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Southern Baptist Leaders Mishandled Sex Abuse Crisis, Report Says

The report also revealed that an executive committee staff member working for Mr. Boto had, for more than 10 years, maintained a detailed list of ministers accused of abuse. But no one “took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches,” the report stated. The most recent list, it added, contained the names of hundreds of alleged abusers affiliated with the denomination at some time. Investigators reviewed the same list and reported that it appears nine people remain at least connected to work in a ministry setting, including two connected with a Southern Baptist church.

It said that leaders including Ronnie Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention who resigned as the head of the executive committee in October, had resisted the creation of a task force to investigate the executive committee. Mr. Floyd did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The report described revelations in recent years that senior leaders had “protected or even supported abusers.” The leaders included three former presidents of the denomination, Steve Gaines, Jack Graham and Paige Patterson, as well as a former vice president and Mr. Boto, a former executive committee interim president and general counsel. A spokesman for Prestonwood Baptist Church, where Mr. Graham is pastor, said the church “categorically denies” the way the report characterizes an incident under his leadership in which it alleged Mr. Graham quietly dismissed an accused abuser on his staff rather than contacting police. Mr. Gaines and Mr. Patterson could not be immediately reached for comment.

During the course of Guidepost’s investigation, the report said, a pastor and his wife came forward to allege that Johnny Hunt, who was president of the denomination from 2008 to 2010, had sexually assaulted the wife shortly after his presidency ended. The report described the pastor and his wife as “credible,” and said that parts of their account were corroborated by four other credible witnesses.

Mr. Hunt denied the accusations to Guidepost, but he resigned this month from the denomination’s North American Mission Board. Mr. Hunt did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

When the denomination’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, compiled a report on sexual abuse, leaders of the executive committee and outside counsel “suggested changes to the report to avoid potential liability, including removing the word ‘crisis’ when referring to sexual abuse,” the report stated.

The report comes weeks before the convention’s annual meeting and is likely to send shock waves through its nearly 14 million members.

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