BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) — Southern Baptists, faced in recent months with hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse in its ranks, have overwhelmingly adopted changes to governing documents that will bring greater visibility to their desire to disaffiliate with churches that do not handle instances of abuse properly.
A new standing “Credentials Committee” also will consider whether churches are not “in friendly cooperation” for that and other reasons, including involvement in “discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.”
They also voted Tuesday (June 11) at their annual meeting to amend the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention so that it will make explicit that churches that mishandle cases of abuse or racial discrimination are not welcome.
“I believe this is a very, very significant moment in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said new SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.
He said the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has “given a clear signal not only about what we believe about sexual abuse, but we also stand against all ethnic discrimination in the United States and around the world.”
The constitutional amendments will need to be considered a second time at next year’s annual meeting before they can become official.
Moments after the votes, about 50 abuse victim advocates and media members attended a rally outside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex where speakers declared that what Southern Baptists accomplished inside was not sufficient.