Southern Baptist Convention leaders said they released a list naming hundreds of alleged abusers within its church Thursday night as an important step to implementing reform. File Photo by Van Payne/UPI | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention on Thursday night released a list naming hundreds of ministers and church employees who have been accused of sexual abuse over the last 20 years.
The release of the 205-page list comes after the church's executive committee earlier this week vowed to make it public in response to the results of a third-party investigation that found Southern Baptist Convention leaders had suppressed reports of child molestation and other forms of sexual abuse.
"This list is being made public for the first time as an initial, but important step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the convention," Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the church's executive committee, and Rolland Slade, the executive committee's chairman, said in a joint statement. "Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse."
The list, which was published on the church's website and contains hundreds of entries mostly complied from news articles, states it is "a fluid, working document" that is "incomplete" and "has not been adequately researched."
The church said the list was released in the exact form it was provided to Guidepost Solutions, which conducted the months-long investigation into the church, producing the 288-page report that was published earlier this month detailing how Southern Baptist leaders handled sexual abuse allegations.
McLaurin and Slade said there have been no additions to the list and counsel has redacted the names and identifying information of survivors as well as entries where preliminary research could not verify the claims.
"We note that there will be more exhaustive research and analysis of the redacted entires and we anticipate that some of the redacted entires will be fully released in the future," McLaurin and Slade said. "We felt it was more important to release the list and redact rather than delay and investigate."
According to the report published Sunday by Guidepost Solutions, an employee working for August Boto, a former executive committee general counsel as well as an interim president, has since 2007 been compiling a list of sexual abuse reports, with its current iteration consisting of 703 alleged abusers, of which 409 are believed to have been affiliated with the church at some point in time.
The year the list began to be complied, a motion was presented at the church's annual convention to create a similar database of abuse and harassment, but was rejected in 2008.
The report also found that rather than focusing on accused ministers, some executive committee leaders criticized survivors as "opportunistic," having a "hidden agenda of lawsuits," wanting to "burn things to the ground" and acting as a "professional victim."
It also said its Baptist Press, the executive committee's communications arm, was employed to "portray survivors in an unflattering light and mischaracterize allegations of abuse."
The alleged mishandling of abuse allegations and mistreatment of victims was largely driven by senior executive committee staff, particularly Boto and long-serving outside counsel, the report states, adding that their main concern was avoiding potential liability for the Christian denomination.
The report states that during a more than 10-year span there is no indication that senior leadership took any action to ensure accused ministers were no longer working in their churches.
After the report was published, the church on Wednesday said it has entered an agreement with Guidepost to maintain a sexual abuse hotline for survivors and those on their behalf may submit allegations of abuse they suffered within the church.
"This hotline will be an important stopgap measure for survivors between now and the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting In Anaheim, when the messengers can pass even more meaningful reforms," it said.