In the nearly 300-page report of an independent investigation, the first correlative study of the immense Protestant sect of Southern Baptists, several top clergy members were found to have minimized, ignored, and even vilified sex abuse survivors who came forward for help. Released on Sunday, May 22nd, this third-party examination was gathered by the Guidepost Solutions organization, just as Southern Baptist Church (SBC) leaders had requested.
The seven-month investigation report states the abuse survivors’ emails and phone calls were “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility” by church leaders. These leaders seemed less concerned about protecting SBC members from further abuse and more about protecting the institution from liability.
Top leaders kept a secret list for many years while lying to Southern Baptists. These same SBC members requested that the leaders maintain a database of sex offenders as a preventative measure against more abuse. Further shocking new evidence emerged from this investigation that detailed specific abuse cases and shed light on how denominational leaders actively resisted calls for abuse prevention for decades.
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As a denomination of 13 million members, the SBC has grappled with declining membership during the past 15 years. Other denominations have also been subject to steep declines. The SBC has long thwarted any comparisons with the Catholic Church regarding its sexual abuse case numbers. Yet the report states that some senior leaders of the SBC had been supporting and protecting alleged abusers.
Many sex abuse survivors are relieved that the investigation has finally blown the cover-ups wide open. However, they are still surprised to see the pattern of such cover-ups at the highest levels of church leadership.
A female sex abuse survivor, once the highest-paid executive at the SBC, stated, “I knew it was rotten, but it’s astonishing and infuriating.” Jennifer Lyell’s story of abuse is part of the investigation. “This is a denomination that is through and through about power. It is misappropriated power. It does not in any way reflect the Jesus I see in the scriptures. I am so gutted.”