Sex abuse. Women’s roles. Abortion.
All could make headlines at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, which starts Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala.
But as The Associated Press notes, the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the nation’s Protestant denomination for months is expected to dominate the yearly gathering.
That scandal started, of course, with a bombshell investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. The Texas papers have kept at the investigation and delivered a final piece of their series Sunday. That front-page report focused on “Baptist abuse victims’ battle: silence, survival, speaking out.” It’s certainly a worthy read in advance of the SBC meeting.
Just two years ago, someone (OK, maybe it was me) whined about reporters’ seeming lack of interest in the SBC’s meeting. But in 2019, the gathering is, no doubt, the journalistic place to be.
GetReligion’s own Richard Ostling offered a tip sheet last week for news writers covering the Baptist extravaganza, as he put it. And on Sunday, GR editor Terry Mattingly featured a think piece by the SBC’s Russell Moore.
Already, The Tennessean’s Holly Meyer — who is covering the meeting with her Gannett colleague Katherine Burgess of Memphis’ Commercial Appeal — has filed her first story from Birmingham.
Meyer reports from a pre-convention meeting of the denomination’s executive committee:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee took steps Monday to make it clear that it can kick out churches that show a disregard for sexual abuse.
While the ability to sever ties with such churches already exists, the executive committee voted to enshrine in the convention's constitution that addressing sexual abuse is part of what it means to be a Southern Baptist church.
"In the culture, situations and issues arise from time to time where we need to make explicit what has already been implicit," said Pastor Mike Stone, chairman of the executive committee. "These actions are a confirmation of what Southern Baptists have always believed."
The top administrative body, which acts on behalf of the convention when it is not in session, also supported a bylaw change on Monday that would form a special committee to address misconduct allegations, including sexual abuse, against churches.
The new panel would conduct inquiries — not investigations — into the allegations and make a recommendation to the executive committee about whether the convention should be in fellowship with the church in question.