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USThe Southern Baptist Convention, explained

21:50  11 february  2019
21:50  11 february  2019 Source:

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The Southern Baptist Convention, explained© Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention is shown on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.

In the past 20 years, about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, according to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. They were pastors. Deacons. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school and Christian school teachers. Church program volunteers. They left behind more than 700 victims. Read our investigation, "Abuse of Faith," here.


What is the Southern Baptist Convention?

‘Pure evil’: Southern Baptist leaders condemn decades of sexual abuse revealed in investigation

‘Pure evil’: Southern Baptist leaders condemn decades of sexual abuse revealed in investigation “We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them,” J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a network of more than 47,000 autonomous Baptist churches and institutions that voluntarily cooperate with one another. They generally hold the same beliefs on scripture and church governance; they share resources and fund missionary trips and seminaries through the SBC's "Cooperative Program." Despite the name, there are many Southern Baptist-affiliated churches located outside of the southern U.S. With around 15 million members, the SBC is the world's largest group of Baptists.

Local church autonomy

A bedrock of Baptist governance: SBC-affiliated churches are independent and self-governing. The convention and its entities typically do not interfere or comment on the affairs of individual churches, though several have lost their affiliation with the convention because of their acceptance of homosexuality. In those cases, the convention has been allowed to interfere because the church acted against official stances adopted by the convention's churches and therefore was "not in friendly cooperation."

Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms Published Feb. 10, 2019 First of three parts Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez's voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders. 

(ABUSE OF FAITH: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms)

SBC annual meeting

Each June, SBC-affiliated churches send "messengers" to the convention's annual two-day business meeting. Messengers vote to adopt convention budgets and resolutions, elect leaders of SBC entities and hear reports from them. Any messenger can also make a motion during general business meetings. The motions are then referred to a specific SBC group or the executive committee for review. The assigned group reports its findings at the SBC's next meeting and messengers decide whether to approve or reject that report or related proposals.

The executive committee

The SBC Executive Committee is a fiduciary to the convention, its affiliated churches and 11 "ministry" entities. It is composed of 86 members from across the country and handles the convention's fiscal and business affairs at three meetings conducted between the annual June gatherings. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the executive committee typically does not act on behalf of the convention out of deference to local church autonomy.

Southern Baptist churches hired dozens of leaders previously accused of sex offenses

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(SBC LEADER: Investigation into sexual abuse 'shining the light of day upon crime)

How has the SBC reacted to sexual misconduct from church leaders?

In 2007, victims of sexual abuse by Southern Baptist pastors requested creation of a registry containing the names of current and former leaders of Southern Baptist churches who had been convicted of sex crimes or who had been credibly accused. That didn't happen; the last time any such list was made public was by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It contained the names of eight sex criminals.

In 2018, as advocates again pressed SBC officials for such a registry, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reporters began to search news archives, websites and databases nationwide to compile an archive of allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault and other serious misconduct involving Southern Baptist pastors and other church officials. We found complaints made against hundreds of pastors, church officials and volunteers at Southern Baptist churches nationwide. Read our investigation, "Abuse of Faith," here.


Tell us your story

Do you have information about sexual misconduct in Southern Baptist churches? Help us investigate by telling us your story. Fill out our confidential questionnaire here.

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