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Pressure Mounts for an Independent Investigation of SBC Executive Committee Handling of Abuse

Executive Committee

(RNS) — The chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee plans to call for an independent investigation into the committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims when it meets next week in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, said he would also support a proposal from two Southern Baptist pastors for an investigation, which will likely be raised during the denomination’s annual meeting June 15-16.

“It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” he said.

Russell Moore, who recently resigned as the president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has accused Executive Committee leaders of mishandling claims of abuse.

In letters leaked recently, Moore accused Georgia Baptist pastor Mike Stone, a former chairman of the Executive Committee and current nominee for SBC president, of trying to “delay the formation of a credentials committee to assess churches reported to be mishandling sexual abuse.” Moore also said he had been in meetings with SBC leaders where abuse survivors were referred to as “crazy” and were compared to Potiphar’s wife — a reference to a Bible story where a woman made a false accusation of sexual assault.

Stone, a leading candidate for SBC president, called Moore’s accusations “slanderous” and denounced Moore’s letter in a video posted to Twitter.

“It’s unscriptural, it’s ungodly, it’s outrageous,” Stone said.

The Georgie pastor has long been a critic of Moore and chaired a task force that labeled Moore and the ERLC as a ” significant distraction” to the denomination’s work.

Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a member of the SBC Executive Committee, is concerned with how Baptist leaders have handled accusations of abuse. He said Baptist leaders have failed to listen to abuse survivors and he wants to see an independent investigation.

Wellman worries some Baptist leaders may want to set up an internal task force to look at the matter. That would be a mistake, according to Wellman.

“I think it is time for an outside investigation,” he said. “I think messengers from SBC churches deserve that — to help regain trust back in our Executive Committee.”

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Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has spent two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting, profiles and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications and websites. Most notably, he has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.