Special thanks to Jerome, a knower of many things.
In November 2022, I wrote Former SBTS Professor David Sills, Accused of Abuse, and Wife Mary, Sue SBC, Guidepost, Jennifer Lyell, and Others For Defamation. This lawsuit did not surprise me. For those of you who have not been following this lawsuit, a review is in order. To recap:
- Lyell was a 26-year-old MDiv student at Al Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Davi Sills, a professor, is accused of grooming her. This resulted in a 12-year relationship which Lyell and others, including Al Mohler, considered an abuse of the power differential.
- He was forced to resign and disagreed with the interpretation of events.
- He and his wife sued the following person and entities: The Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Litton, former SBC president Bart Barber, current SBC president Willie McLaurin, interim SBC Executive Committee (EC) president/CEO Rolland Slade, former chair of the SBC EC, Jennifer Lyell, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Albert Mohler, SBTS president, Lifeway, Eric Geiger, former Lifeway executive, Guidepost Solutions, a third-party investigative firm secured in 2021 by the Sexual Abuse Task Force,
From my post:
It looks like the alleged abuser and his wife are fighting back and are hunting for bear. Sadly, this will be one to watch since it will hurt the victim, Jennifer Lyall, and many of those in the SBC who have sought to defend her. Baptist News posted: Sills files suit against SBC and 11 other defendants, claiming his relationship with Lyell was consensual, and he became a ‘scapegoat’ in the SBC’s sexual abuse crisis.
Lyell’s claim that she was abused by David Sills while he was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary resulted in a controversial news story published by Baptist Press, the denominational news service, which portrayed the relationship as consensual. Lyell contends it was not consensual.
After several years of dispute, the SBC Executive Committee earlier this year reached a financial settlement with Lyell and issued a public apology for the Baptist Press story.
According to Relevant Magazine in The SBC President Is Defending a Sexual Abuse Survivor From Attempts to Discredit Her Story:
In 2019, Lyell wrote her story of sexual abuse at the hands of a former Southern Baptist seminary professor and sent the story to a Christian news outlet. But when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee’s Baptist Press published her story, it did not characterize it as a story of abuse but as a “morally inappropriate relationship.” Online, Lyell was branded as an “adulteress” instead of a survivor of abuse, and “lost her job, her reputation and her health,” according to the Washington Post. It got so bad that, in 2021, she told Religion News Service she wished she had never gone public.
But then the Guidepost investigation and report happened. According to Baptist Press, Jennifer Lyell’s name appeared on 36 pages of that investigation.
Background on what is alleged
- The Courier-Journal in 2019 posted Southern Baptist professor accused of sexually abusing student ‘by design’ over a decade.
- In a statement posted on her website, Jennifer Lyell, who is now 41 and works for a major Christian book publisher, said Sills first “sexually acted” against her on a mission trip in 2004 and that the relationship continued until she was 38.
- She said she was a 26-year-old Master of Divinity student when it began.
- He was a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and was allowed to resign.
- Lyell said the reason she didn’t report Sills’ alleged abuse sooner and he was able to continue “grooming and taking advantage” of her for so long was because he made her feel part of his family.
- She said when she reported what happened to Mohler and her boss at Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Christian Resources, she accepted responsibility for “being compliant at times” and not reporting the allegations sooner. “I am not a sinless victim,” she said, “but I am a victim nonetheless.”
- She praised Mohler and the seminary for taking “immediate action” against Sills after he admitted “inappropriate sexual activity” and for handling the situation “justly and as I asked.”
- She also said Sills’ Louisville church took action after he resigned from the seminary May 23.
End of a way too long quote from my post.
David and Mary Sills claim they have been made the scapegoat for the SBC sex abuse crisis. Is this true? Hmmm
David and Mary claim he cannot find work in Christian ministry.
In a complaint filed Thursday (May 11) in the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee, Sills and his wife, Mary, claim he was made a scapegoat for the denomination’s sex abuse crisis.
“After various mischaracterizations, misstatements, and contrived investigations by Defendants, Plaintiffs have been wrongfully and untruthfully labeled as criminals and shunned by the SBC and every other religious organization with which Plaintiff Sills has tried to associate,” the complaint alleges.…the complaint alleges that the seminary’s president, Albert Mohler, as well as members of the SBC’s Executive Committee, the SBC’s former president, Lyell and others, then conspired to shame Sills, who alleges he has no longer been able to find work in Christian ministry.
This raises an interesting question. Should a seminary professor who engaged in a 16-year sexual relationship with a student, a relationship many might claim is an abuse of the power differential, expect to find a job in Christian ministry?
Sills claims he is repentant. He also claims he is obedient to SBC rules. Could folks in the know email me a copy of these so-called “rules” written by the SBC? I know about the ten commandments. Maybe SBC leaders get a copy of the rules? I had a pastor who claimed that people cook the books regarding rules. Often people who claim to be perfectly obedient follow a set of rules they can follow and don’t add in rules they cannot or don’t wish to follow. For example, the guy with a temper and yells omits that from his rule book. However, he has things he can follow in his book, like shoveling his neighbor’s walkway. So he follows all the rules…Please get me the official SBC rule book ASAP!
…Sills admits his conduct with the student, Jennifer Lyell, was inappropriate and says he was “repentant and obedient to the rules of the SBC.”
I think that anyone who has a 16-year sexual relationship with a student and then claims all is well, could be cooking the books, but who knows? But sixteen years with no repentance during that time by a professor at the premier SBC seminary? Good night!
The SBC and every other religious organization have shunned David. What about Mary?
I am not a lawyer, but I found it interesting that the suit does not mention the shunning of Mary. Could it be that Mary has a job in the broader religious sector? She does. She works at the United Methodist school, Millsaps College. She is on the staff of the Office of Academic Affairs.
Does being shunned by every religious organization involve membership in the church?
It does for me. Here is a link to a bulletin at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi. Look who was welcomed into membership.
They have been restored to church membership. Not too bad for participating, as a Christian professor, in a 16-year disturbing relationship with a student. I wonder how many of us would be admitted to the church with a similar background.
David Sills has his own real estate business in Jackson, Mississippi, so he has a job with a way to earn income.
Here is a link to his group.
David Sills has moved on in his life. He had a real estate business. His wife works for a Methodist-based college, and I bet she has a decent income. Both have been admitted to church membership. They should spend the rest of their lives thanking God for what they have. But instead, I believe that they seem entitled. They want it all. I think that God may be disciplining them while at the same time giving them a way to earn a living and participate in a church.
I don’t get them. David knows better. He was in an institution that is the home of demanding church discipline. What did he think would happen? That life would continue with no harm, no foul? I believe these lawsuits will not bring honor into their lives. But they may get money. Is that what it’s about? They should consider letting go and humbly living out the faith for years to come. They will be subject to much pain with depositions and court cases.
Repentance takes time and is lived out over many, many years. It could last to the end of one’s life. So then, one faces God with a well-lived life instead of suing everybody and his brother!
Could anyone send me the definitive SBC rule book?