By Travis Loller / Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of the Southern Baptist Convention said Monday the denomination has spent years passing resolutions condemning sexual abuse but now it must act.
Pastor J.D. Greear made the remarks at a meeting of the denomination’s governing body during a report on the progress of an advisory group on sexual abuse. His comments also come a week after two Texas newspapers published an investigation detailing hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
With 15 million members and over 47,000 churches, the Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But the SBC’s structure as a voluntary association of autonomous churches has hindered past efforts at fighting sexual abuse. Some victims and their advocates have accused the denomination of using the structure as an excuse not to act.
Greear said Monday that local church autonomy should not be practiced in a way that allows safe harbor for predators. He said the denomination should kick out churches that show “wanton disregard for sexual abuse and for caring for the survivors.”
The Nashville-based denomination already kicks out churches that affirm homosexuality or call female pastors.
He also said the advisory group is considering the possibility of creating a database of abusers, something victim advocates have called for for years.
Asked after the meeting what he would say to abuse survivors who are skeptical the denomination will take meaningful action, Greear said the goal of the advisory group is “looking from top to bottom at what ways we can make our churches safe places for the vulnerable and prevent abuse.”