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Southern Baptists Say No To Sexual Predator List

Orginally published on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 8:12 AM
by Todd Rhoades

As I understand it, this has been quite the issue with some in the SBC: Should the denomination compile and support a listing of known sexual predator pastors that have caused problems in SBC churches. That was what a task force was set to decide, and during the annual meeting, the task force said that, even though sexual sins were a problem in SBC churches, there was no need for a database to track sexual abusive ministers. Whether or not a database is the best way to help the problem is far from me. But the reasoning they gave really makes no sense to me at all. Here was their reasoning, according to an article in

1. It would be impossible to ensure that ALL convicted sexual predators who ever had a connection with a Baptist church would be included in such a database. (OK... that kinda goes without saying... of course, any database like this will not be 100% complete or accurate. But the hope would be that what WAS in the database could be useful and beneficial).

2. The committee reported that creating a "Baptist only" database would exclude predators previously identified in other faith groups. (You mean there are predators that AREN'T baptist?) My problem here would be the same as in #1. Of course, the database would not be complete, but would it not be somewhat beneficial? The task force said that they urged churches to use the Justice Department's national database for sexual predators. Good idea. But guess what... it doesn't include everyone either!

3.  The committee said that due to the autonomy of SBC churches, the convention does not have any authority to require local churches to report instances of alleged sexual abuse to their local assocation, state convention, or national convention.  Again, true.  But don’t you think that most local churches that were a victim of a sexual predator pastor would want to make sure it was reported in some way?  I know that much is swept under the carpet; but right now, there is really no collecting place for these types of cases in the SBC that I’m aware of.  Wouldn’t this database be a step in the right direction?

The chairman who was giving the report emphasized the convention’s commitment to eradicating sexual predators from Baptist ministry even though the database concept was not deemed viable.  “Never let it be said that we are anemic in the fight against sexual abuse.

Sorry, but if these are the best excuses that you can come up with for NOT doing something more, it makes one wonder.

Please know, I’m not saying that a database is definitely the way to go; but simply saying you’re not going to do it because it wouldn’t be complete, wouldn’t include ‘non-SBCers’, or that you can’t make people report things, seem to be three really kinda lame ways of saying ‘we don’t want to do it’.  Instead, say something like, it would be too cost-prohibitive, take too much administration, might incriminate non-offenders, might open us up to lawsuites, or, even the big one:  we don’t want to publically admit that there is a big problem in the convention.

You can read the article here...

Am I too harsh?


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  There are 10 Comments:

  • Posted by

    As a children’s pastor, NO Todd, You’re not to harsh!  Sexual predators are just that and it shouldn’t matter what title they carry because titles certainly shouldn’t give itself entitlement!  We are called to protect God’s children and place multiple layers of safety and security and to do our very best ethically and morally to protect all children who come through the doors of our churches.  I am so sick and tired of hearing the lame excuses that I’ve heard believe it or not from other pastors and read when it comes to the protection of our children and I for one am not willing to be quiet about it either!  So if my reply is harsh, so be it, I’m not apologizing; my one voice stands for the protection of God’s children!

  • Posted by Bruce Gerencser

    I would want the term sexual predator defined first. There is more than just a child molester problem in Baptist Churches (and the Bob Gray debacle in Florida is instructive on how this evil is covered up)

    I am thinking of some men I know that preyed on women in their Churches. It is common knowledge what happened and yet they land at another Church. It’s like..........under the rug..........move on.......don’t talk about it............everyone deserves a second chance.

    You are not harsh on this Todd. 

    If Churches would press charges against their pastors.............then maybe we would have less of a problem.

    If I understand the law, a minister/teacher/person of authority..........may not use their authority position to engage in sexual relations.  Even if the person is of age, it doesn’t matter.

    I am still shocked at how we sweep this stuff under the rug.............but we’ll have a Church war over the type of music we sing. Anyone got that figured out?

  • Posted by

    I don’t think you’re being too harsh, but I think that some basic details about the crime need to be outlined as well.  I know of some people who carry the label “Sex Offender” because they had relations with a girl/guy one year their junior, but just over the line for age of consent.  Others more genuinely fit the bill for what we want to screen most often.  Just a thought there.

    Now, I would agree that we need both protection for children and adults.  If someone is guilty of abusing their position either way, it should be noted.  There should also be some form of appeals process.  Sure you can’t force every church to participate and you may need some safeguards to stop someone from filing a false report, but those are not good reasons to NOT have this.  Sad, just sad.  Maybe I can convince my pastor to take this up at next years’ convention or to somehow do something about it.  I definitely plan to contact the person who responded that this just doesn’t make sense to let him know where I as a parent and servant stand.

  • Posted by

    I run a background screening company that does screens for many churches.  I think its spineless of the SBC to not develop such a list.  There are literally ministers and volunteers that have hopped from church to church getting away with the same violations time and again (this is for real, not just an urban legend).

  • Posted by

    Ever since the scandal broke in the newspapers about the way the church hierarchy handled child-abusing catholic priests, I have felt that the offense of the administrators for covering up was as bad if not worse than that of the child abusers. I agree that it appears that those who made this decision for the SBCare a spineless bunch. Maybe if the sex offenders were also alcoholics they would take action more quickly.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    You can’t be too careful about this.

  • Posted by


    I work as a probation officer in a sex offender unit and I can tell you that I agree a database would be helpful, but without docmented evidence (and it sounds like many of the cases would be undocumented by law enforcement), they would be looking at some huge lawsuits in identifing people as sexual predators based on accusations only.  State registries can only list offenders based on the offenses sexual predators are convicted of because in our country, people are considered innocent until proven guilty. 

    For example, if someone wanted to out another in SBC, they could accuse the person of a sexual offense when there is none, and the person would be on the database indefinitely and labeled a sexual predator.  Would that be fair?  No because there is not enough information. 

    It appears on the surface to be a spineless decision by the SBC, but there are alot more details that need to be considered. 

    All in all, I would say pray for the SBC leadership and the leadership in your church, because they face many tough decisions that will be criticized by many, and often, appreciated by few.

  • Posted by Bruce Gerencser


    On one hand I agree........

    In Ohio anyway.........clergy have a reporting requirement. You see it, you must report it. You are told, you must report. Several times over the years I have had to report issues that I knew about. One case involved a Church member shaking a baby to death. They were later convicted of manslaughter.

    In the case of ministers, Church leaders, area missionaries, denominational leaders are duty bound to report sexual crimes. What often happens, the matter gets covered up and the minister goes 2000 miles away and “starts over” Often, the abuse victim ends up out of Church because the Church refused to be a help, or they are blamed for “enticing” for the poor minister into sin.

    Of course there is the danger of unsubstantiated claims of sexual crime. A man/woman can be ruined forever by such a claim.

    Some Ohioans may remember the Reader case in the Columbus area years ago. A Nazarene minister I believe. Was accused of molesting kids in the Church day care. Lost his own kids. Lost his Church, lost everything.......only to be exonerated years later. Too late..........his life/family/career was ruined.

    Proof should be required in every accusation and leaders need to quit covering for abusers (of all kinds)


  • Unbelievable!!!  I do not understand why the Baptists are so against doing anything that will help protect lives and churches from certian people who need not be in leadership.  As an individual who has been abused as a child I am completely discusted by this move and the political crap within this denomination that I have been a part of for many years.  Truly unreal!

  • To all those who are calling for more definition and guidelines I am in total agreement, however, the premise here was whether or not to form the database.  Therefore, all of the details could have been defined and kinks worked out once they decided to do it.  Thus, they did not even want to begin the process.  IGNORANT!  Also, I am sure the world looks at this and once again thinks that another church organization is covering up for its own.  Nice job guys!  I hope you are proud of yourselves.

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