NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 10, 2019—Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responded to today’s Houston Chronicle story featuring a major investigation into church sexual abuse in Southern Baptist contexts, looking at the harm done to over 700 survivors since 1998.
“The report is alarming and scandalous, the courage and grace of these survivors is contrasted with the horrific depravity of those who would use the name of Jesus to prey on them,” Moore wrote in response. “All rape and sexual exploitation is evil and unjust. Sexual abuse is not only sin but also a crime.
"The sexual abuse of the vulnerable is satanic at its very root, and, just as in the beginning of the cosmic story, the tools the devil and those who carry out such horrors use are twisted versions of the very words of God. The church’s message to survivors should be a clear communication that they are those who have been sinned against, not those who have sinned, that they are not troublemakers in the church but those who are helping the real ‘trouble’ to come to light.
"Sexual abuse is a sin against God and a crime against the civil order. In every case, if there is suspected sexual abuse of a child the church should report the incident to the civil authorities. With the sexual assault of adults, the church should provide a refuge for survivors and should walk with them towards involving the authorities and bringing perpetrators to justice. In all of this, the church should deal openly with what has happened in the church while caring for all those who were harmed. No one who has committed such offenses should ever be in any ministry arena where such could even conceivably happen again.
"Our denomination now has a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group assigned with investigating all options and reviewing what other denominations and groups have done to keep track of abuses, while hearing from law enforcement, psychological and psychiatric experts, survivors, and many others.
“We should see this scandal in terms of the church as a flock, not as a corporation. Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not ‘protecting’ Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.”
Moore’s full response to the sexual abuse scandal can be found here.