The whistleblowing on Southern Baptist Convention churches’ handling of sexual abuse complaints continues to produce blowback on former Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, now president of the executive committee of the convention, meeting this coming week in Nashville.
Newly released audio clips from a Southern Baptist whistleblower appear to corroborate accusations Southern Baptist Convention leaders were reluctant to take action against churches accused of mishandling abuse.
The audio contains a recording of Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, telling SBC leaders in an October 2019 meeting that he is concerned about preserving the base in the denomination — even if that leads to criticism from abuse survivors.
“As you think through strategy — and I am not concerned about anything survivors can say,” Floyd says in the recording, taken during a meeting to debrief the Caring Well Conference, held to address the handling of sexual abuse allegations within the SBC. “OK. I am not worried about that. I’m thinking the base. I just want to preserve the base.”
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The recording was made by a Texas pastor and former staff member of a Convention committee, Phillip Bethancourt. This adds to the controversy fueled by letters from Russell Moore, who had been president of the Ethics and Liberty Commission on which Bethancourt worked.
Floyd provided a response to the news service.
In a statement to Religion News Service, Floyd said he called a confidential meeting of SBC leaders in May 2019 to discuss how to respond to abuse in the denomination.
The meetings, Floyd said, “reflect leaders engaging in a scriptural process of coming together with others who have differing opinions on complicated issues and of discussing those differences honestly with a goal of how to best move forward.”
He called Bethancourt’s release of the audio recordings from the meetings an “attempt to mischaracterize them” as trying to avoid the reality of sex abuse.
Floyd also said Baptists want to care for abuse survivors but don’t agree on how to do that.
He apologized for any offense taken at his remarks and said the Executive Committee was responding to calls for an independent investigation.