It’s all so painfully, shockingly familiar.
From The New York Times:
National leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention suppressed reports of sexual abuse and resisted proposals for reform over two decades, according to a third-party investigation published by the convention Sunday. The report also said that a former president of the denomination was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2010, a claim the report described as “credible.”
Sexual abuse allegations, and the church’s handling of them, have roiled the convention for years. After mounting pressure from survivors of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist settings, delegates at the denomination’s annual meeting last summer voted overwhelmingly to commission the report, and demanded that its 86-member executive committee hand over confidential documents in cooperation. The report covers abuse reports from women and children against male pastors, church employees and officials from the year 2000 to the present.
The release of the report represents an extraordinary moment for Southern Baptists, the country’s largest Protestant denomination. As the group nears its annual gathering in June, its conservative membership, which has fallen to its lowest count in four decades, remains sharply divided by debates over race, gender and politics.
The denomination’s president, Ed Litton, whose term expires in June and who is not running for re-election, said in an interview on Sunday night that what he read in the report was “far worse” than anything he had anticipated. “We knew it was coming,” he said, but “it still is very challenging and surprising — shocking — to have to face these realities.”
The denomination has long emphasized that its decentralized structure meant it had little ability to force churches to take any action, because legally each church stood alone and did not report to higher authorities. But the report alleged that a handful of powerful leaders had the ability to stonewall abuse reports and attempts at accountability and reform.
It also found a pattern of intimidating survivors of sexual assault and their advocates, and said they were “denigrated as ‘opportunists.’”
In an internal email, August Boto, an influential executive committee leader, described advocates’ efforts as a “satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism,” referring to the work of Christa Brown, a survivor, and the advocate Rachael Denhollander, who has worked with the denomination, as “the devil being temporarily successful.” Mr. Boto could not be reached immediately for comment.