A new investigative piece by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News has revealed an alleged 20-year-long sex scandal within the leadership of several Southern Baptist churches.
According to the investigation, about 380 leaders and volunteers within the church have been accused of sexual misconduct. These allegations came mostly from young men and women, whose experiences reportedly ranged from pornography exposure to rape and impregnation at the hands of church members.
The Chronicle reported that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) mostly treated these accusations as isolated incidents. Taking an "out of sight, out of mind" approach, the SBC didn't even bother to create a registry so the accusations wouldn't disappear as the abusers moved from location to location. The Chronicle and Express-News were forced to create a database themselves, giving profiles of convicted sexual abusers with documented connections to the SBC.
One of the main subjects of the piece, Debbie Vasquez, said that she was molested by her pastor when she was only 14. This abuse continued for years and resulted in her becoming pregnant at 18-years-old. In 2006, she sued the pastor, Dale Amyx, and the church for sexual molestation. Amyx didn't deny being the father of her child, but insisted that the sex was consensual. The charges against him were dropped and as of 2016 he remains listed as the pastor of the church.
Vasquez was once again denied legitimacy in 2008, when she went to Indianapolis to plead with the SBC. She implored them to implement changes at their ~47,000 churches to help prevent future sexual assaults. The SBC reportedly rejected almost every proposed reform, allowing the abuse to continue.
Around this same time, the Rev. Thomas Doyle was writing to SBC leaders, begging them to act on these accusations. Rev. Doyle has had some experiences with cover-ups, being a priest and former lawyer for the Catholic Church. He was one of the first people to expose the similar hidden acts by Catholic leaders in the 1980s.
"I understand the fear, because it's going to make the leadership look bad," the Reverent said, talking about the SBC's reluctance to publicly address the allegations. "Well, they are bad, and they should look bad. Because they have ignored this issue. They have demonized the victims."
The current president of the SBC, J.D. Greear, has supported the victims of the molestations. In an email to the Chronicle, Greear said that any church that "proves a pattern of sinful neglect-regarding abuse or any other matter-should absolutely be removed from fellowship from the broader denomination."