"I think this only scratches the tip of the iceberg," said Ashley Easter, a Raleigh native and abuse survivor turned advocate and activist for people victimized by predators.
ABC11 wanted Easter's thoughts on the Houston Chronicle's massive investigative report on sex abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention, which included 700 victims over 20 years, with church leaders resistant to make reforms.
Durham mega-church pastor, J.D. Greear, addresses sex abuse scandal at Southern Baptist Convention. Greear was elected president of the 15-million member SBC last June. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/iAbS223tMv— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) February 12, 2019
"None of this surprised me," Easter said. "I myself knew about the abuse going on in the Southern Baptist Convention for years. The leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention knew about this for years."
The newspaper compiled a database of SBC sex offenders, including names and mugshots of many of the 220 people who were convicted or who plead guilty. They were pastors, Sunday school teachers, deacons and church volunteers.
The database included Justin Taylor, a seminarian at Southeastern Theological Seminary, who was charged in 2007 with abusing a 10-year-old while working at an after-school YMCA program in Wake Forest.
Brian Goodrich is also on the list. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for molesting eight boys from a bible study program at Raleigh's Providence Baptist Church.
Pastor Greear first addressed the coming scandal last fall, ahead of the article. In a live Facebook video, Greear announced he had formed a study group to listen and receive input from victims and advocates that would develop recommendations for change.
"That's one of the biggest issues here is education," Greear said in his Facebook post. "Pastors need to understand that, yes, sexual abuse is a sin issue, of course it is, but it's also a crime! Some things are not just immoral, they're illegal."
Easter wants the Southern Baptist Convention to invest in trained victim advocates to teach seminary students as a way to guide new pastors on how to address abuse properly. She also wants Greear and SBC leadership to welcome activists in to be part of the conversation about change.
"I think (Greear's) response, on the surface, sounds really good, but words are nothing without action," Easter said. "Greear's known about the abuse for a long time; the Southern Baptist Convention has known about it for a long time. The real marker for change is, are they going to be taking action?"
Easter was on the front lines of protests outside the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting last summer demanding the church make reforms.
To the abused, we say: We, the church, have failed you, but we do not want you to forgo counsel or care. To that end, here are some options to consider:https://t.co/eaPtnYUFTm pic.twitter.com/aZpfEbZDup— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) February 11, 2019
ABC11 reached out to the Summit Church headquarters in Durham to request an interview with Pastor Greear.
The response was that Greear was out of town. Summit Church directed ABC11 to a blog post, which was published Monday, that addressed the scandal.