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Southern Baptists worship during the annual Southern Baptist Convention /Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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Southern Baptists worship during the annual Southern Baptist Convention /Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC
USA News

Southern Baptist Executive Committee funds investigation into internal handling of sexual abuse

by Premier Journalist

The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee has agreed to fund an outside review of how the Committee handled previous claims of sexual abuse but failed to decide whether to waive attorney-client privilege.

The SBC met in June 2021 to organize and decide several critical motions involving church policy, including investing more into investigations of sexual abuse in the denomination. The Executive Committee, which handles several leadership-related roles in the SBC, met together on Monday and Tuesday to vote on several motions. The organization did affirm the decision to invest 1.6 million into funding an outside review of the Committee's handling of sexual abuse claims over the years. However, the Committee was unable to decide whether to waive attorney-client privilege, which would allow the third party to obtain relevant documents from Committee staff members.

This inability to decide would significantly hinder the third-party, recently announced as Guidepost Solutions, and its ability to determine what happened within. The majority of Committee members voted against the waiving, with several claiming a "fiduciary duty" to protect the denomination's interests as a whole. The EC eventually voted to take an additional week to negotiate what access to privileged information would look like. However, it remains unclear what the conclusion of negotiations will resemble.

"We grieve yesterday's vote by the Executive Committee, who in unprecedented fashion prohibited the will of the messengers for an open and transparent investigation," wrote a dozen EC members in a public statement. "It is our opinion that the failed vote only justifies the need for an open investigation." SBC president Ed Litton tweeted that the "outcome of today's meeting fell far short of the mandate expressed by the messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting." Litton expressed disappointment that "several known issues are only now being addressed with appropriate seriousness" but are grateful that the investigation will begin. He prays that the next week will "yield an agreement to allow the investigation to go forward unimpeded."

 

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