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David Sills, ex profesor de seminario nombrado en el informe de Guidepost, Sues SBC

Por Bob Smietana
David Sills has sued the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, based in Nashville, Tenn. (Photos: Baptist Press / RNS)

David Sills, a former seminary professor and missionary who was fired after admitting sexual misconduct, has filed a second lawsuit against a group of Southern Baptist Convention leaders and entities, claiming they conspired to defame him.

In a complaint filed Thursday, in the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee, Sills and his wife, Mary, claim he was made a scapegoat for the denomination’s sex abuse crisis.

“After various mischaracterizations, misstatements, and contrived investigations by Defendants, Plaintiffs have been wrongfully and untruthfully labelled as criminals and shunned by the SBC and every other religious organization with which Plaintiff Sills has tried to associate,” the complaint alleges.

Sills lost his job as a professor of missions and cultural anthropology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2018 after admitting to sexual misconduct with a former student. In the complaint, Sills admits his conduct with the student, Jennifer Lyell, as inappropriate and says he was “repentant and obedient to the rules of the SBC.”

But the complaint alleges that the seminary’s president, Albert Mohler, as well as members of the SBC’s Executive Committee, the SBC’s former president, Lyell and others, then conspired to shame Sills, who alleges he has no longer been able to find work in Christian ministry.

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Sills now runs a real estate business in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sills made similar allegations in a lawsuit archivado in Alabama state court last fall, alleging then as now that the supposed conspiracy against him was intended to burnish the reputation of the SBC during a major abuse crisis.

“The plaintiff’s decision to refile this lawsuit in Nashville was to be expected,” said Gene Besen, special counsel to the SBC, in an email. “As I’ve said before, the SBC Executive Committee will vigorously defend ourselves from this troubling attempt to recast an accused perpetrator as the victim of an imaginary conspiracy. We look forward to our day in court.”

Sills also sued Guidepost Solutions, a consulting firm hired by the SBC to conduct an investigation into how the denomination’s leaders treated survivors of abuse. That report, published a year ago, found that SBC leaders had mistreated abuse survivors for decades and tried to downplay the issue of abuse.

The Guidepost investigation was initiated at the direction of local church delegates, known as messengers, who aprobado Guideposts’ involvement over the objections of top SBC leaders.

executive committee seminary messengers SBC
Los mensajeros votan durante la reunión anual de la Convención Bautista del Sur el 15 de junio de 2021 en Nashville, Tenn. (Foto RNS por Kit Doyle)

Even after the investigation was approved, a number of SBC leaders tried to limit its scope and restrict how much of Guideposts’ eventual report would become public.

Sills was named in the Guidepost report.

Guidepost declined to comment on the suit. Attorneys for Sills were not available for comment.

The details of Sills’ departure from Southern seminary remained unknown until 2019, when he found a job with a different Christian ministry. Lyell then came forward, alleging that Lyell had been sexually abusive. She told her story to Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news publication.

When the story first was published, the Baptist Press changed the story to say that she had admitted an inappropriate relationship, causing a reacción against Lyell, then a vice president at an SBC publisher. Baptist Press later retracted the story and apologized to her, as hizo the SBC Executive Committee.

In the past, sexual misconduct by clergy has been described by the SBC as a “moral failing,” but increasingly such conduct is seen as an abuse of power. However, adult survivors of abuse are often seen as sinners and ostracized. 

The Executive Committee’s treatment of Lyell was one of the issues that prompted the Guidepost Solutions investigation, which would lead to national headlines and eventually to a series of proposed reforms.

Disgraced former SBC president Johnny Hunt has also demandado the SBC and Guidepost, claiming his inclusion in its report was defamatory.  Guidepost investigations found allegations that Hunt had sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife were credible. Hunt had initially denied the allegations then admitted claimed he had a consensual immoral encounter. 

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana es reportero nacional de Religion News Service.



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2 Respuestas

  1. Wait. What? Nobody is owed a ministry job. If publicizing the fact that the guy acted in a harmful, untrustworthy manner means that people don’t trust him, he is reaping what he sowed. This is exactly the point.

  2. These Southern Baptist missionaries/ preachers get caught with their pants down and then sue the ones trying to hold them accountable. The entitlement is breathtaking.

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Hola. Vemos que este es el tercer artículo de este mes que ha encontrado que vale la pena leer. ¡Estupendo! ¿Consideraría hacer una donación deducible de impuestos para ayudar a nuestros periodistas a continuar informando la verdad y restaurar la iglesia?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George.