Sex abuse crisis tops agenda as Southern Baptists convene

2000 (1)Source: Associated Press

By DAVID CRARY

The Southern Baptist Convention gathers for its annual national meeting Tuesday with one sobering topic — sex abuse by clergy and staff — overshadowing all others.

Inside the meeting hall in Birmingham, Alabama, delegates representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination will likely vote on establishing criteria for expelling churches that mishandle or cover up abuse allegations. They also may vote to establish a new committee which would review how member churches handle claims of abuse.

Outside the convention center, abuse survivors and other activists plan a protest rally Tuesday evening, demanding that the SBC move faster to require sex-abuse training for all pastors, staff and volunteers, and to create a database of credibly accused abusers that could be shared among its more than 47,000 churches. They will also be urging the church, which espouses all-male leadership, to be more respectful of women’s roles — a volatile topic that’s sparked online debate over whether women should preach to men.

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