ENID, Okla. (KFOR) – A shocking investigation into Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) revealed at least two decades of sex abuse allegations from its members by clergy and other staff that went unheard and unaddressed.
The sex abuse task force report was released Sunday by Guidepost Solutions, an organization that specializes in independent evaluations, conducting the investigation over a seven-month period.
In what it referred to as both “inaction and action by the SBC,” the investigation resulted in a nearly 300-page report that citing numerous allegations of abuse by staff and clergy over two decades.
The report also alleges that survivors speaking out were repeatedly met “with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the (executive committee).”
Former SBC pastor and Enid resident, Wade Burleson told KFOR Monday that he sought to call out abusers within a motion to the SBC as far back as 2007, during the 2007 June Convention in San Antonio.
Burleson said he presented the call to create a Database of Clergy or Staff in SBC Churches Involved in Sexual Harassment or Abuse, but the motion was denied by leaders (at the time).
“I brought a recommendation to the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention that we publicly track sexual predators within the convention – pastors, youth pastors, music pastors – and send that database out to the public to prevent an offender from leaving a church, going somewhere else, maybe even another denomination and re-offending,” he said.
The report cites more than 700 abusive pastors, with testimony on the abuse from at least 330 people.
Using evidence dating back to 2000, the report also alleges that the SBC failed to take enough action to make sure offenders were removed from positions of power.
“I have the stripes on my back from fighting for 15 years to have a database of sexual predators made public,” said Wade Burleson, also a past President of Oklahoma Baptists, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, affiliated with the SBC; the association is headquartered in Oklahoma City and is made up of around 1,750 churches, as of 2020.
In an email sent to KFOR Monday, the Executive Director of Oklahoma Baptists responded to the report, saying:
“I am heartbroken and sickened as I read the findings of the Southern Baptist Convention Sexual Abuse Task Force. I am grieved for each and every one of the abuse survivors. Southern Baptists must unquestionably be more vigilant in preventing abuse, reporting abuse, and caring for survivors of abuse. This is a pivotal moment for the SBC. We must learn from this report and be faithful in protecting the vulnerable among us.”Todd Fisher
Citing a moral obligation “to protect the lives, bodies and humanity of kids and congregants in its affiliated churches,” the report also proposed several recommendations, including more training and education, as well as the creation of an offender alert system in order to keep the community informed.
While acknowledging the condemning report, Burleson said it’s time for the SBC and others to look forward.
“I don’t like outsiders deconstructing a convention that has done some incredible good,” he said, referring to public scrutiny and noting several contributions by the SBC in recent years, including disaster relief programs around the country.
“That [abuse] will not happen anymore in the SBC because the awareness has filtered down to churches,” he added.
“And if there is sexual predatory behavior going on and the pastor finds out about it, whether it’s a staff member or whether it’s the pastor himself and a staff member finds out about it, people now know, [and] first person you call is police,” he continued. “We’ve informed people. We’ve instructed people. We’ve had training. Things have changed.”
The Executive Committee of the SBC is set to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the report.
“If you put your trust in a human leader, you’re going to always be disappointed,” he said. “Don’t get rid of the SBC and these good people. Let’s hold accountable the people who have done wrong.”