If you’re Southern Baptist, you should know that the federal government is looking into your organization.
As relayed by Fox News, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has announced it’s under investigation by the Department of Justice. And though the Convention is being a bit vague, the revealed reason is particularly disconcerting.
Apparently, the DOJ’s probe is related to how the largest Protestant denomination in America has managed allegations of sexual abuse.
From the SBC Executive Committee’s statement posted online:
[The Committee] recently became aware that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, and that the investigation will include multiple SBC entities. … While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future. The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is evidence of this commitment.
A report in May by third-party firm Guidepost Solutions logged 200+ pages worth of abuse claims within the church.
In response, the Convention voted in June to track pastors who’ve been “credibly” accused of sexual abuse.
The measure [defined] “credibly accused” as a “pastor, denominational worker, or ministry employee or volunteer … who has confessed to sexual abuse in a non-privileged setting, who has been convicted in a court of law, or who has had a civil judgment rendered against them”…
The SBC also commissioned the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force to oversee changes to how abuse cases are handled and set up a fund for victims.
But other potential initiatives were left out. More from Fox News:
Thousands of Southern Baptists voted to support the new measures, though several additional reforms sought by abuse survivors were not adopted.
The additional measures that not enough members supported included a compensation fund for victims who were abused by church leaders and an independent commission to monitor churches’ internal affairs.
Bruce Frank, who led the task force that initialized the reform process, told members at the convention the steps they voted to implement were the “bare minimum” and he would continue to push for additional reforms.
As for federal investigations in general, the DOJ might be seen by some as increasingly more interested in probing entities on the Right side of the aisle, and the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t exactly Democrat-dense. Regardless, of course, charges of abuse within a religious organization are extremely disturbing. And a wealth of egregious errors must have been committed to result in the Guidepost Solutions report.
Individually and collectively, each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation. … We recognize our reform efforts are not finished. In fact, those efforts are continuing this very moment as the recently-announced Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force begins its work and as each entity has strengthened its efforts to protect against abuse. Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse.
While so many things in the world are uncertain, we can be certain that we serve a Mighty God. Nothing, including this investigation, takes Him by surprise. We take comfort in that and humbly ask you be in prayer in the days and weeks ahead. Specifically, we ask God to grant wisdom and discernment to each person dealing with the investigation.
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