SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Emotionally overwhelming and disheartening. That’s how multiple Southern Baptist pastors in the Upstate describe a report, detailing claims of sexual abuse within the denomination being mishandled.
The churches and pastors 7NEWS spoke to for this story are not listed or involved in any way with that report.
Pastor DJ Horton’s continuous mission is to have a place of worship filled with safety and grace. He told 7NEWS, his church in Moore is achieving just that.
However, he is disheartened by some recent allegations within the denomination at the national level.
“You know, how do we hold people who are perpetrators accountable? And so, had that been more proactive, I don’t think we would have ever come to this point and that’s just the hard reality,” said Lead Pastor with Church at the Mill, DJ Horton.
He’s referring to a months long investigation, ending in page after page of allegations of mishandling of sexual abuse within the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.
A list was also published that includes the names of alleged abusive pastors and church personnel. Over two dozen of them are in South Carolina, some of them have been convicted, and others still have pending charges.
“Baptists as a whole want to do what’s right so this was initiated by leaders from our convention to look into this but there was no relief. It was heartbreak, it was sorrow,” Horton told us.
On top of leading his church, Pastor Horton also works on a task force at the state level of the Southern Baptist Convention. He told us, they formed months ago after this investigation started.
“To help our churches and ministries get better, to see if there are any holes in our policies, to see if there is anything we need to deal with to make sure that we’re safe and that we learn from the lessons that have happened nationwide even here in our state,” Horton explained.
In a different pew also in Spartanburg County, Lead Pastor Brad Atkins with Lake Bowen Baptist Church said he read every page of the report.
He’s also disheartened. Atkins believes this is an opportunity to listen to the survivors and make a change.
“Even though this is a bad situation, there will be good that comes out of this because of awareness and hopefully preventing things like this from happening again,” said Lead Pastor at Lake Bowen Baptist Church, Brad Atkins.
Pastor Horton said this task force he is on will be working throughout the summer and fall to issue recommendations and talk about how to move forward. He said that includes listening to the survivor community, learning the lessons that haven’t been learned, and refusing to be dismissive.
You can find the full interview with Pastor Horton here: