Southern Baptists say denomination faces DOJ investigation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Southern Baptist Convention leaders said Friday that several of the denomination’s top entities are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice following its multiple issues related to clergy sexual abuse.

The SBC executive committee has received a subpoena, but no one has been subpoenaed at this stage, according to committee lawyers.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we do not comment on our discussions with the DOJ,” they said.

The statement from SBC leaders — including executive committee members, seminary presidents and heads of mission organizations — gave few details about the investigation, but said it dealt with sexual abuse issues. widespread that have rocked the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

“Individually and collectively, each SBC entity is committed to cooperating fully and completely with the investigation,” the statement said. “As we continue to mourn and mourn past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current SBC leaders have demonstrated a strong belief in resolving these past issues and are implementing measures to ensure they do not reoccur. never in the future.”

There was no immediate comment from the Justice Department about the investigation.

Earlier this year, an SBC sexual abuse task force released a stunning 288-page report by outside consultant Guidepost Solutions. The firm’s seven-month independent investigation revealed disturbing details about how faith leaders mishandled sexual abuse complaints and mistreated victims.

The report focused specifically on how the SBC’s executive committee responded to cases of abuse, revealing that it had secretly maintained a list of clergy and other church workers accused of abuse. The committee later apologized and released the list, which included hundreds of accused workers.

A spokesperson for Guidepost declined to comment on news of the DOJ investigation.

Following the publication of the Guidepost report, the SBC voted at its annual meeting in June to create a way to track pastors and other church workers credibly accused of sexual abuse and launch a new task force to oversee further reforms. Earlier this week, SBC President Bart Barber, who also signed Friday’s statement, announced the names of Southern Baptist ministers and church members who will serve on the task force.

Southern Baptist sex abuse survivor Christa Brown, who has long called on the SBC to do more to address sex abuse in its churches, celebrated the news of the DOJ investigation.

“Hallelujah. About time,” Brown said in a Twitter post Friday. “That’s what it takes.”

Another survivor, Jules Woodson, went public with her story of abuse in 2018 and has been pushing for reforms within the SBC ever since. On Friday, she reacted to news of the investigation by tweeting, “Justice be served!!!”

Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone, who serves on the executive committee and is the vice chair of the new abuse task force, said on Twitter that the investigation “is not something to be feared… If there’s more work to do, we’ll do it.” .”

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Crary reported from New York. Associated Press reporter Deepa Bharath in Los Angeles contributed.

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