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U.S. Department of Justice investigation appears focused on Executive Committee

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NASHVILLE (BP) – A Department of Justice investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention is currently directed at one entity and no individuals.

As of Monday, only the SBC Executive Committee had been subpoenaed. Jon Wilke, media relations director for the Executive Committee, confirmed the news to Baptist Press Tuesday.

Wilke was unable to provide specifics as to what triggered the DOJ’s interest, what potential criminal activities are being examined or the scope and time frame of the investigation, citing it as an ongoing legal matter.

“The SBC is fully cooperating with authorities, and remains committed to addressing the scourge of sexual abuse,” Wilke said.

Speculation has pointed toward the Guidepost Solutions report, released in May, as the genesis for the investigation. However, a Guidepost representative told BP that the organization would not be commenting at this time.

A statement signed by all SBC entity heads, seminary presidents and SBC President Bart Barber on Friday acknowledged the investigation into “multiple SBC entities.”

“Our commitment to cooperate with the Department of Justice is born from our demonstrated commitment to transparently address the scourge of sexual abuse,” the statement read.

The Tennessean newspaper reported a statement from David Boling, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“While we are aware that the SBC has made certain confirmations about this matter, the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” Boling said in the statement.

“Also, grand jury matters are secret and we do not comment on whether or not a case may be before the grand jury.”

Last fall, a series of contentious meetings culminated in the Executive Committee’s waiving of attorney-client privilege to meet the scope of Guidepost Solutions’ independent, third-party investigation approved by Southern Baptist messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Following the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Send Relief pledged $4 million toward sexual abuse reforms approved by Southern Baptists at that meeting.

One of those reforms was the formation of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. The group, whose members were announced Aug. 8 by Barber, will work to assist churches and SBC entities in addressing, reporting and preventing cases of sexual abuse.

In Anaheim, messengers also passed a resolution On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse.

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