Southern Baptist Convention leaders published Thursday a list of accused abusive ministers that previous staff maintained in secret for more than a decade.
The list’s release is seen as an important first step in response to a historic report from investigative firm Guidepost Solutions into SBC leaders’ failure to address sexual abuse for more than two decades.
The list contains the names of nine individuals who remain in ministry, two of whom reportedly are at SBC affiliated churches.
Read the list on SBC’s site:List of ministers accused of abuse
Guidepost report:‘Ignored, disbelieved’: Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse report details cover up, decades of inaction
Releasing the list is “an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention,” Rolland Slade, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, and Willie McLaurin, the committee’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement accompanying the release.
“Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse,” they said. “Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.”
The list itself is 205 pages long, including numerous links to news articles as well as descriptions of charges and convictions.
It is being released in the exact form it was provided to Guidepost Solutions, with entries included in their entirety that referenced “an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry.”
Names of survivors and other individuals not related to the offender were redacted.
“Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fits within the described parameters have been redacted,” Slade and McLaurin said in the statement. “Entries that do not relate to sexual abuse or that resulted in an acquittal are also redacted.”
Some of the redacted entries may be released after further research, they said.
Announcement of list’s publishing:Southern Baptist Convention leaders decide to release long-secret list of accused ministers
In 2007, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee staff began logging news articles and other public reports of ministers accused of sexual misconduct. A year later, one of those officials later led the committee to reject a proposal for a clergy abuser database.
“Releasing this list is a symbolic gesture. ‘This is the bare minimum thing we can do,'” Todd Benkert, an Indiana pastor who has pushed for abuse reform initiatives in the SBC, said in an interview Tuesday.
The executive committee manages denomination business when the full convention isn’t in session during the annual meeting, and is comprised of about 30 staff and a board of elected members.
The staff who maintained that list no longer work for the executive committee. The list’s existence was largely a secret until the release of Guidepost’s report on Sunday, which revealed many shocking examples of leaders habitually blocking abuse awareness and reform.
The list and officials’ maintenance of it, though only one example in the report, embodies those leaders’ behavior toward abuse.
‘Nothing wrong with our doing it’
An unnamed employee and Roger “Sing” Oldham, former executive committee vice president for convention communications, maintained the log for August “Augie” Boto, former executive committee general counsel and then interim president/CEO, Guidepost investigators found.
Historical background:A major report on the Southern Baptist Convention and sexual abuse is imminent: Here’s what to know
“No action was ever taken to share these materials outside a small cadre of people, or to take action to address the possibility that these accused individuals might continue in ministry in SBC churches,” Guidepost’s report found.
In August 2013, Boto asked the unnamed staff member to send the list to Jim Guenther, an attorney with the executive committee’s longtime law firm, Guenther, Jordan & Price.
“We are going to keep doing this and there is absolutely nothing wrong with our doing it. Basically, we are stuffing newspaper clippings in a drawer,” Boto emailed the employee, according to Guidepost’s report. “Anybody could do that.”
Guidepost investigators confirmed the list was sent to Guenther, but the attorney told investigators his firm didn’t receive it.
In May 2019, Oldham mentioned the list in an email to Ronnie Floyd, then executive committee president & CEO, and others, saying they previously considered publishing the list, but were concerned about subsequent liability.
Floyd told investigators he never received the list.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Investigators said at one point, the list contained 703 names, with 409 believed to have been at SBC-affiliated churches.
“If they’re not even willing to do that (publish the list), then the writing would be on the wall for future things. It’s some saying ‘We’re serious about this. This is the stuff we can take today and we’re going to take it,'” Benkert said.
Other SBC abuse assessment:Sweeping Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse assessment moves forward with trustees vote
A motion from Benkert at the 2021 SBC annual meeting led to an assessment of sexual abuse in the SBC, which is different than Guidepost’s investigation into the executive committee and is set to conclude by 2024. That assessment will survey the issue throughout SBC churches and potentially identify cases of abuse that have not been publicly reported.
The list published this week is based on information already out there. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Benkert said.
Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @liamsadams.