NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Southern Baptist Executive Committee met for the first time Tuesday since a scathing report found church leadership failed to address sexual abuse allegations.
Organization leaders said they planned to release a list of abuse accusations on Tuesday, but later said the list would be released on Thursday.
Executive Committee leaders shared a statement denouncing the way previous leaders worked with survivors who came forward:
“As Southern Baptists review Guidepost’s report and the recommendations of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, the SBC Executive Committee would like to address statements it has previously made, including, but not limited to, the September 29, 2006 statement by then-SBC Executive Committee vice president and general counsel, D. August Boto, in which he concludes that a “continued discourse between us [the Executive Committee and Survivor advocates] will not be positive or fruitful.”
The SBC Executive Committee rejects this sentiment in its entirety and seeks to publicly repent for its failure to rectify this position and wholeheartedly listen to survivors. Today, in the immediate aftermath of the report’s release, the SBC Executive Committee seeks to make clear that it views engaging with survivors as a critical step toward healing our Convention from the scourge of sexual abuse and working to avoid its continued impact on our loved ones, their families, and our network of churches.”
Some members voiced concern over issuing the statement publicly, saying they didn’t have enough notice to vote on whether to release the statement. Others disagreed, saying the letter needed to be released for the victims who have suffered in silence for years.
“I think we’re in a time and in a season where we’re going to have to navigate some really tough waters. And we’ve asked survivors to navigate some horrific waters for decades on their own. So we can wade into some tough waters and we can make some decisions, I don’t know what those decisions will be but I think we have to look, and that’s all,” SBC Executive Committee Interim Counsel Gene Bensen said.
Others echoed the need to go forward with the statement.
“This needs to be a unanimous vote, I would like for us to vote and if we do not have a unanimous vote on this we are communicating that we have not learned a thing,” Executive Committee member Dean Inserra said.
The committee plans to have at least one more meeting before its conference in Anaheim next month. The group plans to discuss how to deal with things like retirement benefits for the accused as well as how to incorporate the report’s recommendations into the budget.