Houston, Texas, Feb 13, 2019 / 18:01 pm
In the wake of months of sexual abuse reports and allegations within the Catholic Church, and just before a Vatican summit on the problem, two Texas newspapers published a three-part investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, uncovering at least 700 cases of child sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders and volunteers.
The joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed that since 1998, around 380 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders and volunteers have been accused of sexual misconduct – some resulting in lawsuits and convictions, others in personal confessions and resignations.
“They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions,” the Houston Chronicle reported. “About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.”
In many ways, the scandal resembles that of the Catholic Church abuse scandals - children robbed of innocence, pastors abusing their positions of trust and authority, negligence and lack of appropriate, timely action on the part of some leadership once they were informed of abuse, the shuffling of accused pastors from church to church.
But one thing makes the SBC scandal even more difficult to track, report, and handle than that of the Catholic Church: the lack of centralized leadership within the convention, making the enforcement of reforms nearly impossible.
"It's a perfect profession for a con artist, because all he has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister," said Christa Brown, an activist who wrote about her own experience being molested by an SBC pastor.
"Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power, and it all starts in some small church,” she told the Houston Chronicle.
"It's a porous sieve of a denomination," she added.