Survivors and others who reported alleged abuse were “ignored” or “disbelieved” by Southern Baptist Convention leaders for decades as part of a cover-up, according to a newly released investigative report.
The investigation in question, per a report from the Associated Press on Sunday, spanned seven months and was handled by the Guidepost Solutions firm. The investigation was preceded in 2019 by reporting from the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle on a number of abuse cases, with nationwide attention given to the fact that multiple alleged abusers remained in positions of power at the time.
“For almost two decades, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been contacting the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) to report child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff,” the newly released Guidepost investigative report states in its executive summary. “They 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.”
The response of the SBC’s Executive Committee is further alleged to have been “largely controlled” by a few senior leaders, as well as outside counsel. Information on alleged abuse and related lawsuits was “closely guarded,” meaning it was often—per the investigative report—not widely shared. Instead, the alleged aim of these leaders was to strategically sidestep liability.
Here’s more, straight from the report:
“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.”
The 288-page report details findings associated with abuse allegations, the mishandling of those allegations, mistreatment of alleged victims (including alleged intimidation), a longstanding resistance to related reform measures among some leaders, and more. Read it in full here.
Also announced on Sunday was the resignation of Johnny Hunt from his North American Mission Board position. Hunt was mentioned in the Guidepost report in connection with an alleged instance of abuse he has denied, including in a tweeted statement shared this weekend.