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Southern Baptist Executive Committee votes to extend debate on abuse claims

by Premier Journalist

The Southern Baptist Executive Committee voted for an additional week of debates after the ecclesiastical leadership organization disagreed on how to progress on investigating abuse claims inside the denomination.

Last week, the Committee gathered to affirm the funding of an investigation into the Committee's handling of sexual abuse claims within the denomination. However, the leadership was not willing to waive their client privileges, which would allow complete access to legal documents within the Executive Committee (EC). The EC requested an additional week for discussions of such motions. 

The subsequent meetings did not end with any significant conclusions. There was a five-hour meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, which included discussions of whether the EC could shield communications from the investigators.

While there was a significant division between parties with regard to this decision, the vote to waive attorney-client privileges was struck down by a 39-35 vote among the members. Members have requested an extension on the deliberations, but it remains unclear if this will be approved.

A spokesperson from the EC asked, in a statement released to the Baptist Press, that Southern Baptists pray "that seven days from now we will finally have a Task Force and Executive Committee Board of Trustees united not only in its commitment to address concerns related to sexual abuse (through the independent review) but also confident in a process that complies with the will of the messengers and is attentive to all other fiduciary and legal considerations." 

A statement released by Bruce Frank, chairman of the task force, stated that the task force and Committee remain at a "complete impasse" over waiving privilege, and that the EC lawyers demanded control of any disclosures that may arise during the investigation.

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