The Southern Baptist Convention unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to protect children from sexual abuse in the church.
In approving the resolution, SBC messengers - representatives from churches around the country - said they express their "deep level or moral outrage and concern at any instance of child victimization."
"We implore Southern Baptist churches to utilize materials from LifeWay Christian Resources and state conventions and other relevant research that help churches prevent child abuse," say messengers in the resolution.
The resolution also strongly recommends that Southern Baptist churches and convention entities respond to any suspicions or allegations of child abuse in a timely and forthright manner and to perform criminal background checks on all ministers, employees and volunteers.
Several cases of clergy sex abuse in recent years that was made public in ABC's recent 20/20 report came as a surprise to some Southern Baptists.
SBC President Frank Page, who was re-elected to a second term this week, had said in an interview with 20/20 that he does not believe the problem is "systemic and large-scale" but said even one instance of sexual abuse by a minister is too much.
Page criticized the 20/20 report for suggesting that little is being done to stop clergy sex offenders in Southern Baptist churches and for portraying the SBC as uncaring and uninformed.
The SBC head has said that the denomination will do "as much as possible" to assist the local churches and urged churches to require background checks, policy guidelines, a system or policy to deal with any accusations made, and to utilize resources provided by the denomination.
D. August Boto, general counsel and vice president for convention policy with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, said they are examining the possibility of a national database of sexual offenders - a recommendation that Christa Brown of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a victim-advocacy group had made.
The passed resolution will now require the Executive Committee to conduct a feasibility study on developing a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse. The committee is expected to report findings and/or recommendations at next year's convention.
The motion to prevent child abuse was made by the Rev. Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla.
Brown, who had not been satisfied with SBC's response to sexual abuse, applauded this week's vote as a "a step forward" toward making "kids safer for the future."
"There is much more that needs to be done, but this is a good step," she said in a statement, according to EthicsDaily.com.
The vote comes a week after state conventions, including the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Texas convention, began posting links on their websites directing visitors to information on a comprehensive child protection program for churches and listing names of convicted sex offenders who have worked as ministers in affiliated churches.
"I don't have all the answers, but I know that we must do all we can to stop the victimization of our children, and we cannot turn a blind eye toward those who commit such crimes," stated Burleson.