A bombshell investigative report has revealed that top leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention have ignored and obstructed victims of church-related sexual abuse for more than two decades.
Sunday's report, conducted by third-party agency Guidepost Solutions, was commissioned by the convention after outcry from its membership. It shows that some members of the Nashville-based SBC's executive committee set a precedent of downplaying allegations from various survivors of clergy abuse and other concerned parties to avoid liability.
According to the report, concerned parties “made phone calls, mailed letters, sent emails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies and contacted the press … only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.”
Per the Associated Press, the seven-month investigation follows a 2021 national meeting vote by the SBC's delegation for the executive committee to commission an independent investigation. A Tuesday meeting is set to discuss the findings of the report. Some members of the executive committee have resigned in the time since the report, according to the AP.
SBC President Ed Litton said Sunday that the report will be discussed at the religious body's annual convention, slated for Anaheim, Calif., next month.
"This is not the time for hot takes or armchair quarterbacks," Litton said in a statement. "This is a time for us to listen, lament, assess and prepare to respond. … We must be ready to take meaningful steps to change our culture as it relates to sexual abuse."
According to Guidepost Solutions, a few senior committee leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC's response to reports of abuse.
"They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations," the report reveals.
"In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy — even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation."
Former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president and theologian Russell Moore says the findings represent an apocalyptic event for the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Allegations of sexual violence and assault were placed, the report concludes, in a secret file in the SBC Nashville headquarters," Moore writes for Christianity Today.
"It held over 700 cases. Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves."
Guidepost Solutions' report and its recommendations for the SBC can be found in full here.