Top administrative leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, said Tuesday they will release a secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated staff accused of sexual abuse.
A lawyer for the SBC’s executive committee announced the decision during a virtual meeting convened in response to a devastating investigation report describing how the committee abused allegations of sex abuse and stoned several survivors.
During the meeting, top leaders and several committee members promised to work toward changing the culture of the church community and to listen more attentively to the voices and stories of survivors.
The 288-page report from Guidepost Solutions, which was released Sunday after a seven-month investigation, contained several explosive revelations. Among these were details of how D. August Boto, the executive committee’s former vice president and attorney general and former SBC spokesman Roger Oldham, kept their own private list of violent priests. Both retired in 2019. The existence of the list was not widely known in the committee and its staff.
“Despite having collected these reports for more than 10 years, there is no indication that (Oldham and Boto) or anyone else took any action to ensure that the accused priests were no longer in positions of power in SBC churches, “the report said.
Boto joined the Executive Committee in 1995 and became Executive Vice President and General Counsel in 2007.
On Tuesday, the committee issued a statement highlighting and condemning Boto’s words, written in a statement to survivors and their advocates on September 29, 2006 that “continued discourse between us (the executive committee and survivors’ advocates) will not be positive or fruitful. “
The committee said in its new statement that it “rejects the feeling (of Boto’s words) in its entirety and seeks to publicly regret its inability to rectify this attitude and wholeheartedly listen to the survivors.”
Gene Besen, the committee’s interim adviser, said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting that the release of the list is an important step towards transparency. The names of survivors, confidential witnesses and any unconfirmed allegations of sexual abuse will be removed from the list that will be made public, he said.
Besen said committee leaders will also look into recalling retirement benefits for Boto and others involved in the cover-up. He urged committee members to override past divisions and remain united in a collective commitment to stop sexual abuse in the SBC.
Willie McLaurin, interim president and executive director of the executive committee, issued a formal public apology to all those who have been sexually abused by the SBC, which has a membership of over 47,000 churches.
“We are saddened by the survivors for everything we have done to cause pain and frustration,” he said. “Now is the time to change the culture. We must be proactive in our openness and transparency from now on. ”
Executive Committee Chairman Wally Slade began the virtual meeting by acknowledging the survivors.
“Our commitment is to be different and do things differently,” he said. “We can not come up with half-baked solutions.”
Following the release of the report, several survivors of sexual abuse have contacted the executive committee to tell their stories, Besen said. He said he has asked Guidepost to open a hotline so that survivors who reach out “are directed to the right place and receive the right care.”
The Task Force on Sexual Abuse, appointed at the request of SBC delegates during last year’s meeting in Nashville, expects to publish its formal decisions based on the Guidepost report next week. These recommendations will then be presented to delegates for a vote during this year’s National Assembly, scheduled for 14-15. June in Anaheim, California, according to Pastor Bruce Frank, who led the task force.
Frank, chief pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina, said the core of the task force’s recommendations based on Guidepost’s report would be to prevent sexual abuse, to take better care of survivors when such assaults occur, and to ensure that addicts is not it. allowed to continue in the service.
Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of addicts. The creation of an “Offender Information System” was one of the main recommendations in the report from Guidepost Solutions, an independent company with which SBC’s executive committee has entered into a contract after delegates to last year’s national meeting pressed for an inquiry made by outsiders.
The proposed database is expected to be one of several recommendations that are the result of Guidepost’s seven-month survey presented to thousands of delegates attending this year’s national meeting.
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