An internal investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee found SBC leaders intentionally covered up cases of sexual abuse within their churches for the past two decades.
“I think that we have reached a point of no return with the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Emily Joy Allison, responding to an internal investigation of the SBC Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse in its churches.
Allison is among the survivors and advocates taking to social media to talk about the recent report released by investigations firm Guidepost Solutions. In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to hire Guidepost Solutions to investigate the SBC’s handling of sexual abuse allegations and intimidation of survivors and advocates from January 2000 to June 14, 2021. The results of that investigation, which included hundreds of interviews and a review of more than five terabytes of data, were published Sunday.
The report that showed leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention actively covered up sexual abuse and rejected resources to address the problem of sexual abusers in positions of power.
“I’m not the person who is saying every church should not exist, but I just want churches to be doing more good in the world than harm in the world. And I think this is just one of many, many evidences showing that the Southern Baptist Convention is not meeting that that requirement,” Allison said in an interview with Reckon.
Although Allison’s abuse did not happen in an SBC church, she said the Guidepost report shows a similar pattern of behavior she experienced when she was a victim.
Allison, author of “#ChurchToo,” reflected on her own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse by a church leader when she was in youth group. She first publicly shared her story via Twitter during the fallout of the #MeToo movement.
“I remember being blamed for it by my parents. By the pastors. Not being allowed to go to his going-away night. Having my phone and passwords confiscated as if I had done something wrong, as if I was the problem, as if I was the Jezebel who had summoned this shame,” Allison posted on her Twitter account Sunday night.
The Rev. Dr. Jay Augustine, author of “Called to Reconciliation” and senior pastor of St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, N.C., also reflected on the report, and his experience as a member of the Judicial Council for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“When people can no longer turn to the church, because your trusted leaders are engaging in those sorts of improprieties, it is the worst of the worst,” Augustine said in an interview with Reckon.
Allison said she encourages survivors reading the report and media reports about it to step away from the news and take care of themselves.
“After a while, step away, shut the laptop, step away from the phone, go outside. Doomscrolling forever and ever is not going to make the SBC better. You should be informed but there’s a point at which you have to say, ‘I’m gonna go be a person now and not just scroll through all of these things that remind me of some of the worst things that have ever happened to me’,” she said.
For other pastors who are reading the report and working to ensure pastors 1. do not abuse their church members and 2. hold those that do accountable, Augustine recommended they “take a breath” while considering what happens next. He also encouraged ministers to be open to resources for handling sexual abuse cases in churches.