NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Delegates to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for a panel discussion on a proposed investigation into how the denomination is dealing with sexual abuse.
The SBC’s business committee had planned to forward the proposal to its executive committee – the same entity alleged to have failed in responding to abuse cases – but the vote brought the measure back up for discussion that afternoon.
The day before, Tennessee Pastor Grant Gaines suggested setting up an independent task force to lead the investigation. It did so in response to leaked letters and secret records allegedly showing that some leaders were trying to slow down accountability and intimidate and revenge those who campaigned on the issue.
The allegations concern the Executive Committee, which conducts denomination deals outside of annual meetings. Committee chairman Ronnie Floyd has defended the panel’s response, but announced last week that the panel had hired an outside consultancy to investigate the allegations.
Critics called this a conflict of interest, arguing that if people don’t trust the process, the results of the investigation will be discredited.
“We cannot allow the Executive Committee to determine the terms of the investigation itself,” Gaines said on Wednesday.
Abuse survivors “went to their cases (SBC authorities) only to feel like they were turned away, disregarded and turned away,” he said. “These are not allegations that we can sweep under the rug.”
The investigation debate took place on the final day of the two-day gathering of the country’s largest Protestant denomination, attended by more than 15,000 voting delegates, most of them for decades.
On Tuesday, delegates elected Ed Litton as their new president, returning a push by a conservative faction that had tried to label the Alabama pastor, known for his work on racial unity, as too liberal.
Preparations for the meeting included the departures of the Southern Baptists’ chief public order officer, Russell Moore; Christian Writer with Mega-Selling Beth Moore; and several prominent black clergymen amid overlapping controversies such as sex abuse, racism, politics, and the treatment of women.
Others had threatened to abandon themselves as a faction calling themselves the Conservative Baptist Network and pushing for action on cultural war issues like the Critical Race Theory, an academic tool for analyzing systemic racism that has been a target of Republican-controlled lawmakers in at least 16 states .
Delegates on Tuesday approved consensus action on critical racial theory, which they did not mention by name but rejected any view that sees racism as rooted in “anything other than sin”.
Loller reported from Nashville and Smith from Pittsburgh.
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