The founder of an organization that trains churches on child sexual abuse awareness gives an honest assessment of how the Church is addressing the issue.
The subject is in the spotlight once again, as the Houston Chronicle recently investigated what has taken place within Southern Baptist churches over the past couple of decades: 380 church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, leaving behind more than 700 victims.
Kimberlee Norris, a sexual abuse trial lawyer and co-founder of MinistrySafe, says the largest Protestant denomination is "significantly hamstrung" by the fact that each Southern Baptist Church is autonomous.
"I think SBC along the way could have been more proactive about recommending good and appropriate resources," she submits. "I think they could have been more proactive in addressing circumstances that came to their attention, to better educate themselves from top down to understand how this risk manifests and what it was likely to yield."
Norris acknowledges this is not just a problem for the SBC. She assesses the situation for the Protestant church in general.
"The basic problem is a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue and the risk, how it might manifest," she says. "There are very few churches intrinsically that understand this risk in my experience."
But Norris senses that is beginning to change, and she says it all starts with education. Her organization is working with Southern Baptist seminaries and Dallas Theological Seminary to provide awareness training to young ministers who are just getting started.
"I would say that it is fair to say that Baptist seminaries – behind DTS, but Baptist seminaries – have pushed into this in a big way and in a way that is more intentional than other denominations," the attorney tells OneNewsNow.
Norris does add that MinistrySafe is working with between 15-18 state conventions affiliated with the SBC to hold church safety workshops to address the risk of child sex abuse.