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Report alleges Southern Baptist Convention ignored sex abuse claims

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 7:12 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Nearly a year after church leaders met at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting, an independent investigation reveals decades of alleged disregard for abuse survivors and attempted cover-up by the SBC executive committee.

Brandon Nichols is pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Marietta and his church is a member of the convention. He and some of his fellow faith leaders say they were aware of some of the alleged cases of abuse but said the convention’s executive committee failed to take action.

“My first reaction was just heartbreak,“ Nichols said. “The report really was designed to ask the question, how, in our organization, specifically with the executive committee, have we fallen short in responding to abuse cases? In what ways are we mishandling abuse cases and not supporting survivors of abuse?”

Guidepost Solutions conducted the investigation and identified over 400-cases of abuse dating back decades. One of those claims involved former Southern Baptist Convention President Dr. Johnny Hunt. The former pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock is accused of sexually abusing another pastor’s wife.

“He is not someone in our denomination, who anything, any sort of hint of that sort of behavior issue had ever come out or alluded to,” Nichols said.

CBS46 reached out to Dr. Hunt to get his side of the story but he said his attorneys advised him not to speak with the media. Instead, he released a statement on social media which says in part, “To put it bluntly, I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the guidepost report. I have never abused anybody.”

My response to the Guidepost report:

Posted by Johnny Hunt on Sunday, May 22, 2022

“We believe that we’re made right before God not by our actions, but because of Jesus. And so, we should be the first people to admit our wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. And I think this situation demands that,” Nichols said.

The investigative report asserts that an executive committee staffer maintained a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse but there is no indication anyone took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power.

CBS46 reached out to the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and they sent a statement saying in part, “We are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks, and to respond to the will of the messengers in Anaheim next month.”

To view the full investigative report, click here.