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Newspapers' Investigation Shows Sex Abuse Occurred in Southern Baptist Churches for Over 20 Years

02-11-2019
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Boz Tchividjian is the founder of Grace, which advises churches and faith-based groups on the issue of sexual abuse. He appeared on CBN Newswatch on Monday to talk more about the Houston Chronicle's investigation.  

An investigation by two Texas newspapers has revealed serious sexual abuse problems across Southern Baptist churches.

The "Abuse of Faith" article, published by The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, reports that in the 10 years since 2008, "more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist Churches have been charged with sex crimes."

The article also states that over a period of 20 years -- sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Church left more than 700 victims.

The article begins by sharing the story of a woman who says when she was 14, her pastor in Sanger, Texas located an hour north of Dallas first molested her.

Debbie Vasquez says it was the first of many assaults.

The newspapers go on to say that she became pregnant after one of the assaults when she was 18.

In June of 2008, the article states that Vasquez went to Indianapolis where she and others requested that Southern Baptist Convention leaders and the denomination's 47,000 churches "track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers."

According to the article, Vasquez wanted them to look into prevention policies implemented by other faiths, including the Catholic Church.

The newspapers' investigation shows that 10 years ago the denomination "rejected nearly every proposed reform."

CBN News spoke with one of the authors of the article, Houston Chronicle reporter John Tedesco.

"The creation of a database does raise some interesting issues about who would actually keep track of these cases, who would be included. It's a pretty sticky complicated issue, but you know on the flip side, that there is a problem where Baptist churches are hiring guys who really should not be working at churches," he said.

The newspapers report that alleged sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Church is not just a recent problem.

Their investigation shows that since 1998, around 380 leaders and volunteers with the denomination "have faced allegations of sexual misconduct."

The article goes on to say that number is made up of "those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned."

And it also states that "more of them worked in Texas than in any other state."

The Southern Baptist denomination started a sexual abuse study group last year to address this very issue -- and leaders were swift to respond to the Chronicle's investigation with expressions of sorrow, repentance and calls to action.

SBC President J.D. Greear said that leaders should have listened to earlier warnings about abuse and promised to use all the spiritual and financial resources of the denomination to stop predators.

He also called for care for survivors saying: "The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists."

Russell Moore, the denomination's public policy spokesman, called for discipling churches that cover up abuse, deeming them “out of fellowship” with other churches.

Survivor Advocate Ashley Easter has spoken out for years against abuse in different churches and denominations. She expects more survivors to come forward in the aftermath of the report. 

"I think this is only the beginning of an amazingly larger number of survivors that are going to be coming forward in the next couple of weeks," she said.

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