ANAHEIM, Calif. — More than 8,000 members of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to take action to stem a sexual abuse scandal that has stunned members and caused rifts within the largest Protestant denomination in America.
Pastor Bruce Frank of the Biltmore Church in Arden, North Carolina, called it a "kairos" moment — a providential time to act.
"Either we humble ourselves before God, or God will humble us," he said, addressing delegates before the vote in a chilly conference room in Anaheim. "This is a seminal moment where we will choose between humility and hubris."
Frank is the chair of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, established at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention meeting to study how to respond to widespread reports that allegations of sexual abuse were ignored or covered up for nearly 20 years by senior members of the group's executive committee.
An explosive 288-page report commissioned by the SBC and released last month describes how leaders disregarded survivors' reports of abuse, appeared more concerned with protecting abusers than victims and denigrated survivors as "opportunists," while making the avoidance of legal liability by the SBC the top priority.
Frank said the task force spent thousands of hours reading reports, speaking with survivors and deciding on the best course of action.
"Most of all, we want to say thank you to the survivors," he said. "Thank you for your patience, your persistence, your grace and resolve. You are the heroes in this room."
The vote on sex abuse was the most pressing item on the convention's agenda, causing some to predict that the gathering would be the most consequential, and potentially contentious, in years.
The task force proposed two recommendations that were up for vote on Tuesday. The first was to create another task force to implement sexual abuse initiatives. The second was the creation of a "Ministry Check" website that would list credibly accused offenders associated with SBC churches, in order to prevent abusers from easily moving to other congregations.
There was some debate about the two motions. Those who spoke against the recommendations included Mark Coppenger, former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who questioned how widespread the abuse was and why he should pay for the sins of a hypothetical church down the street.