“Southern Baptist leaders released a confidential list of hundreds of accused sexual abusers Thursday evening that tracked names, dates and details about a burgeoning abuse crisis — but was kept secret for more than a decade.
Dating to 2007, the list includes many individuals that overlap with a database of 263 convicted Southern Baptist abusers that was published in 2019 as part of Abuse of Faith, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News that revealed how the faith group failed to protect church members.
Among the offenders: Charles Adcock, who was charged in 2015 with 29 counts of rape and sodomy involving a 14-year-old girl he met at the SBC-affiliated Woodward Avenue Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Adcock moved to Texas after the criminal charges were filed and volunteered at First Baptist Church in Bedford. A pastor was aware of the charges, but the secret SBC list with Adcock’s case and other offenders wasn’t available to the rest of the congregation in Bedford — despite calls from survivor advocates for the SBC to publish a database of sexual abusers to help churches vet employees and volunteers.
Without admitting any guilt, Adcock pleaded to a single charge of second-degree sodomy in January 2016, served 15 months in jail and was required to register as a sex offender.
Commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention’s former general counsel, August “Augie” Boto, the list of offenders was withheld from the public and even many top church leaders until a groundbreaking investigation published Sunday revealed its existence and shocked members of the nation’s largest coalition of Baptist churches.
“The path that led us to this moment was ugly,” said Gene Besen, a lawyer who represents the SBC’s 86-member executive committee, the faith group’s highest governing body. Most of the committee’s members were unaware the list even existed.
A blistering, 400-page report by Guidepost Solutions found that Boto, who resigned in 2019, asked an SBC employee to compile a list of accused Baptist offenders that ultimately reached more than 700 names since 2007, with 409 of them believed to be affiliated with Southern Baptist churches.
Guidepost investigators found that nine of the suspected abusers were still in ministry, with two of them at SBC churches.
Most of the cases in the list offer details about accused sexual abusers who were arrested or convicted of crimes. Since most sexual abuse cases go unreported to police and never reach the court system, experts say the true number of cases in the SBC’s network of 47,000 churches is likely far higher.
Roger “Sing” Oldham, a former vice president for SBC relations, said he supplied some of the material for Boto’s list, but insisted he had no idea what it was used for or that it even existed.
“I don’t know if it was ever used,” Oldham told the Houston Chronicle in an interview this week. “If it was used, I don’t know what it was used for.”
Oldham said he had set up a “Google Alert” to find new webpages that included the terms “Baptist” and “arrested.” Over the years, Google automatically emailed Oldham links to news stories about cases of sexual abuse, which he forwarded to Boto to keep him informed.
The Guidepost investigation found “there is no indication that Dr. Oldham, Mr. Boto, or anyone else, took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.” Oldham said he never checked the status of the ministers because the news articles made it clear that law enforcement officials had intervened and the accused abuser had resigned or been fired.
The 409 Southern Baptist abuse cases in Boto’s list exceeds a tally of 263 convicted offenders documented in Abuse of Faith, a 2019 investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News that examined cases from a longer, 20-year time frame beginning in 1998.
The newspapers’ database of offenders was posted online as a resource for the public and had a narrower focus than Boto’s list: confirmed cases that resulted in criminal convictions.
The newspapers also found scores of additional pastors, employees and volunteers at Southern Baptist churches whose cases hadn’t yet been adjudicated.”