Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee will hear more details today related to the Aug. 12 announcement of a federal investigation into the SBC. The special called meeting has been reported as an information-only discussion and not open to the public, but more details related to the EC’s next steps in a variety of areas are anticipated in the coming days.
The Aug. 12 news report and accompanying statement by SBC entity and auxiliary leaders and SBC president Bart Barber (see below) does not indicate when SBC EC leaders first learned of the United States Department of Justice investigation but does state the investigation will include “multiple SBC entities.” The DOJ also has not released any information on the topic.
The work being done by federal prosecutors is technically only fact-finding in nature at this point. Its purpose reportedly is to determine whether any criminal activity allegedly occurred by any individual or group (beyond those already convicted of crimes) that appears in the sexual abuse report released by Guidepost Solutions. The Guidepost report was the culmination of the 2021 SBC messengers’ call for a third-party investigation into the SBC EC’s handling of sexual abuse.
According to the DOJ’s website, evidence obtained by the prosecutors in cases such as this one will be presented to a grand jury, and the grand jury will in turn vote on whether indictments should be issued.
At press time, the EC is the only group confirmed to have received a subpoena from the DOJ so far, and no individuals from the EC have been subpoenaed, according to an EC spokesperson. Also confirmed is that the EC subpoena is for access to a full, unredacted version of the so-called “secret list” of ministry leaders allegedly charged with and/or convicted of sexual abuse crimes, which was maintained by previous EC staff members, as well as access to supplemental materials from Guidepost.
Along with contacting the EC, The Baptist Paper has reached out to each of the 11 other entities and one auxiliary (WMU). All responded and most confirmed no subpoena has been received. Two entities pointed back to the joint statement released Aug. 12 by SBC leaders. It states the following:
Collective response released Aug. 12 from SBC leaders
The SBC Executive Committee recently became aware that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention, and that the investigation will include multiple SBC entities.
Individually and collectively each SBC entity is resolved to fully and completely cooperate with the investigation. While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future. The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is evidence of this commitment.
We recognize our reform efforts are not finished. In fact, those efforts are continuing this very moment as the recently announced Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force begins its work and as each entity has strengthened its efforts to protect against abuse. Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse.
While so many things in the world are uncertain, we can be certain that we serve a mighty God. Nothing, including this investigation, takes Him by surprise. We take comfort in that and humbly ask you be in prayer in the days and weeks ahead.
Specifically, we ask God to grant wisdom and discernment to each person dealing with the investigation.
Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Jason K. Allen, President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bart Barber, President, SBC
Paul Chitwood, President, International Mission Board
James K. Dew, President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Hance Dilbeck, Jr., President, Guidestone Financial Resources
Kevin Ezell, President, North American Mission Board
Adam W. Greenway, President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Jeff Iorg, President, Gateway Seminary
Brent Leatherwood, Acting President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Ben Mandrell, President, Lifeway Christian Resources
Willie D. McLaurin, Interim President, SBC Executive Committee
Albert Mohler, Jr., President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Sandra Wisdom-Martin, Executive Director, Woman’s Missionary Union