sexual abuse probe SBC
Following a meeting at their headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has agreed to open up legally protected records to a third-party probe into handling of sexual abuse allegations. (Image: SBC)

Southern Baptist Panel to Open Legal Records for Abuse Probe

By Peter Smith

A top committee of the Southern Baptist Convention agreed Tuesday to open up legally protected records to investigators who will look into how it handled, or mishandled, cases of sexual abuse within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination over the past two decades.

The third vote on the matter in less than three weeks by the evangelical denomination’s Executive Committee, it reversed two previous ones that would have maintained attorney-client privilege. Waiving that privilege is considered crucial to enabling a transparent reckoning into how the denomination’s leaders responded to abuse and abusers in its churches and institutions.

The 44-31 vote followed unsuccessful efforts to negotiate a compromise and the resignation of several board members who had previously opposed the waiver.

Proponents said the Executive Committee really had no choice because it was directed to waive privilege by the ultimate authority in Southern Baptist government: the church representatives, or messengers, who voted at the convention’s annual meeting in Nashville in June to authorize an investigation of the committee.

Opponents said waiving privilege would be financially reckless, citing attorneys’ advice that it could prompt insurers to drop their coverage of the convention’s entities.

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“What we’re doing is about creating chaos,” committee member Joe Knott of North Carolina said in opposition to the waiver.

The messengers “voted to investigate sexual abuse” but not to “void our insurance,” he said.

Another member, Mike Keahbone of Oklahoma, countered that the committee also had a “spiritual fiduciary duty.”

“We have victims who have been waiting for a long time for a tangible step towards healing,” he said.

The Executive Committee has come under scrutiny particularly since a 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases of abuse in Southern Baptist churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remained in ministry.

The review will be overseen by a task force and conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an international consulting firm with a reputation of protecting its clients, rather than abuse victims.

Peter Smith reports on religion for the Associated Press.

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8 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Panel to Open Legal Records for Abuse Probe”

  1. Leaders of the SBC will never be able to wash away the stain of their indifference about sexual abuse. Most of the abuse involved women and the SBC believes in the Edenic Fall.

      1. the unmistakable relevance is the associated belief, whether in part or in whole or subconciously held, that Eve / woman is to blame.

  2. Finally!! Even though they voted to wave client-attorney privilege under much internal and external pressure, I will pray the outcome brings to the light any abuse perpetuated by the EC. The reckoning has arrived.

  3. Richard Stadter

    I propose a list of all who support this action, so that they may step into the roles needed when men of good faith are hesitant to minister without any legal rights.

  4. All I can say is let the chips fall where they may. I suspect those EC members who resigned wanted to get the h**l out of Dodge before the excrement hit the fan. Like rats deserting a sinking ship.

    I would not be surprised if those that resigned were complicit and enabling of the stonewalling, any coverups, and attacks against those abusers.

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