“You’re going to see a convention united in its agreement that this cannot be tolerated in our churches. …We have to do whatever it takes, regardless of what it costs to us, to make our churches a safer place.”— Pastor J.D Greear
2019 marks the 162nd session of the Southern Baptist convention, which will be held from June 9-10 in Birmingham, Alabama. Although the theme of their gathering is “Gospel Above All,” their primary focus will be the gross mishandling of sexual abuse claims made against their church leaders.
In early 2019, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News reported that over the last 20 years, nearly 400 church leaders and volunteers were accused of sexual assault, rape, and impregnation of more than 700 victims. Further investigation also uncovered that since 1999, at least 10 Southern Baptist churches had hired pastors and volunteers with a sexual assault records, and in some cases registered sex offenders. One of the most notable instances took place in Florida where Darrell Gilyard, a convicted child molester, was rehired and allowed to return to his pulpit after admitting to impregnating a member of the church whom he had raped during a counseling session.
More notably in 2017, a lawsuit was filed against former vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Paul Pressler, by a man accusing him of numerous rapes. More accusations have followed including claims of molestation and solicitation, as well as a 2004 settlement of $450,000 with one of his accusors.
To this day, the Southern Baptist Church has no database to track allegations or sexual convictions. As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Pastor J.D Greear’s first order of business was the creation of an abuse advisory council. The primary focus of this council is to draft recommendations on handling the growing abuse problem.