Southern Baptist agency says U.S. investigation into sexual abuse has ended with 'no further action’

A Southern Baptist Convention leader said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice has ended its investigation of a top denominational agency's handling of sexual abuse and doesn't anticipate further action.

The statement by Jonathan Howe, interim president of the denomination's Executive Committee, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York informed the committee's legal counsel on Feb. 29 that there is “no further action to be taken" in the probe.

The investigation began a year and a half ago into the Executive Committee and several other denominational entities, including seminaries and mission agencies. Howe's statement did not address the status of the investigation into those other entities.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to The Associated Press' request to confirm the statement, which was reported earlier by The Tennessean.

The federal investigation followed a blistering 2022 report from an outside consultant that found disturbing details about how denominational leaders mishandled sex abuse claims and mistreated victims.

“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," Howe said in a statement. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist churches in preventing and responding well to sexual abuse in the SBC.”

The Executive Committee has continued to struggle to respond to the issue, most recently announcing plans for an independent commission to oversee a public list of abusive clergy — but is still seeking funds for it.

The reported end of the federal investigation “does not lessen SBC’s moral responsibility for grievous harms,” said Christa Brown, a longtime advocate for survivors of abuse in Southern Baptist settings. “Nor does it alter the reality that, in countless SBC churches, leaders violated state laws & standards,” she said on X, formerly Twitter.


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