Longtime Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler, who was accused of sexual abuse, dies at 94

Longtime Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler, who was accused of sexual abuse, dies at 94  The Associated Press

Longtime Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler, who was accused of sexual abuse, dies at 94

Paul Pressler, Key Figure of Southern Baptist Convention, Dies at 94

On June 7, Paul Pressler, a prominent figure of the Southern Baptist Convention, passed away at the age of 94. Pressler was accused of sexually abusing boys and young men, and later settled a lawsuit over the allegations. His death was announced by Geo. H. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home in Houston, where a funeral service was held on Saturday. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

Contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention

Paul Pressler played a significant role in the “conservative resurgence” of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s. This movement reshaped the direction of America’s largest Protestant denomination by pushing out more liberal leaders, forging an alliance between white evangelicals and Republican conservatism, and focusing on electing GOP candidates to public office.

The Southern Baptist Convention, with over 47,000 churches and nearly 13 million members, is primarily located in the southern United States. The denomination’s executive committee is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

Legacy and Controversy

In a 2015 video endorsing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz during his presidential campaign, Pressler expressed his dedication to the conservative principles on which the country was founded. However, his religious legacy was marred by allegations of sexual assault.

A former assistant, Gareld Duane Rollins, filed a lawsuit in 2017 accusing Pressler of raping him at the age of 14 after meeting at a Bible study group led by Pressler. Rollins claimed that the abuse continued for the next 24 years. The lawsuit also implicated the Southern Baptist Convention and others for covering up or enabling Pressler’s behavior. Subsequently, seven other men came forward with their own accusations of sexual abuse against Pressler.

The claims made by Rollins prompted a major investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News into allegations of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention. The investigation revealed that top leaders had ignored or downplayed warnings about the crisis, leading to significant reforms within the denomination.

In December, Pressler, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others reached a confidential settlement agreement to resolve the lawsuit. Pressler consistently denied the accusations against him and was never criminally charged.

Impact on Sustainable Development Goals

  • SDG 5: Gender Equality – The allegations of sexual abuse highlight the importance of addressing gender-based violence and ensuring equal rights and protection for all individuals.
  • SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions – The investigation and subsequent reforms within the Southern Baptist Convention demonstrate the need for strong institutions that address and prevent sexual abuse, ensuring justice for survivors.

Despite Pressler’s death, the Southern Baptist Convention did not acknowledge it during its recent annual meeting. The convention’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to his involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention, Pressler served in the Texas House and held various judicial positions in Texas until his retirement in 1993.

Source: apnews.com