NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — The newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention got his first marching orders on Wednesday (June 16).
Messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting directed President Ed Litton to set up a task force to address concerns Southern Baptist leaders have mistreated abuse victims and mishandled allegations of abuse.
The denomination’s Nashville-based Executive Committee has hired Guidepost Solutions to review its handling of abuse allegations. The new task force will either take over that review or set up a separate third-party review.
North Carolina pastor Ronnie Parrott and Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines had proposed setting up the task force during the SBC’s annual meeting. Their proposal was initially referred to the Executive Committee during a meeting Tuesday.
But Gaines appealed to messengers — delegates from local churches — and they overruled that decision by a more than two-thirds majority.
Concern over sexual abuse had dominated conversation leading up to the SBC’s annual meeting, which drew more than 21,000 people to Nashville’s Music City Center, including 15,726 messengers.
In early June, leaked letters from former SBC ethicist Russell Moore became public. Those letters included allegations that abuse victims had been mistreated by leaders of the Executive Committee. A leaked “whistleblower report” included an audio clip of Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd, saying he was not concerned about what abuse survivors say about the SBC’s response to abuse.
“I am not worried about that,” he said. “I’m thinking about the base. I just want to preserve the base.”
A recent report from Rehoboth Baptist Church in Georgia also alleged SBC leaders had failed to look into allegations of abuse against a former staffer at the church who had moved on to allegedly abuse children at other churches. Executive Committee staffers have also been criticized for mishandling the case of abuse survivor Jennifer Lyell. A leaked email from a former Executive Committee staffer referred to abuse advocates as being misled by the devil.