Federal investigators wrap up probe into SBC leaders' handling of sexual abuse complaints without bringing charges


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Nashville newspaper reported Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice has wrapped up a year-and-a-half-long investigation that sought to determine whether Southern Baptist Convention leaders were criminally responsible for mishandling sexual abuse allegations.

The Tennessean said federal investigators concluded the probe last week without charging any SBC leaders.

The Department of Justice opened its investigation after an outside firm hired by the SBC Executive Committee alleged wrongdoing among some high-ranking leaders in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“On February 29, 2024, counsel for the SBC Executive Committee was informed that the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York concluded its investigation into the EC (executive committee) with no further action to be taken,” SBC Executive Committee interim president/CEO Jonathan Howe said in statement to the newspaper.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

The newspaper said Howe did not say whether any of the SBC’s seminaries or other entities remain under investigation. Closing the books on the Executive Committee probe suggests  investigators found insufficient evidence to charge anyone with conspiring to cover up sexual abuse allegations.

The  Tennessean reported that the SBC Executive Committee spent $2.8 million in legal expenses in the 2022-23 fiscal year, according to recent reports. In September, the Executive Committee cut staff, citing heightened expenses related to the denomination’s abuse response.

“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 the statement to the newspaper. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to assist churches in preventing and responding well to sexual abuse in the SBC.”