November 8, 2023 Editor

Why Southern Baptists are Furious Over a Sex Abuse Case in Kentucky

A brief filed in a Kentucky case has infuriated members of the denomination across the country, just as it grapples with an abuse scandal.

People enter the Music City Center for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Nashville. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

Ruth Graham writes about faith and values, and has written extensively about the Southern Baptist Convention.

Nov. 7, 2023

image above: RNS photo by Kit Doyle

WN: Thank God there is no Statute of Limitations in the Beyond. We all must be held accountable.

A very good friend challenged me on the last sentence sounding ominously retributive. Au contraire! My meaning was to point towards the joy of being wrong and held accountable, as in The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes, by James Alison. A review of it points to that meaning:

by Elizabeth G Melillo

Reviewed in Canada on August 24, 2002

I would begin with a word of caution–this is extremely deep, intense reading, not a devotional book (as “Easter eyes” might be taken to imply.) It is a work where one must read each paragraph carefully, often more than once, to receive the full impact. In doing so, one may see its clear brilliance.

Allison’s exploration of original sin is especially striking because he re-interprets this doctrine as taking its meaning from the resurrection. He lays his groundwork by explaining concepts set forth by René Girard (see also Coloquium on Violence and Religion–COV&R), then applies this to Christology and soteriology, moving on to explore much of human nature and how theologians of past eras have dealt with similar approaches. I do not wish to expound, not wanting to spoil the material for new readers, but his treatment of the topic had me nearly shouting “Eureka!” every ten pages or so. It is a highly useful work, not only for those specifically interested in theological anthropology, but to anyone wishing a clearer picture of the human condition and relation to God.

This is not a book for a brief meditation or weekend retreat, but, for those interested in an enlightening, original, in depth study, it is quite amazing. The blend of scholarship and insight is a rare treat.

WN: In brief: This original work of theological anthropology looks at original sin in the light of the Resurrection, and shows how forgiveness has become the way of liberation and transformation. We no longer must drag around with us the guilt of our hurtful ways, but instead are invited to freedom from them!

But face them we must!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)


For six months, almost no one took notice of the brief filed quietly by Southern Baptists in a case winding its way to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

At the center of the case is a woman whose father, a police officer, was convicted in 2020 of sexually abusing her over a period of years when she was a child. The woman later sued several parties, including the Louisville Police Department, saying they knew about the abuse and had a duty to report it. Now, the state’s highest court is considering whether sex abuse victims can have more time to sue “non-perpetrators” — institutions or their leaders that are obligated to protect children from such abuse.

None of it appeared to have anything to do with the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But in April, lawyers representing the denomination filed an amicus brief opposing expansion of the statute of limitations for lawsuits against third parties, including religious institutions.

The brief, reported by The Louisville Courier-Journal in October, landed like a bombshell in Southern Baptist circles. The organization has spent the last several years grappling with revelations that its national leaders suppressed reports of abuse and resisted reform for decades. The brief, abuse survivors and those critical of the church say, offers the first clear look at the church’s true position on whether its leaders can be held accountable for abuse.

It has led to a flurry of blistering reactions and efforts by S.B.C. leaders to distance themselves from the brief, which they characterize as a decision driven by lawyers. The brief says that the denomination has a “strong interest in the statute-of-limitations issue” in the case, and argues that a 2021 state law allowing abuse victims to sue third-party “non-perpetrators” was not intended to be applied retroactively.

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.