So. Baptist execs apologize, plan to release names of accused

So. Baptist execs apologize, plan to release names of accused

Pastor Ed Litton, of Saraland, Alabama, is president of the Southern Baptist Convention. A blistering report on the SBC's mishandling of sex abuse allegations, was released on Sunday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

So. Baptist execs apologize, plan to release names of accused

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention met on Tuesday to review and take preliminary action after the release of a bombshell report on sexual abuse within the denomination.

The report from the independent investigative firm Guidepost Solutions says Executive Committee (EC) members met survivors of abuse time and time again, with "resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility." On Tuesday, the EC issued a formal apology to those survivors:

Willie McLaurin (EC interim president): "On behalf of all Southern Baptists, I want to issue a formal apology and say that we are sorry to the survivors for all that we've done to cause hurt, pain, and frustration."

Another finding in the report was that former EC General Counsel "Augie" Boto maintained a list of accused ministers in Baptist churches, including their names, years reported, relevant news articles, state, and denomination. Current General Counsel Gene Besen announced yesterday that the list was going to be made public:

Besen: "In consultation last night with Dr. McLaurin, with Chairman [Rolland] Slade, the decision has been made to make Mr. Boto's list public. We will release Mr. Boto's list as soon as we are confident that we have redacted all survivor names, confidential witness names, and any unsubstantiated allegations."

[UPDATE (May 27, 2022): Southern Baptists have released a previously secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated personnel accused of sexual abuse. Details here...]

The committee asked Guidepost Solutions to keep the hotline set up and open to take survivor stories during the investigation. Besen also said the EC was looking into holding Boto and others accountable:

Besen: "Dr. McLaurin and I have discussed, and we are prepared to review whether or not the EC has the ability to revoke Mr. Boto's retirement benefits. We will be looking at that not just in connection with Mr. Boto, but others named in the report."

Among the report's recommendations was that an "Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force" be established to assist in implementing any reform initiatives for a three-year period. Two Southern Baptist pastors told AFN recently that because of the autonomy of individual SBC churches, it could be very difficult to use a "top-down" approach to enact such reforms.

Editor's note: The SBC offers two options to report an instance of abuse – by phone at 202-864-5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com. Survivors will be notified of the available options for care and will be put in touch with an advocate. All information will remain confidential.