The Southern Baptist Convention is changing how it intends to handle sexual abuse allegations as it overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to support a measure to keep track of pastors within the church who have credible sexual allegations against them.
The church also voted Tuesday, during its national meeting in Anaheim, to support a new task force to oversee additional changes within the protestant church, following a report that showed leaders routinely mishandled abuse cases.
A bombshell report previously found and compiled a list of 205-pages of names of abusers within the church and the allegations against them.
Thousands of Southern Baptists voted to support the new measures, though several additional reforms sought by abuse survivors were not adopted.
The additional measures that not enough members supported included a compensation fund for victims who were abused by church leaders and an independent commission to monitor churches’ internal affairs.
Bruce Frank, who led the task force that initialized the reform process, told members at the convention the steps they voted to implement were the "bare minimum" and he would continue to push for additional reforms.
He also said the church’s job should be "protecting the sheep from the wolves."
"How are you going to tell a watching world that Jesus died for them... when his church won’t even do its very best to protect them?" Frank asked the group of pastors.
The Southern Baptist Convention will now utilize a database to track pastors who have credible allegations against them and will ensure the alleged abusers do not freely transfer from church to church, potentially harming more victims, Frank said.
He also acknowledged the cost of implementing the changes, saying "it’s not going to cost nearly as much as survivors have paid."
Survivors of abuse present at the convention said they felt honored that the members voted to implement the changes, calling them a "healthy, healing step in the right direction."
Another survivor of abuse tweeted after the event, saying the changes were a good start.
"I know people like happy endings, but I’m not feeling it," the woman tweeted. "I feel grief. It’s better than nothing but that’s such a low bar."
The Southern Baptists also elected a new SBC president, Texas pastor Bart Barber, who is a staunch proponent of Southern Baptists’ conservative views but who says he has a track record of dialogue with those who disagree.
He has called for an "army of peacemakers" amid bitter political battles in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. His closest rival, Tom Ascol, had complained of too much "wokeness" in the denomination and sought to move it further to the right.
An additional measure to remove Saddleback Church, the California megachurch headed by Rick Warren, from the denomination as it ordains women to be pastors was debated but did not receive a vote. The denomination only allows men to be pastors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.