand the fear, because (allegations are) going to make the leadership look bad. "Well, they are bad, and they should look bad. Because they have ignored this issue. They have demonized the victims.”
In Sunday’s series of Twitter posts, Greear agreed, saying that, in the future, the SBC should take full responsibility for abuses in its affiliate churches. Last July, the religious organization resolved to create a “high level study group” to develop a strategy to punish abusers and bring solace to survivors.
"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," he said.