Leaders of local Baptist churches are responding to recently published information report leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which lists alleged sexual abuse by ministers in churches that are members of the SBC, as well as what has been called an effort to keep these alleged incidents secret.
“For nearly two decades, victims of abuse and other indifferent Southern Baptists have appealed to the Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to report the dissolution of children and other rapists who were on the pulpit or worked as church staff.” the message said. summary of the report. “They called, sent letters, sent e-mails, appeared at SBC and EC meetings, held rallies and contacted the press … only to be met again and again with resistance, comments and even open hostility from some within the EU. “
“Our investigation has shown that over the years, several high-ranking EC officials, together with external lawyers, have largely monitored the EC’s response to these allegations of abuse. They closely guarded allegations of allegations of abuse and litigation that were not passed on to EC proxies, and focused exclusively on avoiding liability for the SBC except for other reasons, ”the statement said. “To this end, survivors and others who reported abuses were ignored, disbelieved, or faced with the constant refrain that the SBC could not take any action because of its policy toward church autonomy – even if it meant the convicted offenders continued to serve with no messages or warnings for their current church or congregation. ”
The 288-page document was compiled by independent research firm Guidepost Solutions at the request of SBC pastors after last year’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, after which the firm said “calls for reform have reached a crescendo” and SBC envoys overwhelmingly voted in favor. . to oversee an independent investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s allegations of allegations of sexual abuse. The petition provides for an investigation into the actions and decisions of staff and executive committee members from 1 January 2000 to 14 June 2021 on allegations of abuse, abuse, ill-treatment of victims, intimidation of victims or lawyers, and resistance to sexual violence reform initiatives.
“It was the pastors who wanted this investigation to be conducted,” said Pastor Jonathan Taylor, who heads the East Side Baptist Church in Vernon, which is part of the SBC. “My prayer is that everything that was done in the dark will be revealed to both the survivors and the accused.”
Kent Lamp, a missionary for the Holmes Baptist Association, agrees, adding that he hopes any victims will find justice, but also that any falsely accused will be acquitted.
“I know the problems of the last 40 years that have fallen into this area [of sexual abuse], and this, of course, had to be solved for the sake of the victims, ”Lamp said. “Everyone who is guilty must be dealt with. Everyone can be to blame. We walk in the flesh; however we want to be sure that all the facts are there. So much of the mainstream media jumps out there and makes decisions, rather than giving the courts a chance to act, and some people plead guilty to public opinion. I know that something happened and everything was not revealed, but we want to be sure that the right ones will be brought to justice. “
Among the more than 700 defendants is Pastor Johnny Hunt, who has led numerous men’s ministry conferences for Holmes and Washington DC churches and served as SBC president from 2008 to 2010. Hunt, who resigned May 13 as senior vice president of evangelization and leadership on the organization’s North American Missionary Council, was not charged with the crime; however, the report cites him for an alleged 2010 attack on the wife of another pastor in Panama City Beach.
“During our investigation, Pastor SBC and his wife stated that SBC President Johnny Hunt sexually assaulted his wife on July 25, 2010,” the statement said. “We include this allegation of sexual violence in the report because our investigators found the pastor and his wife credible; their communication was partially confirmed by the Minister of Counseling and three other credible witnesses; and our investigators did not consider Dr. Hunt’s allegations of sexual assault to be credible. “
Hunt, who is not currently charged with the crime, issued a public statement Sunday, May 22, in response to the investigation, saying he “strongly” denies the incident. On Friday, May 27, Hunt made another statement, acknowledging that the “meeting” took place, but it took place by agreement and did not go any further because of “overwhelming conviction.”
“We were all differently shocked by the content of this report,” Hunt wrote in a letter to his church family at First Baptist Woodstock in Woodstock, Georgia. “I owe you the opportunity to hear the truth from me directly.” Hunt went on to say that during the alleged incident he “entered a season of deep despair and probably clinical depression” after battling cancer, and allowed himself to “get too close to a compromise situation” with a woman who was not his wife. “It happened when she invited me on her vacation to talk,” he wrote. “Contrary to my best opinion, I decided to go. Our brief but inappropriate meeting ended when – in response to a boundless sense of conviction ¬- I stopped it and fled the situation. “
“It was a terrible sin,” he added, “but it was a meeting of consistency. It was not an abuse or an attack. ” Hunt went on to say that he immediately “began to take personal responsibility”, the process, he said, included admitting his wife to the incident and seeking “professional help”. “I’m not looking for your sympathy,” he said. “I am not a victim. I have to take responsibility for my sin, which, in fact, has cost me everything but my faith and my family for the last seven days … The most absurd statement is that this brief meeting of consent was an attack. This is not the case. That’s why I denied the accuracy of the report, why I deny it now. “
On the same day, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chipley, Mike Orr, issued a statement that also considered the report.
“On Sunday, May 22, a report was published that is the result of an investigation into the SBC Executive Committee allegations of sexual abuse over the past 20 years,” Pastor Orr wrote. “The investigation was overwhelmingly approved by our envoys at last year’s annual meeting. The content of the report is shocking, upsetting, nauseating and just devastating. We pray for the survivors and their families. “
“I am still working on the content of this report,” he added. “I entrust this to the Lord and pray for the guidance of the Lord as our churches and convention deal with and act on what has been revealed. As many of you know, Pastor Johnny Hunt was named in the report, and charges were brought against him. My heart hurts for many reasons. I was unaware of these allegations until the release of this report on Sunday, May 22nd. The church leadership team and I are still trying to process the information and pray for everyone involved. ”
The hotline was established as part of a joint effort between SBC and Guidepost Solutions. Survivors seeking support or wanting to report abuse can call 202-864-5578 or email SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com