Southern Baptists shun church with female pastor, two others for defying sex abuse policy

The Southern Baptist Convention’s highest governing body voted Tuesday to expel four congregations. One was for placing a woman in the senior pastorate, two was for failures related to the denomination’s sexual abuse policy, and one was for lack of financial participation.

The SBC’s executive committee announced the decision after a closed-door meeting at the end of two days of meetings in Nashville. These are the latest in a series of purges in recent years, most notably the expulsion of two of the largest congregations, Saddleback Church in California and Louisville, Kentucky, for having women in pastoral leadership roles.

The commission on Tuesday expelled Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, where a woman is the senior pastor. According to the SBC’s official statement of faith, the pastorate is open only to men.

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Immanuel said in a statement on Facebook that he confirmed “the decision to call Pastor Katie McCann to serve with us.” Citing Baptist doctrine that emphasizes congregational and individual autonomy, he prayed that the SBC would be “blessed with wisdom and insight as we move forward.”

Because Southern Baptist churches are independent, denominations cannot tell churches what to do. However, the church can decide whether a person can become a member or be expelled.

The commission accused Grove Road Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, of “lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding the pastor’s inappropriate response to allegations of sexual abuse.” Banished.

December 7, 2011, at the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

It also expelled West Hendersonville Baptist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina, for having a “biblically disqualified” pastor who did not adhere to the church’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse.

A fourth church, New Hope Baptist Church in Gastonia, North Carolina, did not participate financially in the conference and did not demonstrate an intention to “resolve issues of faith and practice,” the committee said, without providing further details. I said it without saying.

The church has the right to appeal to the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis in June.

The conservative group has previously expelled congregants for their LGBTQ+ positions and women’s ministry. He has also expelled churches for failing to address allegations of racism and abuse, an area the denomination has long faced pressure to address.

The commission learned on Monday of plans by an independent commission to go after those who loot the clergy. This is the latest plan by Southern Baptist Convention leaders to halt efforts to prevent sexual abuse by pastors, but the new nonprofit will need funding from the denomination to get up and running.

The new Abuse Response Committee will create a database listing ministers who have been found to have been sexually abused through criminal convictions or civil judgments.

The Ministry Watch database is considered essential in denominations where each congregation is self-governing, ensuring that clergy predators do not know about a pastor’s background even if he is expelled from a church. This means that you may work at another church that may not have one.

“An independent organization would have greater credibility with survivors,” Josh Wester, chairman of the SBC Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, told the group’s executive committee Monday. “We will have more flexibility to support our churches and more success in accomplishing the mission given to us by the Messenger.”

To make this a reality, Wester said, the task force is asking each SBC agency to help raise the necessary funds to operate.

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination has faced liquidation over its handling of sexual abuse since a 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News that documented hundreds of abuse cases at Southern Baptist churches. There is. This led to an independent consultant’s report in 2022 that said top SBC leaders responded to abuse survivors with “resistance, obstruction, and even outright hostility.”

The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting called for a series of reforms, including the creation of a database. Plans faced delays due to backlash from many conservatives after the company, which was originally designated to oversee the project, posted pro-LGBTQ+ messages on social media.

Sexual abuse survivors and their advocates say there are other reasons to be skeptical of Southern Baptist leaders’ reform efforts.

The controversy intensified last year with news that the executive committee and other SBC organizations filed briefs with the Kentucky Supreme Court supporting the dismissal of abuse-related lawsuits against the city of Louisville.

SBC is not involved in this lawsuit, but its entities face similar lawsuits, which they argued should be dismissed based on the statute of limitations as too late to file. The court ultimately agreed.


In response to this controversy, the Executive Committee has decided to establish a study group to examine what the SBC thinks about the judicial system, including statutes of limitations, and how it makes legal decisions. Became. Josh Hetzler, chairman of the executive committee’s legal strategy committee, said he is seeking “input from leading biblical scholars, trauma consultants, and legal experts.”

Krista Brown, a Southern Baptist sexual abuse survivor who has long criticized the SBC’s response to abuse as more drama than substance, said the denomination has yet to fund a new independent commission. He pointed out that there was no.

“So I’m going to wait for the actual deal to happen before cheering…and I’m not optimistic,” she posted on X (formerly Twitter).



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