- Senior leaders of the Southern Baptist Church (the largest Protestant denomination in the United States) have been implicated in an investigative report published two days ago in obstructing and denigrating survivors of sexual abuse by clergy over two decades.

The number of Protestants in the United States is about 157 million (43% of the population), of whom 15 million belong to the Southern Baptist Church, which owns and operates 47,000 churches in various states.

A landmark investigative report published by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News sheds light on the sexual assault scandal in 2019, as hundreds of abuses were documented in Southern Baptist churches, including several cases where perpetrators priests continued to carry out their ecclesiastical duties.

Last year, thousands of delegates to the church's national meeting made it clear that they did not want the church's central executive committee to oversee an investigation into its actions, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch independent, impartial third-party investigations.

The investigation documented the testimonies of dozens of victims of sexual assaults against children, men and women, and according to the 288-page investigative report, the victims faced procrastination and resistance that amounted to explicit hostility from some leaders of the Church’s Central Committee.

The investigation, which lasted for seven months, was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent research company that was contracted by the Church's Executive Committee after it came under great pressure to conduct an independent investigation and not cover up the perpetrators.

Catholic Church in America (Reuters)

unexpected shock

Previously, such scandals were linked to a large extent with the Catholic Church in the first place. Hence, the report and its details of the violations were formed and the church leaders covered up the perpetrators;

A massive shock to millions of followers.

For nearly two decades, the report concluded, the officials who ran the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Church, the body that oversees the affairs of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, lied.

It stated that the victims of these violations "made great efforts to expose these practices within the church and expose its senior officials who concealed these crimes. The victims resorted to making phone calls, sending traditional mail and e-mail messages, participating in some meetings of the church's executive committee, and contacting the press." To be confronted, again and again, with resistance, procrastination, and even open hostility from some within the Church’s Executive Committee.”

The report featured an internal email sent by the general counsel and interim chair of the Church's Executive Committee, Auguste Bhutto, regarding the efforts of two women victims of sexual abuse.

Use of the Bible

According to the report, in 2019, Church Executive Committee Chairman Ronnie Floyd - who was a member of the Evangelical Advisory Committee to former US President Donald Trump - told other church leaders in an email that he had received "some calls from pastors who expressed growing concern about the focus on the assault crisis." nationality".

The report stated that "when these abuses occur in a church environment, and are committed by people who are seen as spiritual leaders, and who are charged with nurturing and training young people religiously and spiritually, the matter is much worse."

It also "compounded the ugliness of the Southern Baptist Church scandal's use of scripture and spiritual language as weapons by cult leaders against innocent victims."

The report shows how some priests - all men - chose to try to protect their sect by concealing abuse, then trying to destroy the victims of abuse, which did terrible damage to Christianity's reputation.

US President Joe Biden as he leaves prayer at the Catholic Church (Reuters)

Among the main recommendations contained in the report:

  • Form an independent commission and then create a permanent administrative entity to oversee comprehensive, long-term reforms of sexual assault and related misconduct within the Church Executive Committee.

  • Establishing and maintaining an information base system for violators to alert and warn followers of the cult about their behavior.

  • Provide reform and review programs that include protocols, training, education and practical information.

  • Restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements and civil settlements that obligate survivors of confidentiality in sexual assault cases, unless requested by the victim.

The church's interim executives, Willie MacLaurin and Roland Slade, welcomed the recommendations, and said - in a statement - "We recognize that there are no solutions or short cuts. We must all meet this challenge through wise application and prayer, and we must do so with compassion like Christ."