Candidate for SBC president stirs a storm by saying sexual abuse cases are a ‘distraction’

Mark Wingfield | May 7, 2024

In a six-man race for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency, one candidate made headlines over the weekend for his stance on the 42 sexual abuse lawsuits reportedly pending against the denomination.

Critics pounced when David Allen, a seminary preaching professor, called those lawsuits a “distraction” from the gospel imperative.

This set off a chain of social media posts, mainly on X, with Allen’s supporters and critics parsing what he did or didn’t say.

Sexual abuse survivor advocate Tiffany Thigpen shot back on X: “Actually, we ARE distractions because unlike you all, we refused to sit in the pit of despair. We believe in God’s justice and mercy We are reaching back despite our suffering to keep it from happening to others We ARE ministry. We ARE distracting the show. THAT is your problem.”

Clergy sexual abuse survivor David Pittman tweeted: “Thank you for exposing your heart by referring to us as distractions.”

Among Allen’s defenders was Mac Brunson, pastor at Valleydale Church in Pelham, Ala., where Allen preached last Sunday.

Brunson replied to Pittman: “That is disingenuous at best and a distortion of what he said. He stated very clearly that it was an issue that had to be dealt with. Many, many are fed up with this kind of character assassination.”

In another post, Brunson said: “Yes, he used the word ‘distractions’ but not of sex abuse victims. He listed a number of things. Honestly for 5 years going on 6 how to deal with this has been distracting. No sex abuse victim is satisfied — not many others with how it has been handled.”

In context, what Allen said in the Sunday sermon was: “We have gotten involved in trying to figure out how to negotiate problems with sexual abuse, how to address that, how to address that in a financially responsible way. Many people are unaware of this — the Southern Baptist Convention, either individual leaders or agencies or state conventions, right now are involved in 42 lawsuits. It is unbelievable, and that is heavily draining financially our Executive Committee.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get back on track and address this,” he continued. “There are other issues as well that are distracting us from the main thing. The main thing is missions, evangelism and preaching the gospel and church planting. That’s the main thing. All these other things are distractions. They have to be addressed. But we cannot allow our focus to get off on all of these other things and not focus on the main thing.”

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