Southern Baptists Say Justice Dept. Has Closed Abuse Inquiry Into Leadership Body

A Southern Baptist Convention leader said on Wednesday that the Justice Department had concluded a sexual abuse investigation into the organization’s executive committee without issuing any charges.

The statement from Jonathan Howe, the executive committee’s interim president and chief executive, referred only to the closing of an investigation into the executive committee, and did not address additional Justice Department investigations into other Southern Baptist entities. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Nicholas Biase, declined to comment.

Federal investigators opened the inquiry into the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse in 2022, after Baptists commissioned a third-party investigation that found national leaders in the country’s largest Protestant denomination had suppressed reports of abuse and resisted reform efforts for decades. The report prompted widespread outrage from Baptist churchgoers, and energized activists pushing the denomination for greater transparency.

The S.B.C.’s executive committee, a group of 86 people who steer the denomination, said it was informed last week that the U.S. Attorney’s office had concluded its investigation “with no further action to be taken,” Mr. Howe said in the statement.

“While we are grateful for closure on this particular matter, we recognize that sexual abuse reform efforts must continue to be implemented across the convention,” he said.

When the investigation began, leaders in the denomination said the Justice Department was looking into “multiple S.B.C. entities,” a category that includes seminaries, missionary organizations and the denomination’s public policy arm. The leaders said at the time that they would cooperate fully.

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