May 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Southern Baptist leaders to release names of alleged sex abusers

A group of protesters fighting various forms of abuse within the church engage passersby outside the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June 2018 in Dallas. Photo: Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Southern Baptist Convention said during a public meeting Tuesday that it will release a list of alleged sex abusers after it ensures the names of survivors are not disclosed in the process.

Why it matters: The announcement comes just days after a bombshell report from an independent firm contracted by SBC’s administrative arm, the Executive Committee, alleged that the leaders of the country's largest Protestant denomination repeatedly mishandled sexual abuse claims over several years.

Gene Besen, a lawyer for the Executive Committee, apologized to survivors and said the committee would release the list "as soon as we are confident we have redacted all survivors' names, confidential witness names and any unsubstantiated allegations."

  • "It is our commitment and intent to review the unsubstantiated allegations, and if more can be substantiated, we will release those as well," Besen said.

What they're saying: SBC leaders apologized to abuse survivors and stressed that a change to SBC’s culture was overdue.

  • “I want to say to us, now is the time to change the culture. We need to be proactive in our openness, in our transparency from this moment forward. That’s the absolute bare minimum we must do," said Willie McLaurin, interim president of the Executive Committee.

The big picture: The report, which followed a seven-month investigation by independent firm Guidepost Solutions, alleged that SBC leadership collected sexual abuse reports for more than 10 years but took no actions to ensure that the accused abusers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.

  • It also said witnesses "who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy — even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation."

Go deeper: Southern Baptist report finds evidence of sexual abuse cover-up

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