“As a Convention, we did not hold our own leaders accountable, and we did not listen to the warnings. ” Guidepost Report
Whoa- there is so much to say, and it will take a few posts. In 2009, shortly after starting this blog, TWW called for Paige Patterson’s resignation. This coincided with SEBTS holding a big, showy ceremony to dedicate Paige Patterson Hall on the campus. All of his best buddies were there, including a young future President of the SBC. We received some nasty comments about our suggestion. We were just ahead of the curve, and we were proven right. When I started writing in 2009, I knew how poorly I believe my former SBC church handled a bunch of young teens being molested by a student at SEBTS. They worked hard to put some lipstick on the situation, but it wasn’t good. Little did I know just how deep the corruption in the SBC went.
I am gone, thankfully, and find some peace in my Lutheran church. However, there is a comparison that will dog those who remain in the SBC and are not part of the 1.1 Million who left in the last three years. There will be the inevitable comparison to the Roman Catholic Church, which most Baptists will find irritating. In my experience, the Catholic church is not looked highly on by the Baptists. I remember those members and pastors who claimed that there was so much abuse being reported because the priests couldn’t marry. I wasn’t having any of it. A normal male priest who wants to violate his vows would do so with a consenting adult, not a little kid. I think the Catholic Church hid this problem for decades, and those abusers (and their friends) rose to positions of power and hung the green light out for other pedophiles to join a religion that gives them a nice uniform, housing, and respect.
This report by the SATF seems to indicate to me that the SBC has been doing the same thing. The leaders have covered up the abuse and even counseled abusers on how to handle “difficult questions that might arise.”
I didn’t know how to approach this report. I am still reading through it and making notes. This means the reader will have to endure a few more “I told you so” posts. However, I need your help. Please point out what you found disgusting if you read the report.
Links to the Report.
Links to media reports along with some points I found interesting.
The document also discloses for the first time that the executive committee maintained a list of its ministers who were facing abuse allegations but – despite calls for a public database – kept its findings secret.
…It makes a series of recommendations including: creating an independent commission that would oversee reforms in the handling of sexual misconduct, and restricting the use of non-disclosure agreements and civil settlements by the accused.
…The SBC executive committee will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the report.
Writing for Christianity Today, Russell Moore wrote: This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse.
The abuse investigation has uncovered more evil than even I imagined.
…The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama.
…callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt
…My mouth fell open when I read documented proof in the report that these very people not only knew how to have a database, they already had one.
Allegations of sexual violence and assault were placed, the report concludes, in a secret file in the SBC Nashville headquarters. It held over 700 cases. Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves.
…Who cannot now see the rot in a culture that mobilizes to exile churches that call a woman on staff a “pastor” or that invite a woman to speak from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, but dismisses rape and molestation as “distractions”
Kate Shellnit, writing for Christianity Today: Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse, Despite Secret List of Pastors
The investigation centers responsibility on members of the EC staff and their attorneys and says the hundreds of elected EC trustees were largely kept in the dark. EC general counsel Augie Boto and longtime attorney Jim Guenther advised the past three EC presidents—Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page, and Morris Chapman—that taking action on abuse would pose a risk to SBC liability and polity, leading the presidents to challenge proposed abuse reforms.
As renewed calls for action emerged with the #ChurchToo and #SBCToo movements, Boto referred to advocacy for abuse survivors as “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.”
…Christa Brown, a longtime advocate who experienced sexual abuse by her pastor at 16, said her “countless encounters with Baptist leaders” who shunned and disbelieved her “left a legacy of hate” and communicated “you are a creature void of any value—you don’t matter.” As a result, she said, instead of her faith providing solace, her faith has become “neurologically networked with a nightmare.” She referred to it as “soul murder.”
…. One former president—pastor Johnny Hunt—sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife in 2010, investigators found.
…The Guidepost inquiry included privileged legal communications on abuse over the past 20 years, a provision that led EC president Ronnie Floyd to resign in October and the law firm of Guenther, Jordan & Price to withdraw their services after 60 years.
…Guenther worked alongside Boto, an attorney who was involved in the EC from the 1990s to 2019, serving as a trustee, vice president, general counsel, and interim president. He was an ally of Paige Patterson during the Conservative Resurgence. (Last year, Boto was barred from holding any positions with Southern Baptist entities as a result of a legal settlement involving financial moves after Patterson was fired from an SBC seminary over mishandling a rape allegation.)
Boto and Guenther turned every discussion of abuse to a discussion of protecting the EC from legal liability, making that the highest priority, the report said.
…Boto saw the Devil at work in their efforts. In an email obtained by Guidepost, he wrote:
This whole thing should be seen for what it is. It is a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism. It is not the gospel. It is not even a part of the gospel. It is a misdirection play. Yes, Christa Brown and Rachael Denhollander have succumbed to an availability heuristic because of their victimizations. They have gone to the SBC looking for sexual abuse, and of course, they found it. Their outcries have certainly caused an availability cascade. … But they are not to blame. This is the devil being temporarily successful.
“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.
Among the report’s key recommendations:
— Form an independent commission and later establish a permanent administrative entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct within the SBC.
—Create and maintain an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders.
— Provide a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information.
Two observations from the report.
I plan to go through the report and post what jumped out at me. Obviously, it’s going to take some time. Today, I began that process and am stunned by the number of distressing reports found within the report.
Three SBC presidents and Paul Pressler refused to speak with the investigators from Guidepost. Augie Boto dodged the requests, and they finally sent someone to knock on the door of his residence to get some information.
It will not surprise anyone why Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler refused to speak. Amy Smith could write a book on why Graham isn’t speaking. What was disturbing to me was how these supposed men of God didn’t even respond promptly to the requests. I wonder if they know how that looks to the average person. It makes them look guilty. I believe they are staying quiet because they were told to do so by their attorneys.
Three Presidents declined to speak with us: Dr. Bobby Welch, Dr. Jack Graham, and Dr. Paige Patterson. Dr. Welch cited health reasons. Dr. Graham offered access to his Presidential Papers in lieu of an interview; after we confirmed that we already had access to those papers, we received no response to our interview request. A key leader, Judge Paul Pressler, also declined to speak to us. Judge Pressler is a former SBC Vice President, a former EC member, and a long-time SBC influencer.
We sent a certified letter to Dr. Patterson on March 12, 2022, and received a certified signature receipt dated April 1, 2022. However, we did not receive a response to our letter. We called Dr. Patterson’s three listed phone numbers provided by the EC on March 11, 2022. Guidepost was able to leave a voicemail on one of the phone numbers, but did not receive a response. The Committee on Cooperation also sent a letter to Dr. Patterson on March 30, 2022, asking that he allow himself to be interviewed by Guidepost Solutions.13 On April 6, 2022, Dr. Patterson responded with a letter to Dr. Litton, indicating that he had not received communication from Guidepost to seek an interview. He stated in his letter to Dr. Litton that “In an effort to cooperate with the request of Guidepost Solutions to the Executive Committee, I violated my policy and allowed access [by my lawyers] to my presidential files in the Southern Baptist Archives. Any questions Guidepost Solutions would like to ask me can be sent to my attorney Shelby Sharpe for review; and if he deems them appropriate, I will answer them in writing.”14
On April 6, 2022, Guidepost sent a final letter to Dr. Patterson’s attorney asking that, although Dr. Patterson does not have a practice of granting interviews, he consider making an exception due to Dr. Patterson’s role in the EC.17 Mr. Shelby passed on Dr. Patterson’s response in lieu of an interview, that “the subject of sexual abuse was not something that came to the Executive Committee or the Credentials Committee to his best recollection during the last six months of his presidency [which was in the scope of the investigation].”18
…We made multiple attempts to contact Mr. Augie Boto, the former EC General Counsel, by letter, email, text, and phone. Through SBC records and our own research, we identified five possible phone numbers for Mr. Boto, which we ultimately learned were not in service or incorrect. When we called a sixth number, Mr. Boto identified himself on the voice greeting, but the voice mailbox was full. We sent a text message to that number but received no response. Finally, on May 6, 2022, Guidepost investigators went to Mr. Boto’s residence to ask in person for an interview. Mr. Boto initially stated that he did not want to make a statement, citing his former position as EC General Counsel as the reason he could not speak to us. However, he did engage in conversation with our investigators for approximately an hour and give his views on various topics related to the investigation.
…One key figure was Augie Boto, who was hired in 1998 as Vice President for Convention Policy and became the EC General Counsel in 2004. In his position as General Counsel, Mr. Boto guided the EC’s response to sexual abuse allegations, advising the various EC Presidents under whom he served – Dr. Morris Chapman, Dr. Frank Page, and Dr. Ronnie Floyd. Mr. Boto and these leaders also relied on the assistance of the SBC’s external counsel: Mr. Guenther, who had represented the SBC since 1966, and GJP.
The obvious comparison to the Catholic church comes up.
Esquire posted. There’s a Chilly Efficiency to the Southern Baptists’ Approach To Sexual Abuse Scandals.
The findings of nearly 300 pages include shocking new details about specific abuse cases and shine a light on how denominational leaders for decades actively resisted calls for abuse prevention and reform. Evidence in the report suggests leaders also lied to Southern Baptists over whether they could maintain a database of offenders to prevent more abuse when top leaders were secretly keeping a private list for years. The report—the first investigation of its kind in a massive Protestant denomination like the SBC—is expected to send shock waves throughout a conservative Christian community that has had intense internal battles over how to handle sex abuse. The 13 million-member denomination, along with other religious institutions in the United States, has struggled with declining membership for the past 15 years. Its leaders have long resisted comparisons between its sexual abuse crisis and that of the Catholic Church, saying the total number of abuse cases among Southern Baptists was small.
Oops. Not so much, no.
…The parallels between how the SBC and the Catholic Church worked to bury these scandals are specific and striking, although there is a certain chilly business-school efficiency in the SBC’s approach, whereas the Catholic cover-ups smelled vaguely of incense.
In an April 2007 email, the convention’s attorney sent Boto a memo explaining how a SBC database could be implemented consistent with SBC polity, saying “it would fit our polity and present ministries to help churches in this area of child abuse and sexual misconduct.” The report states that he recommended “immediate action to signal the Convention’s desire that the [executive committee] and the entities begin a more aggressive effort in this area.” That same year, aftera Southern Baptist pastor made a motion for a database, Boto rejected the idea. For a denomination designed to give more democratic power to its lay leaders or “messengers” who voted to commission the third-party investigation, the report shows how lay Southern Baptists allowed a few key leaders, including Boto and the convention’s longtime lawyer, James Guenther, to control the national institutional response to sex abuse for decades.
I predict that the SBC will have trouble attracting new members. They will need to emphasize stealth churches that never tell their members they are part of the SBC. Didn’t JD Greear do that at the Summit?
Much more to come including more about the infamous abuser list kept by leaders and more about Johnny Hunt’s implosion.