‘So Much To Lament’: Southern Baptist Leaders Respond To ‘Devastating’ Report On Sexual Abuse Mishandling
A weathered church steeple in a small American town.
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Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) responded to an independent report released Sunday revealing that sexual abuse was covered up for years in America’s largest protestant denomination

The seven-month-long investigation concluded that leaders on the SBC’s Executive Committee (EC) “resisted” and “stonewalled” repeated sexual abuse allegations made by SBC members against pastors and leaders in the denomination.

“There are not adequate words to express my sorrow at the things revealed in this report,” SBC President Ed Litton said in a statement Sunday. “I am grieved to my core for those who have suffered sexual abuse in Southern Baptist contexts, both for those named in this report and the many who are not.”

Delegates at last year’s SBC national meeting called for an outside investigation, and the EC agreed to an examination by independent firm Guidepost Solutions.

“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC,” the report said, according to the Associated Press.

The independent report added that the SBC ignored or disbelieved sexual abuse survivors and excused complaints by referring to the denomination’s autonomous church polity. The report stated that this excuse was given to those making abuse allegations “even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”

The report goes on to state that one EC member held a list of hundreds of accused pastors, but there is no evidence anyone on the committee “took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.”

One of those accused was former SBC President Johnny Hunt, who was accused of sexually assaulting another pastor’s wife during a trip in 2010. Hunt denied the allegations.

“I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report,” he said in a Sunday statement. “I have never abused anybody.”

The EC will meet on Tuesday to discuss the reports findings after multiple committee leaders resigned in the past year. The SBC will also meet for its annual meeting in Anaheim, California, where the sexual abuse findings are expected to be discussed further.

Following the report, Litton called for the SBC to “implement desperately needed reforms.”

“We have so much to lament, but genuine grief requires a godly response,” he said.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the report “devastating” and “one of the most difficult moments ever experienced by my beloved denomination” in a Monday opinion piece for World.

“Truth is, this report shows Southern Baptists in the worst light,” Mohler wrote. “We have to face that fact. But I must move ahead with the confidence, based on long experience, that faithful Southern Baptist laypeople, pastors, and denominational leaders will do the right thing, once they know what that right thing is.”

Tom Ascol, a pastor in Cape Coral, Florida, who has been nominated for SBC president, told The Daily Wire this report is a wake-up call for SBC leaders and members. “Every Southern Baptist church member should read this report and ask the Lord to awaken us to an honest assessment of just how far we have drifted in our churches from His holy Word,” he said. “The Bible is crystal clear about how we are to handle sin in our churches. Yet, as this report makes obvious, too many of our churches are falling short in this area.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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