The Sex Abuse Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention’s report has a demonstrable pattern of selective coverage. In 2021, Mike Stone was accosted at the Annual Southern Baptist Convention accused without substantiation of mishandling sex abuse allegation. In conjunction with Russell Moore’s letter the Sex Abuse Task Force was formed at the behest of the messengers in 2019. Millions of dollars were devoted to see what could be found. The most substantive finding was the allegation against Johnny Hunt. However, much of the report focused on instances that were not sex abuse, such as Jennifer Lyell having a twelve year long sexual relationship with another SBC staffer as an adult. Additionally, the report maligns Mike Stone for an instance that does not even approach the issue of sex abuse in any capacity. The allegation against Mike Stone begins on page 77.
In 2019, during the period when Mike Stone was EC Chairman, a married pastor of an SBC church in Georgia was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a single mother by several members of his congregation. The woman was in counseling with the pastor who had been sending her text messages and photographs that were sexually suggestive. These text messages and photographs were viewed by witnesses who were interviewed during our investigation. According to witnesses, the pastor agreed to apologize to the congregation and ask for forgiveness. They stated that the apology was drafted with the assistance of Mr. Stone. The witnesses recounted that the apology made by the pastor was not accurate, and that the survivor was blamed. The witnesses stated that they felt intimidated by Mr. Stone for bringing the pastor’s behavior to the attention of the deacons in the church. One witness attempted to call Mr. Stone and was instead contacted by Mr. Stone’s assistant who told him that Mr. Stone planned to help the pastor, not the church.
“Sexually suggestive” is highly subjective and is not to be confused with “sexually explicit” which is more easily identified. In any case, this is not sex abuse, not even close. This woman is not a survivor (based on this incident), not even close. This doesn’t even make the person a victim. Moreover, this investigation relies on the characterization of the text messages by witnesses rather than the messages themselves.
During his interview with us, Mr. Stone stated that this pastor was a close friend and they had attended college together. Mr. Stone acknowledged knowing about this pastor’s inappropriate conduct through text messages but stated that he did not receive information that the conduct “reach[ed] the level of sexual impropriety.” He stated that he had not spoken to the pastor in more than a year.
The report tries to fault Mike Stone for either not knowing the specific questionable content or not believing that it rose to the severity the report implies.
Additionally, the report refused to exonerate Mike Stone for the events that transpired at the 2021 Annual Southern Baptist Convention or of the allegations made by Russell Moore.
At the end of the day, the report accuses Mike Stone of supporting an abuser, but the same report does not detail an event that comes close to sexual abuse. Additionally, the report tries to characterize Stone as mistreating a survivor who did not experience anything close to traumatic in the events that are detailed.
In addition to characterizing Jennifer Lyell as an abuse survivor, this report’s attack on Mike Stone demonstrate that the clear political intentions of the Task Force; undermining the report’s ability to articulate solutions.