In the wake of criticism over their handling of sexual abuse allegations, Southern Baptist church leaders voted Tuesday to create a database that will track reports of sexual abuse among clergy and church officials and organize a task force to help reform the way the church deals with such issues.
Representatives of the largest U.S. Protestant denomination in the U.S. are meeting in California, weeks after a nearly 300-page report took the church to task for its handling of claims of abusive clergy and church leaders.
The report released last month cataloged complaints of abuse during the past 15 years and the church’s response to those who brought the allegations.
“Abuse allegations were often mishandled in a manner that involved the mistreatment of survivors,” the report said.
Days after the report was made public, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention published a 205-page list of hundreds of ministers and other church workers described as being “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
Church leaders had said they did not keep a record of those accused of sexual abuse, even though they actually had been keeping such a list.
Criticism in light of the report led the denomination to vote on recommendations to address the problem.
According to Baptistpress.com, “The first recommendation received what was considered a friendly amendment. The language referenced the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) and stated it would operate in accordance with “best practices in keeping with Southern Baptist church polity” rather than through recommendations provided by Guidepost Solutions.”
The second recommendation was to create the “Ministry Check,” which will be “established and maintained by an independent contractor, with the ARITF to oversee and report back to the Convention on feasibility, effectiveness and costs.”
Those included on the checklist will be people who have been “credibly accused” of misconduct, according to the recommendation.
“Filing a lawsuit, criminal charges without conviction or an allegation not investigated by a qualified third party will not meet this standard,” the recommendation read.
“If you’re not consistently examining how you’re structured, you can get internal and self-protective,” task force chair Bruce Frank said. “You kind of protect the brand.”
The SBC has an estimated 14 million members across more than 47,000 churches.
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