FBI investigates Southern Baptist Convention for alleged mishandling of clergy sexual misconduct cases

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The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s second-largest religious group, said Friday the Justice Department was investigating several branches of the denomination following an internal report that showed mishandling of sexual abuse cases.

The investigation is linked to a recent bombshell report commissioned by the SBC, a spokesperson said Friday evening. The report concluded that survivors of sexual abuse were often ignored, belittled and “even vilified” by the senior clergy of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Southern Baptist leaders covered up sex abuse and kept secret database, report says

“The SBC Executive Committee recently learned that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention and that the investigation will include multiple SBC entities,” said the statement released Friday by 14 SBC leaders from multiple locations. leading entities. “Individually and collectively, each SBC entity is committed to cooperating fully and completely with the investigation.”

The third-party report, which involved a review of the period from 2000 to 2021, focused on the actions of the executive committee, which handles financial and administrative duties. Southern Baptist churches operate independently of each other, but the Nashville-based executive committee distributes more than $190 million through its cooperative program in its annual budget that funds its missions, seminaries and ministries.

The 300-page report, the first of its kind in a massive Protestant denomination like the SBC, showed how denominational leaders for decades have actively resisted calls for abuse prevention and reform. Evidence in the report suggests leaders also told Southern Baptists they could not maintain a database of offenders to prevent further abuse while secretly keeping such a list for years.

Anger over the report in June led the massive SBC annual meeting to adopt a recommendation to create a database to track sex offenders and a formal group to handle sexual abuse accusations in the future.

Southern Baptists vote on sexual abuse proposals, debate female pastors

The Justice Department declined to comment.

“As we continue to mourn and mourn past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current SBC leaders have demonstrated a strong belief in resolving these past issues and are implementing measures to ensure they do not happen again. never in the future. The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is proof of this commitment,” the statement read. “We recognize that our reform efforts are not over.”

For years, survivors of church sex abuse have called on churches to admit the extent of the abuse. This helped generate a movement called #ChurchToo, an offshoot of the broader #MeToo movement, calling out not only sexual predators, but also religious leaders involved in cover-ups or other mishandling of abuse allegations.

Lawyers for the SBC’s executive committee said in a statement late Friday that the committee had received a subpoena, but “no one has been subpoenaed at this time.”

The statement announcing the Justice Department investigation was signed by leaders including SBC seminary leaders, the top official of its huge missionary corps and newly elected president Bart Barber.

“While so much in the world is uncertain, we can be sure that we serve a mighty God. Nothing, including this investigation, takes him by surprise,” the statement read. “We are comforted by this and humbly ask you to pray in the days and weeks ahead. Specifically, we ask God to grant wisdom and discernment to each person involved in the investigation.

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