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Accountability and Sexual Misconduct in the Church

A team of journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram spent nearly nine months investigating a pattern of sexual abuse in a loose network of independent fundamentalist Baptist churches, recently unveiling their findings in a series of articles entitled “Spirit of Fear.” In their investigation, the Star-Telegram journalists spoke to over 200 people concerning at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches.

“Despite their use of the word independent,” their reporting said, “many of the churches were connected with other independent fundamental Baptist churches through colleges and pastoral friendships. And those connections, as well as the church culture, allowed abuse to flourish and abusers to move around the country without consequence.”

Stacey Shiflett, an independent fundamental Baptist pastor in Maryland, confirmed certain cultural markers where abuse tends to occur. “The philosophy—and it’s flawed—is you don’t air your dirty laundry in front of everyone. Pastors think if they keep it on the down-low, it won’t impact anyone. And then the other philosophy is it’s wrong to say anything bad about another preacher.”

According to Tammy Schultz and Sally Schwer Canning, professors at Wheaton College, church leaders need to be prepared to deal with these issues by cultivating a culture of respect, safety, and accountability.

Potential Preaching Angles:

Effective leaders model accountability, humility and biblical repentance. Those who excuse or cover up evil sow seeds of destruction and ruin lives.


Sarah Smith, “These ‘men of God’ sexually abused children. Then they found refuge at other churches,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram (12-09-18)

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