Panelists Assess Southern Baptist Convention on Sexual Abuse

Bible teacher and sexual abuse survivor Beth Moore (left) participates in a panel discussion hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Commission called “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention” June 10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the night before the start of the two-day SBC annual meeting. Photo by Van Payne

Speakers at a panel on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches shared Monday night (June 10) their assessment of where the convention and its cooperating congregations stand regarding an increasingly obvious problem in the country’s largest Protestant denomination.

More than 1,250 people registered for “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention,” a conversation co-hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study at an exhibit hall in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

“One of the things that I feel is relief that we really are talking about it,” Bible teacher Beth Moore said. “And I can tell you that we do have some things happening right now that I have never seen happen. I feel relief that it’s on paper…. I feel hope because we are speaking plainly about it, and I feel a tremendous sense of resolve.”

Rachael Denhollander — lawyer, advocate and abuse survivor — told the audience there is a wide range of emotions in the survivor community. “By and large the survivor community loves the church; they love Jesus; they love the Gospel,” she said. “And our desire is to see the church do this better so that it becomes the refuge it was intended to be.

“There is a lot of skepticism, and I think some of it is justified, because the survivor community is used to hearing a lot of words,” Denhollander said “What we’re not used to seeing is action.”

SBC President J.D. Greear has made sexual abuse a focus of his first year in office. One of the reasons, he said, is: “The credibility of what we actually believe about the Gospel is at stake.”

He has learned from the survivor community, “[T]he strongest words without actions that follow up those words are worse than not saying words at all.”

ERLC President Russell Moore said, “God is uncovering some awful things, but at the same time God is raising up some really amazing and encouraging things as well. And one of those things is listening to the voices of survivors” and those who minister to them.

Susan Codone, senior associate dean of academic affairs at Mercer University School of Medicine, shared her personal story of being abused by two pastors as a girl at a Birmingham-area church.

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Source: Baptist Press