David Sills, former seminary prof accused of abuse, sues SBC and Guidepost
(RNS) — A former seminary professor and missionary who admitted sexual misconduct has sued a gaggle of Southern Baptist Conference leaders and entities, claiming they conspired with an abuse survivor to destroy his status.
In a criticism filed Nov. 21 within the Circuit Courtroom of Cellular, Alabama, David Sills, a former professor of missions and cultural anthropology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, admits he misplaced his job in 2018 attributable to what he known as “morally inappropriate consensual intimate” conduct with a scholar.
Sills claims the state of affairs was consensual and alleges that SBC leaders, together with Southern’s president, Albert Mohler, turned his confession towards him, labeling him as an abuser.
They did so, in response to the criticism, as a public relations stunt, aimed toward bettering the SBC’s status throughout a nationwide sexual abuse scandal. That public relations effort, in response to the swimsuit, included an investigation by Guidepost Options into SBC leaders’ dealing with of alleged abuse instances, which was made public earlier this yr.
“David Sills was repentant and obedient to the principles of the SBC,” the criticism alleges. “Defendants noticed him as a straightforward goal; a bona fide scapegoat.”
RELATED: Southern Baptist leaders mistreated abuse survivors for decades, reports says
The criticism names Southern seminary and Mohler, in addition to the SBC’s Govt Committee, SBC President Bart Barber and his predecessor Ed Litton as defendants, together with a number of different leaders. Additionally named as a defendant is Lifeway Christian Assets, a analysis and publishing arm of the SBC, and Guidepost Options.
It additionally names Jennifer Lyell, a former seminarian and vp for Lifeway, who has repeatedly alleged that Sills was abusive, an allegation Mohler has additionally made on social media and in an interview for a documentary in regards to the denomination’s response to its sexual abuse disaster.
Guidepost “perpetuated a false narrative in a Report, in trade for fee and in live performance with Defendants,” all of which ruined Sill’s status and labeled him as an abuser, in response to the criticism.
Guidepost declined to remark, as did Lyell. The SBC Govt Committee and a number of other different SBC leaders didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.
“Lifeway was made conscious of the lawsuit final week. Our authorized staff is within the technique of reviewing the criticism and we don’t have any additional remark presently,” mentioned Carol Pipes, director of company communications.
Mohler additionally launched a press release defending its dealing with of allegations towards Sills.
“The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has adopted greatest practices on this matter and has nothing to cover,” he mentioned. “We’ll make this fact clear in any discussion board essential and we are going to achieve this vigorously.”
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Sills’ lawsuit reinterprets a widespread understanding that, somewhat than bolster the SBC’s credibility in stopping sexual abuse, the denomination’s therapy of Lyell has been a public relations catastrophe. The case has lengthy been utilized by critics to indicate the SBC’s tendency to mishandle such allegations.
Lyell first got here ahead with allegations of abuse towards Sills in 2018, reporting them to her then-supervisor Geiger and to Mohler and different seminary leaders. Mohler told Carolyn McCulley, the director and author of the documentary “Out of Darkness,” that Lyell from the beginning had alleged Sills had been sexually abusive.
This previous summer season, Mohler issued a press release, saying that the abuse allegations had been investigated and confirmed. “Statements made by Sills in the midst of our confrontation clearly confirmed the allegations of abuse,” he wrote in a press release posted on Twitter.
Sills resigned in 2018 after being confronted with the allegations, however the purpose for his resignation was not initially made public. Sills, thought of an skilled at coaching pastors within the creating world, additionally misplaced his job as president of a missionary group known as Reaching and Instructing, and was disciplined by his Louisville, Kentucky, church.
When he was employed by a unique mission group, Lyell knowledgeable Baptist Press, an SBC publication, that he had been abusive and provided to put in writing a first-person account of the abuse. As an alternative, Baptist Press wrote its personal article about her expertise.
On the final minute, the story was modified to say Lyell had had an “inappropriate relationship” with Sills. Although Lyell requested that the article be modified, Baptist Press officers and leaders on the SBC Govt Committee initially refused. Lyell eventually resigned from Lifeway, citing backlash from the article and harassment.
Baptist Press ultimately retracted the article. The SBC Govt Committee apologized repeatedly to Lyell and reached a settlement together with her.
The following criticism from abuse advocates ultimately led to requires an impartial investigation into how SBC leaders had handled abuse survivors. Leaders on the SBC Govt Committee tried to go off the investigation and, after they couldn’t try this, tried to derail it.
These makes an attempt failed. The ensuing Guidepost investigation and report discovered that SBC leaders had mistreated abuse survivors for years and downplayed abuse within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
“In service of this purpose, survivors and others who reported abuse had been ignored, disbelieved, or met with the fixed chorus that the SBC might take no motion attributable to its polity relating to church autonomy — even when it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no discover or warning to their present church or congregation,” investigators wrote.
Attorneys for Sills declare that Guidepost by no means contacted their shopper, who’s talked about repeatedly within the Guidepost report. In addition they declare that allegations by Lyell, Mohler and others had been a part of a marketing campaign to “falsely assault the honesty and the character of David Sills and Mary Sills, casting them as violent criminals.”
The criticism additionally alleges that Lyell wrote to Faith Information Service, asking to evaluation an article being written in regards to the SBC abuse disaster, saying she “supposed to advance her false narrative by taking a hand within the precise writing of an article by RNS.”
Nevertheless, attorneys misidentified an electronic mail from Lyell, which was despatched to a pair of ministers, to not RNS. Mississippi lawyer Don Barrett, one of many attorneys representing David Sills and his spouse, Mary Sills, mentioned that a part of the criticism was in error.
Sills declined to talk to RNS.
Barrett declined to debate the specifics of the lawsuit. Nevertheless, he mentioned that false allegations of abuse are dangerous to efforts to guard ladies.
“The reality will come out on this litigation,” he mentioned.
RELATED: Jennifer Lyell wanted to stop her abuser by telling her story. Instead, her life fell apart