The following is from a Feb. 11 story by Fox News.
Hundreds of leaders and volunteers within Southern Baptist churches across the nation have been accused of sexual misconduct against young churchgoers for decades— many of them quietly returning to church roles even after being convicted for sex crimes.
An investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News found that over the last 20 years, about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced credible accusations of sexual misconduct. Of those, roughly 220 were convicted of sex crimes or received plea deals, in cases involving more than 700 victims in all, the report found.
Many accusers were young men and women, who allegedly experienced everything from exposure to pornography to rape and impregnation at the hands of church members.
The newspapers reported that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) largely treated the accusations as isolated issues, and took on an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, even amid growing pressures to create a registry so the accusations wouldn’t disappear as alleged perpetrators moved from city to city. The Chronicle and Express-News created a database of convicted sexual abusers with documented connections to the SBC.
The investigation took over six months and involved the cross-examination of hundreds of allegations corroborated by court documents and prison records.
Debbie Vasquez said she was 14 years old when her pastor at a rural Southern Baptist church in Texas first molested her. She said the married pastor continued to assault her for years, including impregnating her when she was 18.
Years later, in 2006, she sued the pastor, Dale “Dickie” Amyx, and the church. Amyx reportedly admitted in a deposition he had sex with her when she was a teenager and was the father of her child, but claimed their sex was consensual.
He was not charged with a crime. As of 2016, he is still listed as the pastor of that church.
In 2008, Vasquez went to Indianapolis to share her story and plead with officials at the Southern Baptist Convention to implement changes at their estimated 47,000 churches to help prevent future sexual assaults. Days later, they reportedly rejected almost every proposed reform, and the alleged abuse continued.
Some accusers have said they felt the reputation of the SBC was prioritized ahead of their own rights to justice.
The current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, spoke about the pervasive allegations, which stretch back decades.
“The Bible calls for pastors to be people of integrity, known for their self-control and kindness,” he told the Chronicle. “A convicted sex offender would certainly not meet those qualifications. Churches that ignore that are out of line with both Scripture and Baptist principles of cooperation.”