TRINITY, Ala. - The Southern Baptist Convention is working to fight sexual abuse in the church. At the SBC's national meeting this week they voted to make it easier to expel churches that mishandle abuse cases.
The pressure to discuss sexual abuse allegations intensified this year after articles were published asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. Those numbers are alarming. And that why pastor Mark Milwee takes actions to protect members at his church.
Nearly 400 Southern Baptist church leaders and staff were accused of sexual abuse and misconduct over the past 20 years according to a report from two Texas newspapers.
22 Alabama Baptist ministers have been charged with sex crimes, according to AL.com
"You know, it's bad enough the sexual abuse, but when it comes from a religious leader I think it just amplifies," Pastor Mark Milwee said.
Milwee is the pastor at Mount View Baptist Church in Trinity, Alabama.
"It's very sad and it needs to be addressed," he said.
Milwee says Mount View Baptist Church is working to discuss this issue. He says every person hired working with children undergoes a background check.
"We've been putting some steps into place to try to prevent some of these things," he explained.
Milwee is one of the thousands of members of the Southern Baptist Convention who went to Birmingham for the national meeting. Sexual abuse at the hands of church staff and volunteers was a major focus this year. Some of those victims were in Birmingham.
"He told us that he would handle it and that we should be quiet, not to talk to anybody about it, that they would handle it. And they didn't," victim Brooks Hansen said.
SBC leaders voted on an amendment to the SBC constitution making clear that an individual church could be expelled for mishandling or covering up sex-abuse cases.
"I believe that for years churches have been trying to figure out what to do and how to handle these situations and how best to approach this subject and so I'm proud of our convention," Milwee said.
The amendment will not go into effect until it is approved a second time at the national meeting next year.