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Sexual Abuse in the Baptist Church

The silence about childhood sexual abuse is finally breaking.

In a Baptist Church, the Pastor and Church leaders are often revered by members of the congregation, especially the young children.  It is this enormous power combined with the influence that the Church has over the lives of its members that creates such a dangerous atmosphere for childhood sexual abuse in the Baptist faith. 

Studies reveal that childhood sexual abuse is as prevalent in the Baptist Church as it is in the Roman Catholic Church.  Yet this denomination often has no procedures for tracking abusive clergy who are transferred out of state, for removing accused abusers from ministry, or for informing congregants that their officials have been accused of violating children.  Numerous Baptist clergy have been arrested and convicted for criminal sexual misconduct.  The absence of a central agency for Baptist Churches to report known or suspected child molesters has resulted in preachers moving from one church to another without their new congregation ever learning about the history of sexual abuse.

For decades, victims of childhood sexual abuse in Baptist Churches have been silenced by shame, false instruction, and the bully tactics of the Church’s leaders.  Most egregiously, abuse survivors have been taught that scripture requires them to forgive their perpetrator and not to make reports to law enforcement.  These tactics serve to foster an environment of abuse and allows perpetrators to go unpunished.  In a Baptist congregation, the Pastor and church leaders have enormous power and influence over the lives of the Church’s members, which can create a dangerous environment for children.  In most Baptist churches, there is a deacon board or committee of church elders who decide whether to hire or retain the Pastor and Church staff.  These deacons and elders are responsible for doing background checks and implementing appropriate protocols to protect children.  When the Church deacons and elders are negligent in their duties and children are harmed, the Church can be liable.

Only recently, because of the courage of a handful of Baptist sexual abuse survivors who refused to be silenced by the Church’s tactics, is the true magnitude of child sexual abuse in the Baptist Church  coming to light.