Southern Baptists To Confront Sexual Abuse And Role Of Women In The Church

Southern Baptists, who in 1995 apologized for their past defense of slavery and in 2017 denounced white supremacy, are resolved once again to show their sensitivity to a pressing social concern. The 2019 convention in Birmingham, Ala., is focusing heavily on the problem of sexual abuse by church leaders.

Among the resolutions likely to be debated are proposals to discipline churches that mishandle abuse allegations. Dozens of Southern Baptist women in recent years have come forward with stories of clergy misconduct and of church officials failing to respond. Earlier this year, The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News reported that nearly 400 male Southern Baptist leaders or volunteers had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, involving more than 700 victims.

"There's a question of, 'Can we trust our church leaders not only [not to abuse] but also to prohibit people who could be abusers from having a place where they could do it with impunity?' " says Pastor J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. As one of his first acts after being elected at last year's convention, Greear ordered the formation of an advisory council to draft recommendations for dealing with the abuse problem.

"You're going to see a convention that is united in its agreement on the fact that this cannot be tolerated in our churches and that we have to do whatever it takes, regardless of what it costs us, to make our churches safe places," Greear told NPR.

A report by the Southern Baptists' own research organization recently found that about one out of three church members surveyed believe there are more accounts of sex abuse by pastors still to come.

Southern Baptist women who say church officials have been unresponsive to their allegations of abuse by clergy and other church staff are planning a rally outside the annual meeting in Birmin...

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