Report Details Abuse Coverup by Southern Baptist Leaders

Members denounce 'astonishing and infuriating' treatment of sexual abuse victims
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2022 6:15 PM CDT
Report Details Abuse Coverup by Southern Baptist Leaders
The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, shown in 2011.   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

An outside investigation released Sunday by the Southern Baptist Convention found that survivors of sexual abuse were ignored, or worse, for decades by clergy. The almost 300-page report mostly addresses leaders' handling of reported abuse, the Washington Post reports, but includes details on individual cases. "While stories of abuse were minimized, and survivors were ignored or even vilified," the report says, "revelations came to light in recent years that some senior SBC leaders had protected or even supported alleged abusers." Members expressed shock at the scope of the problem in the nation's biggest Protestant denomination.

"I knew it was rotten, but it’s astonishing and infuriating," said Jennifer Lyell, whose abuse case is included in the report. She once was the convention's highest-paid female executive. Internal fights over how to handle abuse cases have gone on for years, and leaders have objected to comparisons with the abuse in the Catholic Church, arguing that the number of Southern Baptist cases is much lower. "This is a denomination (that) is through and through about power," Lyell said, per the Post. "It is misappropriated power. It does not in any way reflect the Jesus I see in the scriptures."

In an opinion piece that went up Sunday on Christianity Today, Russell Moore writes that "crisis is too small a word" for what the Southern Baptist Convention faces now. "It is an apocalypse." Moore has been on the convention's Executive Committee and called for the investigation; he was expecting bad behavior to be found. But "the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be," he writes. Moore says he's attended his last committee meeting and likens the leaders' behavior to a criminal conspiracy. "It's even more than just a crime," he writes. "It's blasphemy." You can read the full piece here. (More Southern Baptist Convention stories.)

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