RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of pages in an investigative report by Guidepost Solutions, indicates leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention failed some members in their 47,000 churches.
“We don’t want to be that kind of place where people don’t want to talk about it, and we just sweep it under the rug. It’s been happening too long,” said Pastor Lawrence Yoo.
Sitting in his sanctuary at Waypoint Church in Chapel Hill, Yoo said he is still in shock.
“Heartbroken. Devastated. It’s shameful,” he explained.
Yoo is one of the 86 members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. On Sunday, a 288-page report revealed convention leaders failed to adequately handle sexual abuse allegations from January 2000- June 2021.
“Real people’s lives were destroyed and harmed,” said Yoo.
He joined the committee in September 2021, while the investigation was already ongoing. The report noted that victims “reported child molesters and other abusers, only to be met time and time again with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility.
In an email included in the report, an executive committee leader said sexual abuse concerns were “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism… it is a misdirection play.”
The report also found there was a “secret running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued.”
Yoo told CBS17 he never saw the list. He believes releasing those names will mark the start of real progress.
“We know there’s a cancer. We’ve got to remove this cancer,” he said. “It is hard and we know how hard it is. But it’s so much harder for those who have been abused. We want to do right by them.”
But Todd Unzicker hopes to make a difference. The Executive Director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina admitted to CBS17 that there have been complaints against pastors and staff in North Carolina over the past few years.
“Absolutely. Yes,” he said. “[But] there have been no [sexual abuse] accusations against our staff that we know of in the last year.”
Unzicker took his position in May 2021. He told CBS17 after meetings on Monday and Tuesday, change is coming. Unzicker and his staff have been working with Guidepost Solutions, proactively. They are planning to implement some of Guidepost’s recommendations to the SBC, to strengthen their own protocols.
“We will start those [Wednesday],” he explained. “We are looking at ways to help churches have the highest accountability.”
Unzicker said they also will be sending out trauma and counseling resources to the 4,300 churches in the area, provide care training for clergy and lay leaders, and work with lawmakers to strengthen protections for victims of abuse.
“What we need to do is, how do we not only get safer, but how do we care and report when, sadly, these events happen?” he added.
The Guidepost report also advises SBC to create a set standard for officials to handle allegations, an offender information system, and an independent commission.
The SBC will meet on June 14 & June 15 to hear the final recommendations and decide on further steps.