According to the Associated Press, an independent firm conducted a seven-month probe into how the group handled abuse reports.
Doctor Ronnie Floyd, the former senior pastor at Cross Church Springdale in Northwest Arkansas, served as the president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee until October 2021.
The independent investigation shows that Floyd's committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with "resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility" to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued - even as the committee publicly claimed it didn't have the authority to create such a list.
The investigation quotes a May 2019 internal email where the Southern Baptist Convention's then-general counsel called the focus on sexual abuse a "satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism."
The Southern Baptist Church executive committee says it was reviewing the report and is "committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches."
Survivor Hannah-Kate Williams filed a lawsuit against the Southern Baptist Convention on Friday (May 20,) alleging that she was physically abused by her own father, a pastor for years.
She says it began when she was as young as four years old and turned into sexual abuse on her eighth birthday.
Williams says when she reached out for help, nothing was done by the SBC.
“Every day is a struggle since I've come forward publicly,” Williams said. “I was kicked down. I was called a liar. I was called mentally deranged, incompetent, an enemy of God.
“I would like to see leaders taking the recommendations of outside experts not as attacks on their beliefs, but as tools to protect those in their care,” William said.
Floyd is mentioned in the 288-page report more than 120 times.
Floyd sent a statement to 5NEWS that read:
"People reading the report may not realize that I supported the independent investigation. I also hired GuidePost to do it even before the 2021 Convention. Our fiduciary duties also required due diligence to understand the implications of “waiving attorney-client privilege.” This was never an effort to resist or obstruct the investigation, but responsible governance. Not only do I support appropriate reforms, but from the beginning of my term as executive committee president, I helped guide the Convention to establishing the credentials committee and leading the effort to pass the amendment to the SBC Constitution focused on sexual abuse. May God lead the 2022 Convention to take the appropriate actions including the implementation of reforms.
Separately, I would also remind you of what I wrote in October when I resigned, 'I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about the system.' Nothing could be further from the truth.'"
5NEWS has reached out to Cross Church for comment on the report and is awaiting a response.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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