Home Christian News Survivors Say DOJ Investigation Into SBC Executive Committee Is Not Closed

Survivors Say DOJ Investigation Into SBC Executive Committee Is Not Closed

(L) U.S. Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (R) The logo of Southern Baptist Convention Church via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) interim president and CEO Jonathan Howe, the year-and-a-half long investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether SBC leadership was criminally responsible for mishandling sexual abuse has come to a close.

In August 2022, Baptist Press, the official news service of the SBC, reported that the SBC EC had been subpoenaed and that the EC was “fully cooperating with authorities, and remains committed to addressing the scourge of sexual abuse.”

The SBC was made aware of the DOJ’s investigation approximately three months after Guidepost Solutions released a report revealing the findings of its investigation into how the SBC EC handled sexual abuse allegations between Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.

RELATED: Executive Committee, No Individuals Subpoenaed in DOJ Investigation

“On February 29, 2024, counsel for the SBC Executive Committee was informed that the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has concluded its investigation into the EC with no further action to be taken,” Howe said in an official statement released on Wednesday, March 6.

“While we are grateful for closure on this particular matter,” Howe added. “We recognize that sexual abuse reform efforts must continue to be implemented across the Convention. We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist churches in preventing and responding well to sexual abuse in the SBC.”

Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) vice chair and Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone posted on social media that the “DOJ investigation will bring clarity to our convention in regard to a few important concerns.” But he added, “what the DOJ investigation will not do is solve the problem of sexual abuse in our family of churches.”

RELATED: SBC Pastor Allegedly Sent Teen Lewd Texts After Sexually Assaulting Her, According to Police Report

“We must remain steadfast in helping churches protect the most vulnerable among us. We must continue to help churches develop systems and processes for prevention and crisis,” said Keahbone. “We must have a way to walk with churches when they experience the devastation of abuse. We can do this, if we do it together.”

Keahbone announced in January that he will run for SBC president at this year’s annual meeting in June.

According to Baptist Press, the Guidepost and DOJ investigations, along with other legal challenges, have taken a financial toll on the EC. In fact, Howe stated in a meeting this past September that “nothing has been more humbling at the Executive Committee in recent years than our financial position.”

Howe continued, “There is a price to pay for reform, even when reform is necessary. We have seen our reserves fall from more than $13 million to just over $4 million in two short years.”

Survivors Say DOJ Investigation Isn’t Closed

SBC abuse survivor and advocate Tiffany Thigpen told Religion News Service on Thursday (March 7) that she was informed by one of the DOJ agents leading the SBC investigation that the case is still open and that no portion of the investigation has been closed—including the EC.

RELATED: Survivor Responds to SBC Abuse Reform Task Force’s Plans for New Nonprofit ‘Abuse Response Commission’

“The lead investigator from the DOJ concerning this investigation was as surprised as we were by these reports. She answered both Megan (Lively) and I immediately when we called (separately) and said the investigation is very much open and active,” Thigpen said.