NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A nearly 300-page report released Sunday found the Southern Baptist Convention, headquartered in Nashville, failed to address decades of sexual abuse.
One local pastor played a major role in determining how the investigation was conducted.
Murfreesboro Pastor Grant Gaines had concerns when he heard accounts of alleged abuse and even more red flags went up when he learned how the SBC’s Executive Committee planned to hire its own investigators.
“Initially, when there was an outcry for an investigation, the Executive Committee themselves attempted to hire a firm to do the investigation. The problem was that they were the ones being investigated and they were able in that position to establish what the scope of the investigation would be and a lot of the terms and conditions of the investigation,” Gaines said.
Gaines called for a neutral, third party to handle the review, not a company hired by the Executive Committee. Other pastors agreed and eventually Guidepost was selected to conduct the investigation and report what was found after speaking with victims.
“At the top levels, there was just a callous disregard for victims of sexual abuse when they would bring their stories of sexual abuse and mishandling of sexual abuse by their churches to the convention leaders,” Gaines said. “They were oftentimes disregarded. The way that they were responded to was just not appropriate. People were just doing nothing about it, saying nothing about it, hoping it would go away.”
Despite the disturbing information contained in the report, Gaines was thankful for the recommendations provided by Guidepost and hopes the church will choose to implement them.
“We need to shore up our own weaknesses at the local church level to make sure our congregations are safe from abuse, safe for survivors of abuse and we also need to establish some ways at the national level that we can corroborate together to share information to prevent abusers from being able to move on to other places,” Gaines said.
While the Executive Committee’s actions were under investigation, First Baptist Church in Hendersonville worked to connect victims with resources. The church’s Babb Center was responsible for finding counseling for 10 victims who came forward during a roughly 24-month period.
“With sin, there are people that are impacted by that sin, and your heart certainly goes out to them, you want to help them become whole again, want to help them get to a road of health and to move forward with their lives,” First Baptist Church Hendersonville Executive Pastor Bruce Raley said.
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Pastor Raley said the report helped expose sin within the church and leaders are now called to address those shortcomings and protect the congregation.
“If there is one place in this world that people ought to feel joy and they ought to feel safe, it’s when they come into a church, when they come into a place where there is an expectation of safety taking place. And as pastors we must do everything we can to provide that environment.”
The SBC’s Executive Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss Guidepost’s findings.