Sexual abuse survivors and church leaders inside and outside the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are reacting with grief and shock to a Tuesday (Sept. 21) decision from the SBC Executive Committee (EC). The EC decided—in direct opposition to the will of messengers—to delay waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation into whether or not the EC mishandled allegations of sexual abuse.
“There were so many things bothersome about these last two days,” said survivor Tiffany Thigpen. “My emotions are switching between anger and sorrow. Waking during the night feeling like I wish I could wash it off, the icky feeling of watching some of these people at work. The lies that drip from tongues.”
Survivor Jennifer Lyell called the meeting a “train wreck” and wrote, “There is much cause for SBCrs to go to bed with aghast hearts tonight. You must. Because you just watched SBC leaders fight against truth. And it’s completely evil. But I also saw some eyes open. I also saw my angst manifest in some who literally couldn’t sit still with it.”
Pastor and EC member Dean Inserra, who spoke out about the importance of waiving attorney-client privilege, tweeted, “Been an emotional two days. I don’t even know how to explain how I feel and what I saw go down. It messed me up.”
SBC Executive Committee Flouts Will of Messengers
At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place in June, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion to put an independent task force over an investigation into whether or not the SBC Executive Committee mishandled allegations of sexual abuse. The motion explicitly stated that EC members were to waive attorney-client privilege for this investigation:
We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.
However, while the EC did agree Tuesday to spend $1.6 million to fund the investigation, members rejected a motion, proposed by Jared Wellman, to waive attorney-client privilege as messengers had directed. The vote against Wellman’s motion was not even close with 55 opposed to it and 20 in favor of it.