A Southern Baptist pastor hid his history of sexual abuse and became a school superintendent. When his congregants found out, they were the ones considered sinners. https://t.co/Nx2PexxZpe— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 14, 2020
The revelations at Oakwood occurred as the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant denomination in the country with 15 million members, faced a crisis over sexual abuse that echoes the scandal in the Catholic Church. After a joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News last year documented abuse in Southern Baptist churches spanning 20 years and 700 victims, SBC leaders faulted a “culture of casual indifference to predatory sexual behavior.”
At the SBC’s annual meeting in June, delegates approved an amendment to their constitution that would make it easier to remove churches that mishandle abuse from the denomination. SBC President J.D. Greear, in his remarks there, pressed members to take a hard line on sexual misconduct, saying, “somebody that has abused another should never ever be in a position in our churches where they can do it a second time, and if they are truly repentant they will understand that.” But because SBC churches like Oakwood are autonomous, and not beholden to centralized leadership, Greear’s words are essentially advice.
Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer, advocate and the first woman to publicly accuse disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault, said church leaders mishandle these situations when they rely on a limited understanding of abuse and shun the guidance of outside experts.