Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear revealed Monday night it’s possible the nation’s largest Protestant denomination could establish a database of ministers credibly accused of sexual misconduct.
The SBC’s executive committee said during its annual meeting in 2008 that, due to local church autonomy, it would be virtually impossible to establish an internal, denomination-wide database of abusers, an idea for which abuse survivors have expressed support.
But for Greear, that argument is no longer acceptable.
He called on Southern Baptist leaders to “repent of appealing to autonomy as a cover-up for lack of accountability,” according to the Associated Press.
“Just because we are not announcing any plans regarding a database tonight,” he explained, “does not mean that we are not doing everything we can to evaluate it as an option.”
Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, said an SBC advisory group is studying the possibility, though he admitted the idea is complex.
The SBC president’s comments Monday night came hours after he appeared on CNN’s “New Day,” where he addressed publicly for the first time a bombshell report from the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.
In total, the report claimed more than 700 victims have been abused by Southern Baptist leaders, including deacons, volunteers, Sunday school teachers and pastors. The investigation yielded credible allegations against 380 officials in SBC churches.
Of those, 220 have been convicted of various sex crimes or received deferred prosecutions as a result of plea deals. Ninety remain behind bars and 100 are registered sex offenders.
“Our churches, because of the God that we believe in and that we worship, ought to be safe places for the vulnerable and predators ought to have no place in our midst,” Greear said on CNN. “If that means that we are going to disfellowship churches that show this wanton disregard or that show a criminal negligence when it comes to these issues, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Speaking to SBC leaders this week, Greear argued the denomination, which comprises 15 million members and more than 47,000 churches, takes a hardline stance against same-sex marriage and should be equally as impassioned about safeguarding the church from sexual abuse.
“We must make it clear that our position on abuse is not up for debate,” Greear said.
A constitutional amendment to address the issue, he added, is already in the works.