The report, conducted by a third-party investigations firm, Guidepost Solutions, and made public by the Southern Baptist Convention’s sex abuse task force, reveals a callous disregard for abuse survivors and a relentless commitment to protecting the denomination from liability.
The report also details graphic allegations of sexual assault by former SBC president and longtime megachurch pastor Johnny Hunt. The investigators determined those allegations were credible despite Hunt’s denials. Hunt issued a separate denial of the allegations Sunday afternoon.
Hunt resigned Sunday, the day the report was released.
“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC (Executive Committee) leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse,” investigators from Guidepost Solutions wrote in an executive summary of their report. “They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations.”
“This is huge. There were many who told us we were wrong to say that sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention is a crisis, said Russell Moore, a theologian and columnist for Christianity Today, in an interview with CNN’s Tom Foreman on Monday. “This report reveals that crisis is too small of a word. This is an apocalypse, an unveiling, a meltdown.”
“Survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action,” the report found, “even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”
According to the report on the investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions, survivors of abuse and other persons within the Southern Baptist community contacted the SBC Executive Committee (EC) to make them aware of child molestation and other forms of abuse committed by people employed by the church as well as those who were at the pulpit, but were met with inaction.
The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).
And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.