Southern Baptist group clears 6 churches of violating sex abuse standards

Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone asked EC members to 'do all you can' to protect children from abuse.
Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone asked EC members to "do all you can" to protect children from abuse. | Photo: Baptist Press/Morris Abernathy

Just days after the president of the Southern Baptist Convention called for an evaluation of 10 churches that were highlighted in a recent investigation on sex abuse, six of those churches were cleared of acting indifferently toward abuse.

While condemning the “abominable horror of child sexual abuse,” the SBC Executive Committee bylaws workgroup stated in a report released Saturday that “in virtually all reported cases, the abuse and cover-up of abuse were criminal acts undertaken by a few individuals within a church. The church body rarely knew about these actions and even more rarely took any action to endorse or affirm the wrongful acts or the actors themselves.”

Among the six churches that the workgroup found “no evidence” of showing disregard for sexual abuse is Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, one of the largest churches in the country.

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“It appears that the church has had, and continues to have, significant, detailed procedures and policies in place to prevent abuse and properly respond to charges of abuse. We believe no further inquiry is warranted based on that information,” the report said of the Houston megachurch.

In response to the report, The Warburg Watch — led by two women who reveal “disturbing trends within Christendom" — believes that ultimately, no reforms will be made within the SBC in regard to sex abuse. 

“The new and improved SBC is still the same old SBC. They’ll just get some SBC sanctioned child protection rules in place. And then they will figure out how to exonerate any church which screws up,” it said.

Last week, SBC President J. D. Greear proposed an amendment to the church body’s constitution that would allow for “disfellowshipping” or cutting ties with churches that do not give assurances that “they have taken the necessary steps to to correct their policies and procedures with regards to abuse and survivors.”

Churches that show clear “indifference” to sexual abuse — by employing a convicted sex offender, allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer with minors, continuing to employ a person who unlawfully covered up sex abuse, or willfully choosing not to report child abuse to authorities — would warrant disfellowshipping.

Greear specifically asked the bylaws workgroup to look further into the 10 churches named in a Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News investigation to determine if they should continue as an SBC church. That investigation had revealed at least 700 victims of sex abuse over the past two decades at the hands of hundreds of SBC leaders and volunteers.

The amendment on cooperating churches is one of 10 reforms Greear proposed to make churches safer. 

SBC leaders have stressed that its church body is not like other denominations where it’s run from the top down. Rather, its more than 47,000 churches are all autonomous “cooperating” churches. Thus, implementing reforms in the body prove to be more difficult.

The bylaws workgroup emphasized in its Saturday report that “no individual possesses the authority to declare a church to be under a Convention inquiry of any kind.”

The workgroup also said it believes the SBC “should not disrupt the ministries of its churches by launching an inquiry until it has received credible information that the church has knowingly acted wrongfully in one of the four ways (mentioned above) described in the proposed amendment.”

“It is also our opinion that the Executive Committee did not intend for every allegation that a church has demonstrated indifference to establish guilt which would then have to be disproved — in effect, a presumption of guilt which the Executive Committee should view as untenable and unscriptural,” the workgroup added.

After reviewing information that Greear provided about each of the 10 churches, the workgroup determined that only three needed “further inquiry.”

Those three include Bolivar Baptist Church in Sanger, Texas; Cathedral of Faith in Houston, Texas; and Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Information provided by the president states that a ‘registered’ sex offender ‘leads’ the church. We believe further inquiry is warranted,” the workgroup said of Cathedral of Faith.

The workgroup said it will send “letters of inquiry” to the three churches.

Along with Second Baptist Church, other churches requiring “no further inquiry” include: Arapaho Baptist Church in Garland, Texas; Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston; Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia; Trinity Baptist Church in Ashburn, Georgia; and First Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas. Turner Street Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas, was determined to not be a Southern Baptist church.

Regarding First Baptist in Bedford, though the church had allowed Charles Adcock — who had been charged in 2015 in Alabama with 29 counts of rape and sodomy against a teen girl he met at a church — to volunteer as a music minister despite being aware of his arrest, the SBC workgroup determined that the church already took corrective action. Not only did Adcock stop serving at the church but those who allowed Adcock to volunteer were also removed from their positions.

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