Southern Baptists Face Sexual Abuse Crisis

By Banks, Adele M. | The Christian Century, May 15, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Southern Baptists Face Sexual Abuse Crisis

Banks, Adele M., The Christian Century

FIVE YEARS AFTER the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted within the Catholic Church, Southern Baptists are confronting their own allegations of abuse and calls for greater steps to protect minors from predatory pastors.

Although the issue seems to be on a smaller scale for the Baptists, a series of media reports, activists" pleas and recent actions in the nation's largest Protestant denomination indicate what Catholic officials have long insisted: that sexual abuse is not a problem confined to their church.

In one situation, Bellevue Baptist Church, a prominent Memphis-area congregation, issued a lengthy report in January admitting that it was "ill-prepared on several fronts" to handle the case of a minister on staff who had engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" with his son 17 years ago. But only after the victim came forward was the seven-month-old report released.

The activist group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and a Catholic whistleblower priest have called on Southern Baptists to adopt review panels and registries of offending clergy for greater oversight.

Meanwhile, two young Southern Baptist pastors who have used their blogs to influence other Southern Baptists have authored proposals that they hope will be considered at their annual meeting in June. One calls for a study on developing a database of Southern Baptist ministers convicted of sex abuse, and the other urges churches to "pursue every possible avenue" in vetting a pastor's moral and ethical credentials.

Southern Baptist officials say their denomination's decentralized structure and the autonomy of its congregations prevent them from implementing some of the proposed reforms. However, they say, they have addressed the issue in the past, and they do urge churches to conduct background checks on employees and volunteers.

"There is no Southern Baptist Convention office which collects and provides any qualifying information, including information about sex abuse convictions or accusations, with regard to any local church employees, including ministers," said D. August Boto, general counsel of the SBC's executive committee, in an e-mail response to questions. "The Southern Baptist Convention was formed on the belief that the selection of its ministers is a sacred right held and exercised by the local church alone under the leadership of God," added Boto.

In recent weeks, media reports--including an ABC News 20/20 program and coverage on, a Baptist Web site--have highlighted men who have been convicted of sex crimes and who have worked or studied in Southern Baptist circles.

As recently as April 18, names matching those of several convicted sex offenders--and in some cases, men who are currently imprisoned--could be found in an online search for ministers on the denomination's Web site, The names have since been removed.

That same day, two male students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, were listed on the Kentucky State Police's sex offender registry.

Boto said the "MinisterSearch" list on the denomination's site is "absolutely not a list of approved or vetted ministers" but simply a list based on reports from churches about their employees.

As for the seminary students, a seminary spokesperson confirmed that the students are at the school, but could not confirm their sex offender status.

"Our current policy is that no student on the sex offender registry can be admitted as a student at Southern Seminary," said Lawrence Smith. Asked if students admitted prior to the implementation of the current policy can remain on campus even if they are on such a registry, Smith said, "You could draw that conclusion.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Southern Baptists Face Sexual Abuse Crisis


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?