The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to create a way to track pastors and other church workers credibly accused of sex abuse. The nation's largest Protestant denomination launched a new one-year task force to oversee further reforms, the Associated Press reports. The vote came three weeks after the release of an outside consultant's investigative report on the long-simmering scandal, revealing that Southern Baptist leaders mishandled abuse cases and stonewalled victims for years.
The vote on sex-abuse reforms fell short of what some abuse survivors in Southern Baptist churches sought, such as compensation fund for victims and a more robust, permanent, independent commission to monitor its churches' handling - and mishandling - of abuse. The vote met opposition from some who contended the crisis was overhyped and that it interfered with Baptist churches' independence. Bruce Frank, who led a task force that called for reforms, made an emotional plea for the church to accept the "bare minimum" reforms as their two-day annual gathering got underway, adding it will take time to change the churches' culture. "How are you going to tell a watching world that Jesus died for them ... when his church won't event do its very best to protect them?" Frank asked. He said a database has been discussed by the SBC for more than a decade, adding that it is crucial to ensure abusers are not going from church to church, hurting more vulnerable people.