May 2019 – A newspaper exposé regarding sexual abuse allegations in some churches in the Southern Baptist Convention has leaders and members wrestling with how to confront the abuse in light of congregational autonomy, a hallmark of the denomination’s polity.
In a three-part series that began February 10, The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported that there have been 380 allegations against Southern Baptist leaders in the last 20 years. The newspapers accused denominational leadership of resisting reforms.
SBC President J. D. Greear responded to the articles stating, “There’s a problem. And we want to respond to this with humility … [and] by owning a wrong.” He told the Houston Chronicle that any congregation with a “pattern of sinful neglect – regarding abuse or any other matter” should be removed from the SBC.
On February 18, Greear issued a report that called on 10 churches named in the news report to make assurances to the convention that they are working to correct policies related to sexual abuse.
However, concerning the autonomy of churches in its membership, the SBC constitution states: “While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or
Thus, real response or reform, if needed, must be initiated by each local congregation.
houstonchronicle.com, 2/10/19; christianitytoday.com, 2/11/19;
onenewsnow.com, 2/26/19; bpnews.net, 2/20/19, 2/23/19, 3/4/19