DALLAS - The Southern Baptist Convention opened its annual national meeting Tuesday perhaps a bit anxiously. The denomination is dealing with multiple sexual misconduct cases involving its leadership.
Thousands of Baptists are expected to attend the multi-day event at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Downtown Dallas.
The former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth was supposed to deliver the keynote sermon. However, Paige Patterson stepped down after being fired for the way he handled two rape allegations at another institution he led. He said his decision not to deliver the sermon was “an effort to do what I can to contribute to harmony within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
There is also a resolution on Tuesday’s agenda addressing how women are treated in the church and how sexual abuse is reported.
Governor Greg Abbott opened the convention by thanking Baptists for their support after Texas tragedies like Hurricane Harvey to mass shootings at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church and Santa Fe High School. He also shared life lessons he learned from the accident that put him in a wheelchair.
“As so often, life-altering events like this test your faith. But in the aftermath, having this event test my faith, I found that it actually made my faith in God even stronger. Some are even surprised to hear my life is better after the accident that left me in this wheelchair,” he said. “It is better because it galvanized my relationship with God.”
A group of two dozen or so protesters gathered outside to call for more to be done over abuse allegations.
"When it comes to abuse — physical, emotional, all of that — it’s important the church takes a stand,” said Heather Gotties with Oaklawn United Methodist Church. “And largest churches like SBC, it’s important they have things in place where pastors and leadership can help."
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to talk about Baptists’ contribution to the moral fabric of the nation.