Federal civil lawsuit filed against Southern Baptist Convention

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A federal civil lawsuit has been filed against the “Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention,” and it mentions the senior pastor of the well-known Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.

The lawsuit makes disturbing allegations centered around the cover-up of sexual abuse within the church.

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It comes after six people claimed they at one point had ties to Baptist churches across the country and stated in the complaint, “Defendants have maliciously and systematically engaged in covering up and concealing instances of sexual abuse by the church members and employees as a strategy of denying rights of sexual abuse survivors.”

None of those making the complaints in this lawsuit are from the Mid-South, but they are suing the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is headquartered in Nashville.

Cited in the 20-page federal lawsuit is an investigation done by newspapers out of Texas in 2019 where “widespread sexual abuse” was uncovered by those who worked or volunteered at Southern Baptist Churches.

Well-known pastor Steve Gaines from Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis is also mentioned, “The investigation faulted Bellevue Pastor and then SBC President Steve Gaines for immediately failing to fire a sexual offender in 2006 from Bellevue Baptist Church. Gaines admitted to waiting six months to fire a pastor who had confessed to molestation at Bellevue Baptist Church. The report said the internal investigation found “[Bellevue was] ill-prepared for sexual abuse.”

In 2022 WREG also told you about an explosive list released of hundreds of pastors and other church-related personnel accused of sexual abuse that was released in response to an independent investigation of systemic mishandling of the cases.

This Guidepost Independent Investigation is also cited in the lawsuit along with another mention of Pastor Gaines saying, “Former SBC President Steve Gaines admitted that, as senior pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, he had delayed reporting a staff minister’s prior sexual abuse of a child of “heartfelt concern and compassion for th[e] minister,” while acknowledging that he should have “brought it to the attention of our church leadership immediately.”

Those suing the churches are asking for a jury trial.

When WREG reached out to Bellevue Baptist, they said they have “addressed that situation several times over the last fifteen years” and they do not have a comment on the lawsuit.

We also reached out to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and are waiting to hear back.

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