Leaders at US Protestant Church suppressed sex abuse complaints: report

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, suppressed for years complaints of sexual abuse against priests and church staff, an independent investigation commissioned by the Church has found.

For nearly two decades, survivors and advocates who sounded the alarm over sexual misconduct faced “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility” from members of the Church’s Executive Committee (EC), said the 288-page report published Sunday by the investigative firm Guidepost Solutions.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was rocked by a sex abuse scandal in 2019, after a bombshell investigation by two Texas newspapers revealed hundreds of predators and more than 700 victims within the Church since 1998.

The media report found some 380 church leaders and volunteers have faced public accusations of abuse, mostly of children as young as three years old.

The report released Sunday found some Church leaders had no interest in seeing the cases investigated or made public.

Several senior leaders “closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations,” the report said.

Victims were ignored, discredited and told that no action would be taken because it would violate the autonomy of individual churches, “even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”

The report recommended “a sincere apology” to those affected by the Church’s actions and a comprehensive overhaul of its sexual misconduct policies.

The SBC has thousands of churches and 15 million members, mostly in the southern United States.