The Southern Baptist Convention of Texas on Monday expressed sorrow over newspaper reports that more than 700 Southern Baptists have been sexually abused by church leaders or volunteers over the past 20 years.
Convention Communications Director Gary Ledbetter said it's horrible what happened in reference to the abuse reported by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.
"It's a horrible thing that has happened to these victims and it’s a mark of the fallenness of man, including members of our churches,that this occurs in the first place,” he said.
Ledbetter said the convention is a group of autonomous, self-governing churches that cluster together, and have resources available to the churches to do more than background checks, including how-to training for church leaders.
"How to recognize sexual predators,” he said is one part of training. “How to structure your ministry to provide a safe environment. What to do in case of an accusation of abuse. This is something that is not brand new to us."
Ledbetter said an advisory group started within the church last year and it should issue a report by May on how to change things the denomination is doing. Past victims are providing the group with input.
He said any church leader or church member who suspects sexual abuse is going on in any congregation should call law enforcement.
“Make sure the victim is safe and call law enforcement,” he said. “They are the only ones that really have the power or expertise to investigate. They are the only ones that can assure the safety of victims and ultimately justice for the victims.”
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TPR Brian.