The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee publicly released a list of alleged sexual abusers, urging churches to use the list "proactively" to protect the vulnerable, in the wake of an exhaustive report into sexual abuse and decades of cover-ups in the denomination.
The list, which the committee submitted to Guidepost Solutions as it compiled its 288-page investigative report, runs to 205 pages of names, with some names and claims redacted.
"The recently released Guidepost report revealed a list of alleged abusers compiled by a former employee of the SBC Executive Committee," Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, and Rolland Slade, the committee's chairman, wrote in a joint statement Thursday. "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."
"Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse," McLaurin and Slade wrote. "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 committee's lawyer, who made the redaction decisions, "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."
"Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fits within the described parameters have been redacted," McLaurin and Slade explained. "Entries that do not relate to sexual abuse or that resulted in an acquittal are also redacted."
They promised "more exhaustive research and analysis of the redacted entries," anticipating some publication of these details, in the future. "We felt it was more important to release the list and redact rather than delay and investigate."
"Our God invites us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)," McLaurin and Slade added. "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."
The list comes days after news of the Guidepost Solutions report broke on Sunday. The report found that sexual abuse victims in the church were stonewalled and faced "outright hostility" from leadership, as suspected perpetrators were allowed to remain in leadership positions.
"Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse ... and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC," the report said.
In a statement Sunday, SBC President Ed Litton said he is "grieved to my core" and called on Southern Baptist members to work on changing the culture found in the report.
"I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these failures and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim [for the next SBC national meeting]," Litton said.
The SBC will hold its national meeting at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, on June 14-15.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the report should bring Southern Baptists to repent, as biblical prophets did in wearing "sackcloth and ashes."
"The report is devastating, heartbreaking, and infuriating," he said on his podcast "The Briefing" Monday. "Southern Baptist must see this report as part of a reckoning that will reveal God's wrath, but also as mercy each in rightful proportion." While "some see this report as an opportunity to condemn the Southern Baptist Convention and to castigate its churches, members, and leaders," Mohler noted that "it was, after ll, the SBC that demanded this investigation."