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‘This Is Only the Beginning,’ SBC EC Member Assures Survivor After Abuse Investigation Update

sexual abuse in the SBC
SBC president Dr. Ed Litton addresses members of the Executive Committee the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 22. YouTube / @Baptist Press

At the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, SBC president Dr. Ed Litton said investigation into sexual abuse in the SBC is moving forward successfully. Survivor Hannah-Kate Williams attended the meeting and continued her push for accountability in the denomination, but said that her main focus was on giving hope to other survivors.

“The work is progressing,” said Litton in a brief update on the morning of Tuesday Feb. 22. “Let me commend the staff of the EC for their cooperation on every level, the cooperation among the EC members. You may have had misgivings…yet you have cooperated and continued to cooperate, and I would encourage you to do that. The process is working, it’s moving. The committee on cooperation has had a few challenges to help bring people together, and I’m happy to report that those challenges seem to be resolved, and we are cooperating, and the people that we’re asking to cooperate at this point are cooperating. That’s my report.”

Sexual Abuse in the SBC

The topic of investigating allegations of sexual abuse in the SBC has been a contentious one over the past year. In June, messengers voted to approve an investigation into claims that the EC mishandled allegations of sexual abuse, stipulating there must be a waiver of attorney-client privilege (ACP). The EC nevertheless spent several weeks in the fall debating and discussing whether or not to waive ACP before finally agreeing to do so. Following that decision, several EC members resigned from the committee, including EC president Ronnie Floyd

In a Feb. 7 update on the investigation’s progress, the Sexual Abuse Task Force said that Guidepost Solutions, the organization conducting the investigation, “has reviewed and processed a substantial amount of information in support of its independent investigation through the review of documents and contacting and interviewing a substantial number of current and former Southern Baptist Convention (‘SBC’) Executive Committee (‘EC’) staff and Trustees.” 

In his update, Litton clarified that he is not a member of the Sexual Abuse Task Force (although he appointed those members), but is chair of the committee on cooperation, which liaises between the EC and the task force. 

During a question and answer period, Litton explained that the task force would get Guidepost’s report 30 days before the 2022 Annual Meeting of the SBC, set to take place June 12-15 in Anaheim, Calif. After evaluating the report for one week, the task force will release it to the EC and the general public. Litton was not precisely sure if the EC would have access to the report prior to its public release or how the report would be released, but agreed that it would be beneficial for committee members to have access to it first. 

EC member Guy Frederick asked why there were three terabytes of data handed to Guidepost in what was supposed to be a “narrow” investigation (the task force actually said that Guidepost had received over four terabytes of information). The EC’s legal counsel spoke to this question, explaining that the “search terms” Guidepost requested for the investigation were actually narrower than what the legal team advised. So while there is a “whole lot of data,” he said, it is nevertheless “squarely within the confines” of investigation.

SBC abuse survivor Hannah-Kate Williams asked Litton about publicly documented instances of sexual abuse in the SBC that fall outside the scope of the current investigation. “What is the task force or the SBC looking to do to handle that as it relates to the ongoing investigation?” asked Williams. “Is there any immediate action like if you know someone is in danger?”