DALLAS -- Southern Baptist Convention delegates adopted resolutions Tuesday that included condemning sexual abuse and misbehavior by members of the denomination.
The resolutions came on the opening day of the Southern Baptists' annual meeting, and at a time when the group is dealing with fallout from reports of sexual misconduct by some of its high-ranking leaders.
The annual meeting of the nation's largest Protestant denomination is being held less than a week after Paige Patterson, a longtime leader in the group, recused from giving the keynote sermon today at the request of other convention leaders.
Patterson was fired May 30 from his role as president emeritus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth for mishandling a 2003 rape allegation. A leader of the convention's conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, he is one of several Southern Baptist leaders this year to be removed from or resign from high-profile positions within the denomination after being named in allegations of sexual abuse, assault and harassment.
His departure has been linked to the #MeToo movement, which encourages victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment to come forward and talk publicly about their experiences.
"This is a wake-up call for pastors in our convention," said James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "The safest place an abused woman should feel is her church. And the safest person she should feel she should be able to go to is her pastor."
About two dozen protesters gathered Tuesday across the street from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, calling for the creation of a database that would identify pastors accused of sexual abuse and misconduct.
"We are not against the Southern Baptist Convention, but we believe it can be better," said Ashley Easter of Raleigh, N.C., an advocate for victims of abuse and an organizer of the protest.
The "On Abuse" resolution adopted Tuesday by delegates defines abuse as "any act or conscious failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person."
An amended version of another resolution, "On Affirming the Dignity of Women and the Holiness of Ministers," acknowledged sexual misconduct such as abuse and infidelity and said such acts were "antithetical and disobedient to the corporate call to holiness among the people of God."
Female leaders within the denomination also have begun to acknowledge the mistreatment they've experienced.
Beth Moore, an evangelical leader within the denomination, recounted last month in a blog post incidents of harassment and objectification she has experienced while serving alongside men.
Moore described learning of the need to show "constant pronounced deference" to Southern Baptist men who either ignored or made fun of her. It wasn't until recently, Moore said, that she came to a "demoralizing" realization.
"Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men," she wrote. "It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness."
Trilla Newbell, director of community outreach for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also shared her story of being molested by an older man when she was a college freshman.
"I went to court and [the man's] wife took the stand ... and I will never forget about her talking about how she had been praying for him to recover," Newbell said Monday night during the panel discussion Gospel Sexuality in a #MeToo Culture. "He had been molesting his kids."
The man was convicted and went to jail, but Newbell said she had issues with trust for years afterward.
Merritt said men should set an example through their treatment of others inside and outside the church.
"The way you interact with women in your congregation, and the way you brag on your wife, the way you treat your wife ... [show] that this is how women are to be treated," he said. "This is how women are to be respected."
Information for this article was contributed by staff members of The Associated Press.
Metro on 06/13/2018
Print Headline: Baptist group denounces sex abuse, misconduct