At 8:50 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee released a 205-page document containing the names of more than 700 convicted and credibly accused clergy sexual abusers.
This action is the most sweeping of several rapid responses SBC officials have made within less than a week of receiving a thorough assessment from Guidepost Solutions. The publication of such a list and the speed with which it was released are unprecedented in American religious life.
The document notes that the list is “largely pulled from news articles complied from 2007 until 2022. It is incomplete. It has not been proofed. It has not been adequately researched. It is not Southern Baptist specific.”
The list was allegedly maintained by Augie Boto, former executive vice president and general counsel to the Executive Committee, who separately has been banned from ever serving as a trustee of a nonprofit in Texas or holding any office of trust within SBC life. Those bans resulted from a separate scheme in which he and Paige Patterson sought to take control of a nonprofit foundation and redirect its giving to benefit Patterson.
The list of alleged clergy sexual abusers was kept at the Executive Committee under Boto’s direction, according to the independent report by Guidepost Solutions, but never was used to prevent any of those abusers from moving to other congregations. All this occurred while Executive Committee leadership said publicly it was not possible to maintain a database of known abusers because of the Baptist doctrine of local church autonomy.
Baptist News Global and other media outlets have made multiple attempts to locate Boto for comment, but his whereabouts are unknown.
The Guidepost report indicated of 703 abusers on Boto’s list, 409 were believed to be SBC-affiliated at some point in time. The report further noted that “it appears that nine people remain in active ministry or connected to ministry. Two of those people appear to be associated with an SBC church. The remaining seven appear to be associated with churches that are not SBC-affiliated.” Who those specific individuals are is not clear from the newly published list.
At the time of the publication of the list, a joint statement was released by Executive Committee Chairman Rolland Slade and Interim President Willie McLaurin. The full text of the statement reads:
“The recently released Guidepost report revealed a list of alleged abusers compiled by a former employee of the SBC Executive Committee. This list is being made public for the first time as an initial, but important, step toward addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the convention. Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.
“Our God invites us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8). As a network of Great Commission churches, we are commissioned to live out the Great Commandment and to fulfill the Great Commission. It is our hope that releasing this list places a spotlight on truth and transparency. Southern Baptists have made it clear that transparency in the area of sex abuse should be the norm.
“We are releasing the list in the exact form that it was provided to Guidepost Solutions by an Executive Committee staff member. We have not made any additions to the list, nor any alterations other than converting it from Microsoft Word to Portable Document Format and redacting information as detailed below.
“In making redaction decisions, counsel to the Executive Committee included, in their entirety, entries that reference an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry. The only exception to those entries is the redaction of names or identifying information of survivors and/or other individuals unrelated to the offender. Many of the entries list either an arrest or charges, but no disposition. Since May 24, 2022, counsel to the Executive Committee has done preliminary research and, where guilty pleas, convictions, judgments, sentences, and/or inclusion on a sex offender registry could be easily verified, the entry was left unredacted. Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fits within the described parameters have been redacted. Entries that do not relate to sexual abuse or that resulted in an acquittal are also redacted.
“We note that there will be more exhaustive research and analysis of the redacted entries and we anticipate that some of the redacted entries will be fully released in the future. We felt it was more important to release the list and redact rather than delay and investigate.”
Note: If you are or have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, reach out for help at (202) 864-5578 or [email protected].