The “secret” list uncovered by the recent investigation into how the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee handled sexual abuse cases for a period of 21 years will be made public soon.
That decision, along with a commitment to survivors to listen to them in all cases going forward, was approved by the more than 50 EC trustee members meeting via Zoom today (May 24). The EC also “repents” for its past actions related to survivors, according to the statement approved by the trustees. To listen to it being read by interim legal counsel Scarlett Nokes, click here.
The statement shares how EC members reject specific comments reportedly made by former EC vice president and legal counsel D. August Boto “in which he concludes that a ‘continued discourse between us [the Executive Committee and Survivor advocates] will not be positive or fruitful.’
The statement goes on to note, “The SBC Executive Committee rejects this sentiment in its entirety and seeks to publicly repent for its failure to rectify this position and wholeheartedly listen to survivors.
“Today, in the immediate aftermath of the report’s release, the SBC Executive Committee seeks to make clear that it views engaging with survivors as a critical step toward healing our Convention from the scourge of sexual abuse and working to avoid its continued impact on our loved ones, their families, and our network of churches.”
Nine on list ‘appear to remain’ in active ministry
As far as the list held by Boto, more than 700 names are on it “with 409 believed to be SBC-affiliated at some point in time,” according to the Guidepost Solutions report released May 22.
The Guidepost report reads on pages 4 and 5, “Over the years, the existence of these reports of abuse were not shared with EC Trustees. Nor was the fact that, since 2007, an EC staff member working for Mr. Boto was maintaining a list of accused ministers in Baptist churches, including the minister’s name, 5 year reported, relevant news articles, state, and denomination.
“In a May 2019 email to Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the then-EC President, EC Vice President Dr. Roger ‘Sing’ Oldham acknowledged that ‘[f]or the past decade, I have been regularly sending Augie news reports of Baptist ministers who are arrested for sexual abuse, for his awareness. It hasn’t slowed down since the [Houston] Chronicle articles started on February 10.’ Mr. Boto responded that: ‘Yes. We are collecting them, and may even post them in some way, but we’d have to really examine the potential liabilities that would stem therefrom.’
“Despite collecting these reports for more than 10 years, there is no indication that Dr. Oldham, Mr. Boto, or anyone else, took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches. … Our investigative team reviewed the list and conducted significant research to assess whether any of the alleged abusers were still associated with an SBC church. Based on these efforts, it appears that nine (9) people remain in active ministry or connected to ministry. Two (2) of those people appear to be associated with an SBC church. The remaining seven (7) appear to be associated with churches that are not SBC-affiliated. We will provide this information to the Credentials Committee for further review, including whether the seven additional churches mentioned above are in fact non-SBC affiliated. We will also continue to review the latter material to determine whether any referrals or other action needs to be taken.”
Current interim legal counsel for the EC Gene Besen said after meeting with the Sexual Abuse Task Force yesterday (May 23) and talking with others in various meetings, he and Nokes have concluded the past decisions by Boto not to listen to survivors and not to share the list of alleged abusers “needs to be addressed and clarified” immediately. The list will be scrubbed of survivors’ names as well as others who asked for their information to remain confidential and any unsubstantiated claims before it is released, Besen noted.
“The statement (passed by members) acknowledges our failure to listen … this body has failed to do that in the past,” he said. “We owe it to the survivors … to know we are willing to listen [after] two decades of history of failing to do that.”
Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC EC, further explained the plan for releasing the list in a statement shared with media outlets after the meeting. “The SBC Executive Committee is diligently reviewing the list of offenders and abusers referenced in the Guidepost report with the goal of making as much of the report public as quickly as possible. As mentioned during the meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, names of survivors, any confidential witnesses, and details regarding any unsubstantiated allegations will be redacted before the document is published. That work is being done carefully and as quickly as possible, with an anticipated release date of Thursday, May 26, 2022. Additional information will be provided with the release of the list.”
Also to be reviewed soon is what should be considered related to Boto’s retirement benefits, Besen said during the meeting.
And McLaurin added that he is working with the trustee committee related to budgeting and finances on how to tighten up the financial framework in preparation for implementing the coming recommendations from the task force.
As far as how EC members and others should engage with survivors going forward, Nokes suggested embracing gentleness.
“I love when in my faith walk [the Lord] gives me what we need on a particular morning … [today it was] gentleness. … It’s a fruit of the spirit, but not one we talk about a whole lot.
“We need to be gentle with survivors, engaging, authentic and gentle with one another,” she said. “We’ve talked a lot this morning about the recent past of this group and past division, about how love covers a multitude of sins, being gentle with those around us allows God’s love to shine through us and especially important when dealing with the survivor community and with everyone practically.”
To keep up with previous and continued coverage related to the Guidepost report, follow the “Sexual Abuse Task Force” channel at the top of thebaptistpaper.org.