5 Key Takeaways: Sex Abuse Reforms Top Southern Baptists’ Actions At Annual Meeting

By Bobby Ross, Jr.
SBC Annual Meeting 2022
Messengers vote in favor of a motion during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, on June 15, 2022. (Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Religion News Service)

1979 was a highly consequential year for the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

So was 1985.

And 2021, come to think of it. No doubt I’m missing other important years.

Where might 2022 rank? For the second year in a row, the high-profile annual meeting of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination produced major news.

Five key takeaways from this week’s proceedings in Anaheim, California:

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1. Sex abuse reforms

In response to last month’s bombshell report on sexual abuse in the denomination, delegates “voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to create a way to track pastors and other church workers credibly accused of sex abuse and launch a new task force to oversee further reforms,” as The Associated Press’ Deepa Bharath and Peter Smith report.

See related coverage by the Houston Chronicle’s John Tedesco and Robert Downen, two of the journalists whose 2019 “Abuse of Faith” investigation spurred the reforms.

2. Apology to victims

A day after that important vote, the Southern Baptists “approved a resolution Wednesday apologizing to abuse survivors and asking for forgiveness,” as Religion News Service’s Bob Smietana and Adelle M. Banks report.

See related coverage by The Tennessean’s Liam Adams and the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Katherine Burgess.

3. New president

In “another win for abuse reform,” the Baptists elected Bart Barber, the pastor of a relatively small congregation in rural Texas, to lead the denomination’s crucial next steps, as Christianity Today’s Kate Shellnutt reports.

See related coverage by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Frank Lockwood and the Washington Times’ Mark A. Kellner.

4. Rick Warren debate

Besides sex abuse, delegates grappled with how to handle doctrinal issues, including the appointment of three women as pastors last year by famous pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California, as the New York Times’ Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias report.

See additional coverage by CT’s Shellnutt and RNS’ Smietana.

5. Right-wing faction

A significant right-wing faction present at the meeting — a minority but still a vocal force — drew comparisons to the MAGA wing of the Republican Party, as the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein and the Houston Chronicle’s Downen report.

More headlines:

#ChurchToo revelations growing, years after movement began (by Peter Smith and Holly Meyer, AP)

How will Southern Baptists address sexual abuse? (by Terry Mattingly, ReligionUnplugged.com)

Southern Baptist business meeting ends, but sex-abuse, other challenges remain (by Mark A. Kellner, Washington Times)

This story was originally published by Religion Unplugged.

Bobby Ross Jr. is a columnist for Religion Unplugged and editor-in-chief of The Christian Chronicle. A former religion writer for The Associated Press and The Oklahoman, Ross has reported from all 50 states and 15 nations. He has covered religion since 1999.

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6 thoughts on “5 Key Takeaways: Sex Abuse Reforms Top Southern Baptists’ Actions At Annual Meeting”

  1. What bothers me about everything in this, is it’s presented like “suddenly “ abuse rose its ugly head. And everyone will pretend all is now okay. For how many years these white privileged good ole boys turned congregations into long term victims. And now they notice. I guess the real difference between men of the Catholic leadership and men of the SBC leadership is:NOTHING

    1. That is what I was thinking… do these guys still support the confederacy…? Oh wait they voted a few years back that flying the Confederate flag is not cool….

      So I guess after decades they arrived at the Sexual Abuse reforms……… I won’t ask the MAGA wing of the SBC what they think…..

    2. Rose-Marie Gulley

      The SBC’s sexual abuse reform is no more than a suggestion; it’s not a rule, because each church is an independent organization, no one has to abide by these reforms. I learned this by reading the SBC’s actual policy, due to a situation at an SBC affiliated church where I attended and served.

    3. And in the mid seventies liberty university and bob jones university were told they were going to loose there tax free standing if they still refuse to accept blacks. They actually said since they don’t get any federal funds they can make there own rules. The IRS said a tax break is a form of federal funding. Let’s see emancipation was 1865. It took till 1975 to let blacks into their evangelical god loving Christian schools.

      Oh Falwell ran liberty university at the time and I believe in the eightys he accused the teletubbys of promoting homosexuality. These Baptist just love to condemn everything. Until they decide it’s wrong. Usually years and years later. But what a trail of victims. It’s their self righteous behavior that annoys me.

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