Indianapolis Under pressure to fight child sex abuse, the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee said Tuesday that the denomination should not create its own database to help churches identity predators or establish an office to field abuse claims.
The report decried sexual abuse as reprehensible and a sin. But the Southern Baptist principle of local church autonomy means it's up to individual churches - and not the convention - to screen employees and take action against offenders, the committee said.
Opening its two-day annual meeting, the nation's largest Protestant body also elected a new president, Georgia megachurch pastor Johnny Hunt, a theological conservative. He is of American Indian descent, a biographical detail that might help the convention reach out to minorities.
The clergy sexual abuse scandal that struck the U.S. Roman Catholic Church starting in 2002 has also touched the Southern Baptist Convention, although to a much lesser degree. The past two years have seen a few high-profile allegations against Baptist clergy, and a key victims' advocate in the Catholic crisis, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, began lobbying the Baptists.