Southern Baptist leader’s remarks on church sex abuse cases fall far short, survivors say

The new president of the Southern Baptist Convention should have spoken out more forcefully about widespread allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct by church figures in the organization on Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” an abuse survivor says.

Rev. Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who was elected in June to clean up the sex scandals that have plagued the 13.7 million members, acknowledged on the CBS program that SBC leaders had mistreated abuse victims.

But his condemnation of wrongdoing by priests and others in the SBC fell short, according to Christa Brown, a former Southern Baptist who said she was raped as a teenager by her then-pastor.

“Here’s the thing: Even if @bartbarber is 100% sincere, he works within a deeply toxic, survival-unfriendly system that has yet to manifest any meaningful transformation or make amends with those it harmed. That’s what is right,” Ms Brown wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Mr. Barber told “60 Minutes” that the SBC reform effort is “moving against” a “mindset” that for decades hid the names of alleged sex offenders despite repeated requests to reveal them. He admitted that the Southern Baptist executive committee had neglected the victims’ appeals.

“We didn’t just ignore them,” Mr. Barber to correspondent Anderson Cooper. “Sometimes we challenged their motives. Sometimes we attacked them. The reason I’m president of the Southern Baptist Convention is because our churches don’t agree with that and have taken steps to correct these things.”

Mrs. Brown’s displeasure with Mr Barber’s remarks found some support online.

An ally, Kyle J. Howard, who said he attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, responded by saying in part: “The SBC will never change, it was founded on apostasy and it continues on the same path. It is [sic] wealth and influence were built on the backs of black slaves (who were often sexually abused by their masters), and their seminary campuses still honor slave masters. Just the facts.”

In May, DC-based Guidepost Solutions released a massive report detailing hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse involving pastors, lay members and workers at church-affiliated seminaries, universities and colleges in the Southern Baptist Convention. When he was elected, Mr Barber promised to make congregations and institutions “a dangerous place” for addicts.

During the “60 Minutes” interview, taped at the First Baptist Church of Farmerville, Texas, where Mr. Barber is the senior pastor, the SBC president repeated earlier statements that the church is cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into sex abuse cases in the group. He told Mr. Cooper that he wasn’t just “angry” about the situation.

“God called me to be a priest when I was 11,” Mr Barber said. “I believe in this. For people to tarnish it hurts me. I’m not doing this to try to achieve some PR goal for us. I’m doing this because I want to serve God well.”

The network news show also investigated Mr. Barber’s political views and positions on abortion and gay rights.

Mr. Barber said he would be “less likely” to vote for Donald Trump in 2024 if the former president tries to return to office, due to the former president’s alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 violence at the Capitol.

Mr. Barber added that he sees “nothing” that would prevent him from voting for former Vice President Mike Pence in a GOP presidential primary.

Mr. Barber said that Southern Baptists oppose abortion because of the right to life: “Our interest in abortion is not – is not to monitor everyone’s sex life. Our interest in abortion is that we believe it is a human being who deserves living.”

Asked by Mr. Cooper, whether homosexuals “should be converted from being homosexuals,” said Mr. Barber that he believes that “sinners should be converted from being sinners, and that applies to all of us.”

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