Durham megachurch pastor and Southern Baptist president to confront sex abuse crisis at major conference

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Immediately after The Summit Church's Pastor J.D. Greear was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the issue of sex abuse within the SBC became a major issue he was forced to confront.

He commissioned a report offering recommendations on how to tackle it. And he leaves for Dallas this week to talk about it at a high-profile conference that many survivors are still skeptical about.

"Is your church doing all it can to be safe for survivors and safe from abuse," Greear says in an online video announcing the initiative the church has dubbed the Caring Well Challenge. The Durham megachurch pastor using his power as president of the largest U.S. denomination of Protestants to roll out a call to action; a path for churches to enhance abuse-prevention and care for survivors.

The next step comes on Thursday when the three day Caring Well conference opens at a Dallas-area resort -- featuring hundreds of pastors, church officials, victims' advocates and at least 10 survivors of abuse.

"It's great to talk about it. But words mean nothing without action," Ashley Easter, a Raleigh native and sexual trauma survivor whose been a vocal critic of the SBC and its response to the Houston Chronicle's expose' on hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. She spoke with ABC 11 via FaceTime Monday night.

Easter and other anti-abuse activists have blasted the conference for choosing to invite survivors whose stories were deemed "risk-free" for the SBC.

"You will notice that they have strategically chosen people for this event who for the most part are either not survivors of SBC abuse. If they are, their abuser is unnamed or not aligned anymore," Easter said. "They seem to talk to people who they're still able to control the narrative."

One of the conference speakers is Boz Tchividjian, the grandson of the late evangelist Billy Graham. As he heads to the Texas conference he told the AP, "I want to remain hopeful for change, but time will be the true test."

Ashley Easter is busy staging a counter-conference of sorts. The 4th annual Courage Conference is billed as "a refuge for survivors and a place to educate and empower advocates."

Easter is also calling on the SBC to create a database of accused predator pastors; something the SBC has so far resisted.

We reached out to Pastor Greear tonight to talk about his hopes for the conference and some of the skepticism about it. The Summit Church told us he was not available.
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