Anti-abuse organizers rally outside of SBC annual meeting

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Survivors of sexual abuse rallied outside the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday in hopes of raising awareness about problems in the religious organization.

The rally came just after SBC leadership voted on a constitutional bylaw change that would allow the SBC to deal with churches that don’t handle abuse.

SBC leaders also approved the creation of a new credentials’ committee.

Some survivors would like to see more done by the church.

A few dozen people gathered outside the BJCC with signs and a loudspeaker as they shared their message with people leaving the convention.

“I want to call the SBC on the abuse and their cover-ups, no longer can you continue to patronize us with your fancy words and little action,” said Rev. Ashley Easter, an advocate for abuse victims.

The topic of abuse is front and center after numerous allegations in recent years. Leaders want victims to know they are listening.

“I think our posture should be to listen to all of those who have survived this trauma and to commit to work to make sure that every church is doing everything possible to prevent abuse and care for those being abused,” said Russell Moore, who is president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission.

Survivors at the rally told CBS 42 that they have heard promises before and are hopeful for lasting changes.

“When we came forward as a 16-year-old kid, I was told to be quiet, I was told to not talk about it, I was told my pastor was going to handle it, so I did, I stayed quiet,” said Brooks Hansen, who spoke at the rally.

Church leaders from across the country weighed in on the issue. A discipleship pastor from Park Hill Baptist Church in Arkansas said he’s to hear the issues being addressed.

“We can’t hit an undo button for anything that has happened, but we can do a much better job training people going forward in terms of how to minister, how to prevent abuse, and how to report it,” said Garrick Conner, with Park Hill Baptist Church.

According to a spokesperson for SBC, the new constitutional bylaw change requires an additional reading and a 2/3 vote during the convention next year.

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