During a virtual session on Tuesday afternoon, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) voted to waive attorney-client privilege amid an investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse within the denomination in the last 20 years.
The investigation was prompted after a 2019 Houston Chronicle report detailed harrowing accounts of more than 700 victims alleging sexual abuse by 380 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers since 1998. At the time the report was published, about 220 were convicted and nearly 100 were imprisoned.
As reported by The Christian Post, the EC voted 44-31 on Tuesday to permit Guidepost Solutions, the firm conducting the investigation, to assess privileged communications between committee members or staff and their lawyers at the request by the Sexual Abuse Task Force and SBC messengers.
At the close of the session, SBC president Ed Litton prayed that the approved decision would not "divide and separate brothers and sisters."
"We have all faced a very difficult and challenging time," he prayed, calling on God’s guidance amid "a very uncertain future."
"We know the cost that has been explained to us again and again,” Litton continued. “Lord, we pray for your will to be done, what needs to be exposed, and healing begin for many. But above all born, that the Gospel, the reputation of this great people called Southern Baptists would rise above it.”
Tuesday’s gathering was the third session in which the EC met over the investigation after SBC messengers approved a motion in June.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, pastors from the South Carolina Baptist Convention warned the EC that they would withdraw or reallocate funding from them if they did not waive the attorney-client privilege.
Committee members who opposed the motion, however, have warned that waiving privilege would put convention’s insurance at risk and that it would place the financial stability of both the committee and the entire convention in jeopardy.
"What we're doing is about creating chaos," committee member Joe Knott of North Carolina said on Tuesday. He added that SBC members "voted to investigate sexual abuse" but not to "void our insurance."
Meanwhile, Mike Keahbone of Oklahoma spoke in favor of the motion as he referred to the SBC’s spiritual fiduciary duty."
"Our messengers in our task force have given us a clear directive. We have victims who have been waiting a long time for a tangible step towards healing," he said. "And I believe this is that opportunity for that ... I ask us to walk by faith and not by sight."
As of Tuesday, six EC members have resigned in protest over “denominational wide corruption.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.