Pastors fear impact of Southern Baptists’ sex abuse scandal

The High Point Enterprise [High Point NC]

May 31, 2022

By Jimmy Tomlin

The sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Southern Baptist Convention in recent days should prompt leaders within the denomination — and within individual churches — to examine the issue more closely, local pastors say.

“It’s overwhelming, and I am deeply concerned by the findings,” said the Rev. Steve Livengood, senior pastor of Abbotts Creek Missionary Baptist Church, one of the more than 30 High Point churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Sexual abuse should grieve us all, and it should grieve us that the name of Christ is harmed. I think we need to look at the recommendations closely to determine how we can ensure that every church is a safe place for every woman, man, girl and boy to come and worship our Lord.”

In an independent report released May 22, explosive details painted a picture of how SBC leaders had perpetuated a cycle of sexual abuse within the denomination — the nation’s largest Protestant denomination — by ignoring reports of abuse, rejecting calls for reform, and downplaying the scope of the crisis.

The nearly 300-page report also stated that leaders’ internal focus almost always was on “protecting the SBC from legal liability and not on caring for survivors or creating any plan to prevent sexual abuse within SBC churches.”

On Thursday, the SBC released a 205-page list of accused ministers, the abuses they were accused of, and the outcomes of their adjudication in the legal system. The SBC described the release of the previously secret list as “an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention.”

Many observers have compared the SBC crisis to the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Roman Catholic Church, and the impact on the church could be equally damaging, they say.

“Damning is the word,” said Jim Summey, pastor of English Road Baptist Church, another congregation affiliated with the SBC. “It’s very damning.”

According to Summey, the SBC’s efforts to downplay the crisis makes it even worse, particularly in light of the denomination’s arch-conservative theology.

“People will look at that and say, ‘You’re condemning everything, but oh, you have a double standard — if it’s one of yours, it’s different,’ ” he said. “It’s like if a police officer’s son gets caught with marijuana — there’s a way for him to wiggle out of it because he’s a police officer’s son.”

Livengood agreed.

“It’s definitely going to have a negative impact on the church,” he said. “Unbelievers, in particular, are always looking at those who believe in Christ and how we live, and if we don’t live in a biblical manner, it’s bad on the name of the church and bad on the name of Christ.”

The list of the accused, which SBC leaders posted on the denomination’s website, has several North Carolina names on it, including two High Point cases:

—In 2007, Todd Turner Brock, the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, was sentenced to 10-12 months in prison after admitting to charges that he tried to entice a 17-year-old to make a video depicting sex acts and sent the boy a lewd photo. He resigned from the church prior to his arrest.

—In 2008, Guy Ellis Carr Jr., a deacon at Emerywood Baptist Church, was sentenced to 7-10 years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The charges were for a series of sexual assaults he perpetrated in the 1970s against a girl from the time she was 4 or 5 years old until she was about 12.

The High Point Enterprise reported on both of those cases when they happened. — 336-888-3579