The Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination, announced Tuesday that it will release a confidential list of hundreds of pastors, and other personnel from church-affiliated churches, who were accused of sexual abuse.
The decision was made by the attorney representing the SBC's Executive Committee during a virtual meeting. This was in response to a damning investigative report that detailed how the committee handled allegations of sex abuse, and how it stonewalled many survivors. The list will be released by the committee on Thursday.
The meeting saw top leaders and members of several committees vow to change the culture and listen more to the stories and voices of survivors.
After a seven-month investigation into the matter, Guidepost Solutions released a 288-page report on Sunday. It contained many shocking revelations. There were also details about how Roger Oldham, former SBC spokesman, and D. August Boto (executive committee's vice president and general counsel) kept their private list of abusive pastors. Both of them retired in 2019. Both the list's existence and the staff of the committee were not well known.
The report stated that "despite having collected these reports for over ten years, there is no evidence that (Oldham & Boto) or anyone else took any action to ensure the accused ministers weren't in power at SBC churches."
Boto joined Executive Committee in 1995. He became executive vice president and general counselor in 2007.
The committee issued a statement Tuesday denouncing Boto for his words in a Sept. 29 2006 communication to survivors and advocates. It stated that the "continued dialogue between us (the Executive Committee) and survivors' advocates will not be constructive or productive."
In its new statement, the committee stated that it "rejects Boto's sentiments in their entirety and seeks public repentance for its failures to rectify this situation and to fully listen to survivors."
Gene Besen, interim counsel to the committee, stated during Tuesday's virtual meeting, that the release of the list was an important step towards transparency. He stated that the list will not include names of survivors or confidential witnesses, nor any uncorroborated sexual abuse allegations.
Besen stated that the committee's leadership will also investigate the possibility of revoked retirement benefits for Boto or others involved in the cover up. He encouraged members of the committee to forget past divisions and to unite in a collective effort to end sexual abuse at the SBC.
Willie McLaurin was the Executive Committee's interim President and CEO. He issued a formal public apology for all victims of sexual abuse in the SBC which has over 47,000 members.
He said, "We are sorry for all that we did to cause pain and frustration to the survivors." "Now is the right time to change the culture. From now, we must be open and transparent in our actions.
Wally Slade, Chair of the Executive Committee, opened the virtual meeting by acknowledging survivors.
He stated, "Our commitment to be different and do differently" "We cannot come up with half-baked ideas."
Besen stated that more survivors of sexual abuse have contacted the Executive Committee since the release of the report. McLaurin stated that he had asked Guidepost for a hotline to ensure survivors can be directed to the right place and get the appropriate care.
The Sexual Abuse Task Force was established at the request of SBC delegate during the meeting in Nashville last year. It expects to make next week its formal motions, based on the Guidepost Report, public. According to Pastor Bruce Frank, who was the leader of the task force, these recommendations will be presented to the delegates to vote at the national meeting, which is scheduled for June 14-15, Anaheim, California.
Frank, the lead pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church, Arden, North Carolina said that the core of the Task Force's recommendations, based on Guidepost, would be to prevent and better care for victims of sexual abuse when it does happen, as well as to ensure that abusers are barred from continuing in ministry.