Federal investigators with the Department of Justice are investigating how the Southern Baptist Convention handled sexual abuse.
The SBC is the largest Baptist group in the world, with a coalition of 47,000 churches. Until now, leaders of the church have claimed that they have little ability to implement changes because each church is autonomous.
The DOJ investigation began soon after an outside consultant called Guidepost Solutions released an explosive 400-page report on sex abuse by Southern Baptists, which found that leaders routinely silenced sexual abuse survivors and fought against reforms.
Another revelation was that a longtime SBC lawyer had secretly kept a list of accused sexual abusers in churches.
Guidepost also discovered credible allegations against former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who was accused of sexually assaulting the wife of another SBC pastor who was 24 years younger than him.
The church has been under scrutiny since 2019, when an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found over 700 victims of sexual abuse since 1998, with credible accusations against 380 SBC leaders and workers.
Investigators found many examples of sexual abusers who were allowed to keep working in SBC churches. For example, a convicted child molester and accused rapist named Darrell Gilyard was re-hired and allowed to return to the pulpit at a Baptist church in Florida.
Members of the church have recently taken steps to address the issue. Two months ago, messengers to the annual meeting of the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention voted to recommend the creation of a “Ministry Check” website and other reforms.