Home » Southern Baptists Committed to Abuse Reform. What Happened?

Southern Baptists Committed to Abuse Reform. What Happened?

With the female-pastor debate getting the most attention, the slow work to address abuse plods on.

The issue that once dominated Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meetings—sexual abuse in churches—almost receded into the background at this year’s gathering, which was overrun by debates around women serving as pastors.

Only a year after they voted to move forward with initial steps to address abuse in the wake of a major investigation, the SBC’s reforms have been slow, complicated, and controversial.

A task force overseeing its abuse response—including a new website to track known abusers—asked for more time to complete their task, and the convention approved the extension. They’re still waiting for permanent funding and permanent staffing to oversee the process. Ahead of the meeting, some Southern Baptists spoke up with critiques over cost and legal ramifications.

“They’ve acknowledged it and kind of want to move on,” said Jules Woodson, who came forward with her story of abuse by her youth pastor in 2019. “I want them to know I’m still fighting … I’m not walking away.”

Sexual abuse survivors including Woodson had rallied around the annual meetings, holding posters and press conferences in 2019, wearing T-shirts in 2021, passing out teal sexual-abuse-survivor ribbons in 2022. Last year, the topic of abuse came up in prayers, sermons, and resolutions, with leaders going as far as thanking survivors by name and applauding them from the stage.

In New Orleans this week, Woodson and a few other SBC abuse survivors met in a room in the convention center set aside for them to decompress. They quietly celebrated the progress the denomination had made, shedding tears together as the shell of the Ministry Check website went live on Tuesday …

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