SWFL pastors react to report on Southern Baptist Convention abuse allegations

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Southern Baptist Convention
FILE – This Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 file photo shows the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Leaders of the SBC, America’s largest Protestant denomination, stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades while seeking to protect their own reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative report issued Sunday, May 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

A new report alleges a church mishandled sexual abuse allegations, intimidated victims and advocates, as well as resisted attempts at reform for the past two decades.

The allegations are against the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. The 300-page report details several survivor stories and incidents that took place across the nation.

The report points to one main truth; that the Southern Baptist Convention swept sexual abuse and child molestation allegations under the rug.

“300 pages of stories and I wonder how many how many innocent young kids might have been protected had someone intervened after even the first story,” said David Acton, lead pastor at New Hope Church Cape Coral.

“All of the stories are heartbreaking. People being mistreated, most of them women, not all, most and that’s horrific. It’s shameful,” said Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church.

The report does not mention any local churches, but local Southern Baptist pastors are still feeling its impact.

The guidepost report found that Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee members responded: “with resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility to allegations of child molestation and abuse by pastors and church staff for two decades.”

The report also alleges Southern Baptist Convention leaders kept a private list of accused baptist ministers for years while publicly claiming they could not create such a database of offenders.

“In reading the report it was sickening how many opportunities there were to catch some of this sooner. I don’t think we will ever get over that as we read those stories,” said Acton.

As heartbreaking as the stories may be, local pastors say it’s the first step in the path forward for the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I would say to all my fellow Baptists, look, or all Christians, man, we got to deal with reality. We’ve got to be honest. And we got to do what God tells us to do. The way forward is a way of humility, a way of acknowledging that we’re all dependent upon God’s grace,” said Ascol.

“I celebrate the fact that we are radically transparent in what was found in hopes that in some way we can avoid anything like that happening even once in any one of our churches or any one of our families,” said Acton.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States with more than 47,000 cooperating churches and 14 million members.

Church leaders are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the report.

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