Southern Baptist group clears churches of mishandling abuse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Southern Baptist officials have cleared seven churches accused of covering up sexual abuse just days after a top leader called for greater scrutiny following a joint newspaper investigation that uncovered rampant sexual misconduct.

The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News report that a Southern Baptist Convention working group announced only three churches should be at risk of losing membership over their handling of allegations of sexual abuse.

The statement follows convention President J.D. Greear’s announcement last week that the denomination should kick out churches that show “wanton disregard for sexual abuse.” It also shows clashes within the church over how to respond to hundreds of sexual abuse cases that were brought to light by the two newspapers this month.

Greear didn’t respond to a request for comment.