We are living out one of the prophetic promises recorded in the Bible: For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? I Peter 4:17
The largest Protestant denomination in America is facing intense criticism because of a massive sexual abuse scandal that has hit this politically powerful religious group hard. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a group of loosely affiliated member churches that have approximately 15 million members. Most of the members are white people who care deeply conservatively about their values. The convention has been a powerful weapon for the right in recent decades, especially on the issue of abortion.
But now, the SBC is facing a scandal that has been called by one top official a “Southern Baptist apocalypse.”
The focus is on a 205-page document that names hundreds of Baptist leaders and members who have been accused or found guilty of sexual abuse of children. The list includes 700 cases that were documented between 2000 and 2019.
The bombshell report was after an investigation was done by Guidepost Solutions. They revealed that the Convention’s executive committee failed the public by not properly handling sexual abuse cases and they mistreated both victims and survivors. The initial report was released following a seven-month investigation that spotlighted 380 leaders and volunteers in the SBC who have faced public accusations of sexual abuse.
The report also stated that the SBC’s general counsel kept their private list of abusive ministers and they for decades attempted to protect the SBC from liability for the abuse.
The investigators wrote, “In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”
Sexual Assault Allegations
One of the prominent names mentioned in the list was Johnny Hunt, a pastor from Georgia who also served as the SBC president. He was accused of assaulting another pastor’s wife while on vacation in 2010. He resigned last month as senior vice-president of evangelism and leadership at the SBC’s domestic missions agency. He has denied the accusations made against him but has admitted on social media to “personal sin.”
A former SBC vice-president was also named for abusing a 14-year-old; a former president was named for delaying to report a child sexual abuse allegation because of “heartfelt concern” for the accused, and another was named who failed to report allegations of abuse against young boys.
Joe Knott is an attorney from North Carolina and a longtime member of the executive committee for the SBC. He is pushing against the backlash. “I am terrified that we are breaching our longstanding position of being a voluntary association of independent churches, when we start telling churches that they should do this or do that to protect children or women,” Knott said.
The SBC is also facing criticism regarding its history of issues surrounding race. Some report that it was founded in 1845 to protect the institution of slavery. There is also information being released about an SBC crusade against “critical race theory.”
The SBC released a statement from several presidents who said they recognized the “reality of racism on both the personal and systemic or structural level.” An apocalypse is a description of what will take place at the end of this age. It could be a way that God prepares the earth for His return. He is coming back for what the Bible says is a “radiant Bride.”