The very future of the Southern Baptist Convention could be in the balance as a lawsuit threatens to undermine church autonomy—a key feature of Southern Baptist polity. Making the situation even more dire, one Southern Baptist entity, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has in a separate case advanced a legal theory that undermines claims of church autonomy. Now lawyers for sex abuse victims are set to attack this vulnerable area.

Hundreds of Virginia Southern Baptist Churches were subpoenaed in a $82 million sex abuse lawsuit. There are at least 2,000 pages of subpoenas to SBC churches, according to Will McRaney. McRaney revealed the startling information during a Facebook live broadcast Monday evening. McRaney’s sourced included a subpoena recipient and a search of courthouse records. McRaney said he was provided copies of a couple of the subpoenas. The lawsuit was filed over the summer now includes the local church Immanuel Baptist Church, the Petersburg Baptist Association—the local association, the Baptist Convention of Virginia and the Southern Baptist Convention. The lawsuit was filed in Chesterfield County.

According to Baptist News Global, the lawsuit “involves Jeffrey Dale Clark, a former youth group leader at Immanuel Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia, serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of indecent acts with child by a custodian in 2016. Eight individuals with ages now ranging from 14 to 24 allege they were sexually molested by Clark while he worked as an assistant and leader of the youth group between 2008 and 2015.”

Lawyers expanded the case to assert the Southern Baptist Convention’s failure to do anything about sex abuse among its congregations made it liable for the abuse of children.

McRaney is the former executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware. McRaney is embroiled in his own lawsuit against the alleged illegal activity of the North American Mission. McRaney claims NAMB and its director Kevin Ezell forced his termination. The evidence made public supports McRaney’s claims, but so far that evidence hasn’t been considered in court. His lawsuit was dismissed and is now on appeal before the federal appellate court.

According to the Baptist Message, “NAMB’s legal response included claims that the entity “had the legal ‘right to interfere’” as well as ‘an absolute privilege and/or a qualified privilege’ with regard to its actions relating to McRaney’s employment with the state convention.

“Moreover, NAMB stated it also enjoyed “’n absolute privilege with regard to any statements it may have published’ about McRaney, essentially arguing that they are shielded from defamation charges because of the ‘ministerial exception’ allowed in U.S. law that says a court cannot interfere between a religious institution and its ministers.”

In other words, NAMB could exert supervisory controls over lower levels of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hence the problem, and the threat to the future of the SBC. One of its own entities has made the same argument as sex abuse victims. McRaney challenged Southern Baptist leaders to hold NAMB accountable instead of allowing its legal strategy to destroy the mission efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

6 thoughts on “BREAKING: 100s of Southern Baptist Churches subpoenaed in sex abuse lawsuit”

  1. We have a severe character problem in this country at this time, and this deficit produces not just a lawless federal government and spineless state governments, but, institutions of every kind that are crippled by serious compromise.

    Legislation cannot cure this – only a resolution by individuals and communities to choose to do what is right.

  2. The subpoenas are subject to a motion to quash which has been filed. See below copied and pasted from Virginia Courts Information System. So the parties subpoenaed may or may not be required to respond.

    1/06/20 Motion LAKESID JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion HUGENOT JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion GROVE JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion GRACE JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion RICH FB JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion ELKHRDT JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion CRNR ST JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion CHESTER JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion CARLISL JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion ATLEE JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion SEC BRN JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion SAMARIA JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion MT VERN JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion MAY MEM JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion SS BAPT JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion WINFREE JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion MON BAP JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion BEREA JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion PINE ST JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion WEBBER JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/06/20 Motion SKIPWTH JPC 0 TO QUASH SDT
    01/07/20 Motion CHURCHE EFB 0 QUASH SDT 39 CHURCHES
    01/07/20 Motion CHURCHE EFB 0 PROTECTIVE ORDER
    01/08/20 Motion PLF RPJ 0 TO STRIKE
    01/08/20 Opposition PLF RPJ 0 DEF MOT FOR SJ
    01/09/20 Motion KMK 0 TO QUASH GY HATCHER BAPTIS

      1. No. Could be multiple attorneys, depending on the entities which received the subpoenas. That said, I doubt it given they were all filed at the same time.

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