Nashville, TN - Church leaders concede there have been some incidents of sex abuse in Southern Baptist congregations, but say their hands are tied when it comes to investigating complaints across the denomination.
Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said the denomination plans to teach its churches how to conduct background checks, and to require letters of recommendation for job candidates.
But he said the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 16.3 million members, does not have the legal authority to create an independent board to investigate complaints.
"As much as possible within our structure, we're going to assist churches," Page said. "We're deeply concerned about this. We believe children are the most precious gifts from God."
"They don't want to see this problem," said Christa Brown, a SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) member from Austin, Texas, who says she was sexually abused as a child by a Southern Baptist minister. "That's tragic because they're imitating the same mistakes made by Catholic bishops."
She says the Southern Baptists need an independent review board precisely because there's no clear chain of command among Baptist churches. The SBC also does not keep a list of ministers who have been accused of abuse. Advocates say this means molesters could move from church to church.
Question: How quickly would the Southern Baptists untie their hands to expel a gay pastor, or to defrock a minister conducting same-sex commitment ceremonies?
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Update - Feb. 23, 2007: "City of Angels Lady" blogs on civil cases against pedophiles in the church. See LA clergy cases 2007 and click on her profile for links to other blogs.