For years, the Southern Baptist Conference has played an outsized role in promoting its ultra-conservative views on sexuality, abortion, race, crime, and other hot-button topics. A recent investigation revealed that the SBC had its own problems, which were covered up. It did not practice what it preaches. As a series of scandals involving high-profile evangelical leaders (see here and here and here) has shown, it is a bad idea to pretend to be “holier than thou.”

For 20 years, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention — including a former president now accused of sexual assault — routinely silenced and disparaged sexual abuse survivors, ignored calls for policies to stop predators, and dismissed reforms that they privately said could protect children but might cost the SBC money if abuse victims later sued.

Those are just a few findings of a bombshell, third-party investigation into decades of alleged misconduct by Southern Baptist leaders that was released Sunday, nearly a year after 15,000 SBC church delegates demanded their executive committee turn over confidential documents and communications as part of an independent review of abuse reports that were purportedly mishandled or concealed since 2000.

The historic, nearly 400-page report details how a small, insular and influential group of leaders “singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations” to prevent abuse. The report was published by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm that conducted 330 interviews and reviewed two decades of internal SBC files in the seven-month investigation.

BOMBSHELL REPORT: Former Southern Baptist president accused of sexual assault in explosive, third-party investigation

“Survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its (structure) — even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” Guidepost’s report concluded.

Guidepost investigated the SBC’s 86-member executive committee, the convention’s highest governing entity. The firm’s investigators had unprecedented access to the SBC’s leadership and reviewed thousands of internal documents — including previously confidential communications between SBC lawyers.