BIRMINGHAM, AL (AP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention convenes its annual national meeting in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday, and sex abuse by clergy and staff is expected to be the big topic of conversation.
Delegates representing the nation's largest Protestant denomination will likely vote on establishing criteria for expelling churches that mishandle or cover up abuse allegations. They also may vote to establish a new committee which would review how member churches handle claims of abuse.
Outside the convention center, abuse survivors and other activists plan a protest rally, demanding that the church move faster to require sex-abuse training for all pastors, staff and volunteers. They also want a database of credibly accused abusers that could be shared among its more than 47,000 churches.
Pressure on the church has intensified in recent months, due in part to articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years.