After Annual Meeting, Southern Baptists Begin the Hard Work of Abuse Reform

Survivors sensed a godly shift as messengers approved plans and their new president put sexual predators “on notice.”

Southern Baptists sang slow and low, “Lord, have mercy on me,” in the cavernous meeting hall where they apologized for their failure to care for survivors and approved long-awaited measures designed to keep predatory pastors and irresponsible churches out of the convention.

Tiffany Thigpen attended the annual meeting in Anaheim, California, with fellow abuse survivors Jules Woodson and Debbie Vasquez­—their names familiar to many Southern Baptist pastors from news coverage, social media, and last month’s abuse report.

After her 20 years of fighting and advocating, Thigpen finally saw a shift. She described “God on the move” in the denomination where survivors had been disbelieved, vilified, and ignored over and over.

This time, Southern Baptist leaders named them from the stage of the 12,000-person gathering to applause. The hall included a special room for survivors, staffed by a team of trauma-informed counselors.

Attendees spoke to them, thanked them from coming, and tucked teal ribbons in their nametags as a sign of support. And, most importantly, the majority voted in favor of abuse reform and in solidarity with survivors every chance they got.

Thigpen said when the messengers—delegates from Southern Baptist churches—raised their ballots in the air to approve recommendations resulting from last month’s abuse investigation, it felt like those seated in the rows of chairs around them were looking to them as if to say, “This vote is for you.”

“It’s a victory in so many ways, because people’s hearts changed, and that’s something only God can do,” said Thigpen, who was groomed and attacked by her pastor over 30 years ago only to …

Continue reading…