Baptists reject child sex-abuser database

USA Today

Under pressure to fight child sex abuse, the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee said Tuesday that the denomination should not create its own database to help churches identity predators or establish an office to field abuse claims.

The report decried sexual abuse as reprehensible and a sin. But the Southern Baptist principle of local church autonomy means it’s up to individual churches — and not the convention — to screen employees and take action against offenders, the committee said.

The past two years have seen a few high-profile allegations against Baptist clergy, and a key victims’ advocate in the Catholic crisis, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, began lobbying the Baptists.


Local church autonomy rules out creating a centralized investigative body to determine who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse or anything else, it said, and the convention has no authority to bar known perpetrators from ministry or start an office to field abuse claims.

Christa Brown, SNAP’s Baptist outreach director, rejected the argument about local church authority and questioned the convention’s commitment to taking the problem seriously.

Frank Page, the outgoing SBC president, called the report on abuse a “home run.” Anyone questioning the convention’s commitment to fighting child sexual abuse need only look to its website, which has a prominent link to information about preventing the problem, he said.

So, readers, should the Baptist polity be the trump card? May be polity does matter. Although the Roman Catholic example must serve as a strong reminder that centralization can also fail miserably.

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