“Sunlight is the best disinfectant and we do not yet know whether current SBC leadership has thrown the window open wide or if they are still drawing curtains to protect their church,” said Zach Hiner, executive director of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests). “It is incumbent on our attorneys general, district attorneys, and local police and prosecutors to find the truth and share it with the American public.”
The list includes roughly 750 names with details of abuses they are alleged to have committed and links to news stories covering some of the cases. There are many redactions or blacked-out sections on the list and it notes: “The information 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.”
Due to the lack of research reflected by the document, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not repeating the names or allegations against those named.
The Georgia names include pastors, youth ministers, deacons, Sunday school teachers, a former choir director and a volunteer. In addition to the 34 named suspected abusers in Georgia churches, the identities of six people in Georgia were redacted.
In Georgia, there are more than 3,370 Southern Baptist churches.
The release of the list to the public closely follows the release Sunday of a lengthy independent investigation by Guidepost Solutions that examined hundreds of sexual abuse allegations leveled against Southern Baptist pastors, staffers and volunteers.
The SBC said more research and analysis of the redacted entries will be conducted and anticipates that some of those entries will be released in the future.
“We felt it was more important to release the list and redact rather than delay and investigate,” according to a joint statement by the Executive Committee’s Chairman Rolland Slade and Willie McLaurin, its interim president and CEO.
The SBC, with nearly 14 million members, is the largest Protestant denomination. It has been under fire - internally and externally - for the way it has mishandled allegations of sexual abuse and mistreated victims.
David Pittman, a survivor who said he was sexually abused by his church’s youth minister for three years, beginning when he was 12, had mixed emotions about the list.
“It’s both good that the names can been seen but its also very aggravating because it shows all along that Southern Baptists can keep a list and maintain a file, but they didn’t,” said Pittman, who grew up in Tucker and now lives in Florida where he works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”
It angers him that the name of his alleged abuser, whom he said still works with a church in Georgia, was not included. “It means that all of my efforts were ignored,” he said.
The list was released as an “important step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention,” according to a joint statement by the Executive Committee’s Rolland Slade, chairman; and Willie McLaurin, its interim president and CEO.
“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.”
The SBC released the list in the exact form it was provided to Guidepost, according to the statement. There have have been no additions or alterations, however the names of witnesses, victims and those with “unsubstantiated” allegations against them have been redacted.
What it does include are entries that came from an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgement, sentencing or inclusion on a sex offender registry.
In 2019 the Houston Chronicle published a series of articles about abuses cases in Southern Baptist churches around the nation.
At 15, Christa Brown said the grooming was started by her church’s youth and education minister with the sexual assaults beginning when she was 16. That minister later moved to a Southern Baptist church in the Atlanta area.
“This list is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Brown, a retired attorney who lives in Colorado. “There are so, so, so many more…When it comes to child sexual abuse, perpetrators who are criminally convicted are the tiniest tip of the iceberg.”
She said she hoped people would seek out the list. “People in the pews need to know where and who these men are. Even if their children are adults, they need to talk to their kids.”
Allegations of sexual abuse is one of several issues that the denomination has faced in recent years that includes matters of race and gender.
The Guidepost report was released just weeks before next month’s 2022 SBC Annual Meeting & Pastors’ Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
The SBC is made up of autonomous churches and does not have a hierarchical structure like the Roman Catholic Church.
The Rev Bryant Wright, a former president of the SBC and president of Send Relief, an international relief organization, called the independent report and subsequent list of alleged abusers “heartbreaking for us in all in multiple ways, but most of all we all ache for the victims. As the same time, as disheartening as the report is, I am thankful that the sinful problem is being addressed.”
For survivors of sexual abuse:
Survivors will be notified of options for care and will be put in touch with an advocate. (The hotline is 202-864-5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com).
SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) or 1-877-SNAP-HEALS (1-877-762-7432)
Together We Heal (together-we-heal.org) or 754- 234-7975