Top administrative leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, said on Tuesday they would release a secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church workers accused of sexual abuse.
A lawyer for SBC’s executive committee announced the decision during a virtual meeting convened in response to a scathing investigation report that described how the committee falsified allegations of sexual abuse and stoned several survivors . No date was specified for the release of the list
During the meeting, top leaders and several committee members vowed to work towards changing the culture of the sect and listen more carefully to the voices and stories of the survivors.
Guidepost Solutions’ 288-page report, released on Sunday after a seven-month investigation, made several explosive revelations. Among them were details of how D. August Boto, former vice chairman and general counsel for the executive committee, and former SBC spokesman Roger Oldham kept their personal lists of abusive clergy. Both retired in 2019. The existence of the list was not widely known within the committee and its staff.
“Despite these reports being collected for more than 10 years, there is no indication that (Oldham and Boto) or anyone else took any action to ensure that the accused ministers are no longer in SBC churches,” the report said. were not in positions of power.”
Boto joined the executive committee in 1995 and became executive vice president and general counsel in 2007.
On Tuesday, the committee issued a statement condemning Boto’s words, written in a communication to survivors and their advocates on September 29, 2006, stating that “the continuing conflict between our (executive committee and survivors’ advocates) The dialogue will not be positive or useful.”
The committee said in its new statement, “It completely rejects the spirit (of Boto’s words) and seeks to publicly repent for its failure to rectify the situation and whole-heartedly speak to the survivors.” listens.”
Jean Besson, the committee’s interim counsel, said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting that the release of the list is an important step towards transparency. He said survivors, confidential witnesses and any unconfirmed allegations of sexual abuse would be removed from the list to be made public.
Besson said committee leaders would also consider canceling retirement benefits for Boto and others involved in the cover-up. He urged committee members to put aside past divisions and stand united in a collective commitment to ending sexual exploitation at SBC.
Executive Committee interim chairman and CEO Willie McLaurin issued a formal public apology to all those who faced sexual abuse within SBC, which has a membership of more than 47,000 churches.
“We feel sorry for the survivors for everything we have done to cause pain and frustration,” he said. “The time has come to change the culture. We have to 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 different,” he said. “We can’t come up with a half-hearted solution.”
Bessen said that since the report’s release, more survivors of sexual abuse are contacting the executive committee to tell their stories. He said he has asked guideposts to open a hotline so that those left are “directed to the proper location and receive proper care.”
The sexual abuse task force, appointed on demand from SBC representatives during last year’s meeting in Nashville, hopes to make its formal motions public next week based on the Guidepost report. Those recommendations will be presented to delegates for a vote during this year’s national meeting, scheduled for June 14-15 in Anaheim, California, according to Pastor Bruce Frank, who leads the task force.
Pastor Frank, head of the Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina, said the task force’s recommendations based on the guidepost report will sum up preventing sexual abuse, better care for survivors when such abuse occurs, and ensuring that are not abusers. allowed to remain in the ministry.
Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers. Creation of a “criminal information system” was one of the key recommendations in the report of Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the executive committee of the SBC after representatives at last year’s national meeting pressed for an investigation by outsiders.
The proposed database is expected to be one of several recommendations that were presented as a result of a seven-month investigation of the guideposts to thousands of delegates attending this year’s national meeting.
Lawyer and author Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teenager by a youth minister at her SBC church, has been pressing SBC to create a publicly accessible database of known abusers since 2006. He was overjoyed by Tuesday’s announcement that the secret list would be made public.
“I hope that happens in the near future. I’ll be watching and waiting,” she told the Associated Press. “It boggles my mind to try to imagine that they’ll be on this list for so many years.” How could you rationalize to keep it secret till – from 2007 onwards. It suggests a level of moral bankruptcy that I don’t understand.”
The Associated Press religion coverage is supported by the Associated Press’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. Associated Press is solely responsible for this content.
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