The Southern Baptist Convention needs to do more to help survivors of sex abuse by Baptist ministers and lay people than its sex abuse task force recently proposed, a group of survivors said Sunday.
The 13.7 million-member denomination should create a perpetual independent commission to handle reports of sexual abuse “directly from survivors, whistleblowers and others,” the group said.
An independent, publicly available database of clergy “credibly accused” or convicted of abuse should also be maintained, the group said. The denomination should also establish an independently overseen “survivor restoration fund” to compensate all victims, whether or not they are currently connected to an SBC church.
The group also asked the denomination to build a permanent memorial for survivors of SBC clergy sex abuse that would be named in honor of Christa Brown, a survivor lawyer who said she was raped more than 30 times by an SBC pastor. which went unpunished.
Ms Brown would have approval rights over the ‘execution of the monument’ as well as the right to tear it down ‘for any reason she chooses, including if the SBC uses her name as a public relations prop,’ the statement read. .
In addition to Ms. Brown, signatories include self-identified victims Jules Woodson; Dave Pittman; Tiffany Thigpen; Anne-Marie Miller; Jennifer Lyell; and Megan Lively.
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A Southern Baptist spokesperson did not immediately respond to a reporter’s request for comment.
The demands were released three weeks after an explosive report by Guidepost Solutions exposed decades of cover-ups of sexual abuse by convention leaders. Although it insisted that “potential liability” issues made compiling a database of abusers impossible, the report found the denomination began compiling such a list internally in 2007.
The survivor’s statement also comes four days after the task force proposed a leadership vote next week to authorize a study of the compensation fund.
A member of the denomination’s executive committee, attorney Joe Knott of Raleigh, North Carolina, warned that the SBC does not have the power to order individual congregations to enter into agreements with victims and that this could lead to mission destructive pursuits.
“I am terrified that we are breaching our longstanding position of being a voluntary association of independent churches,” Mr Knott said. He claimed that “someone” will claim that the churches have “not done enough” and then sue the convention.
Mr Knott added: “I guarantee you women and children will be victimized no matter how much we spend. And that’s going to make us potential targets of major class action lawsuits, which could be the end of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Reverend Rolland Slade, a Baptist pastor from South San Diego who chairs the executive committee, told Mr Knott that money could not be the issue in helping victims.
He said, “I don’t want us to say, ‘Well, we didn’t have enough money. And so we therefore didn’t protect a little one who was vulnerable, or who was about to be hurt.
Mr Slade added: “I know it can’t be about the money, it has to be about the people. And relationships matter and people matter.
On Twitter Friday, Ms. Brown characterized the working group’s proposals as “toothless suggestions, retraumatizing database process, incrementalism as complicity”.