The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating the Southern Baptist Convention’s response to clergy sexual abuse cases.
The Associated Press reports that the denomination’s Executive Committee has been subpoenaed as part of the investigation, but that individual members have not. The Committee’s attorneys declined comment to the AP about discussions with the DOJ. The report continues:
The statement from SBC leaders — including Executive Committee members, seminary presidents and heads of mission organizations — gave few details about the investigation, but indicated it dealt with widespread sexual abuse problems that have rocked the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
“Individually and collectively each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation,” the statement said. “While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future.”
The news of the DOJ investigation follows the release this year of a 288-page Guidepost Solutions report at the behest of the SBC’s sex abuse task force. After seven months, the independent investigation found numerous instances of people in denominational leadership responding to sexual abuse cases in inappropriate ways or ways that sought to ensure the denomination wasn’t considered liable for the alleged clergy misconduct.
The report focused specifically on how the SBC’s Executive Committee responded to abuse cases, 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 had hundreds of accused workers on it.
A Guidepost spokesperson declined to comment on news of the DOJ probe.
Following the release of the Guidepost report, the SBC voted during its annual meeting in June to created a way to track pastors and other church workers credibly accused of sex 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 the Southern Baptist pastors and church members who will serve on the task force.
Southern Baptist sex abuse survivor Christa Brown, who has long called for the SBC to do more to address sex abuse across its churches, celebrated the news of the DOJ investigation.
“Hallelujah. It’s about time,” Brown said in a Friday post on Twitter. ”This is what’s needed.”
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