Former SBC Executive Committee Vice President August "Augie" Boto. (Courtesy: SBC Executive Committee)

Former SBC Leader Says Abuse Survivor Advocates Are Part of ‘Satanic Scheme’ to Derail Evangelism

By Sarah Einselen

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is already reeling from recent allegations that key leaders mistreated sex abuse survivors and tried to intimidate advocates. Now comes another leaked document, showing that a former high-profile SBC executive called the movement to address sex abuse in the SBC “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.”

The document is a 2019 email from August “Augie” Boto, former executive vice president of the SBC’s executive committee and its general counsel. (The intended recipient of the email was redacted.)

In Boto’s email, published yesterday by The Baptist Blogger, Boto dismisses findings of sex abuse by SBC pastors and volunteers as statistically insignificant, given the SBC’s large size. He also alleges that victim advocates are blowing the issue of SBC sex abuse out of proportion.

Boto adds that he “got exercised” in a meeting two days earlier “not because I don’t think sexual abuse is a bad thing. I do.” But, Boto said he disagreed with “changing the denominational structure,” presumably to address the sex abuse crisis.

“Our ‘record,’ taken as a whole, does not justify that sort of priority,” he continued.

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Boto then dismissed two victim advocates. One was Christa Brown, a survivor of sexual abuse by an SBC minister. The other was Rachael Denhollander, an attorney and former gymnast who first exposed serial sex offender Dr. Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor.

Boto said the women were seeing what they wanted to see because of their past victimization.

“This whole thing should be seen for what it is. It is a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism,” Boto wrote. “. . .This is the devil being temporarily successful.”

In response to Boto’s leaked email, Denhollander published a series of tweets, revealing that Boto protected a pedophilic coach in 2018.

According to Denhollander, Boto testified on behalf of Mark A. Schiefelbein, a former gymnastics coach who was convicted of multiple counts of severe sexual assault against former gymnast Becca Seaborn.

Denhollander notes that Boto’s son was friends with Schiefelbein. She also notes that Boto decided to attend Schiefelbein’s trial in 2003 because Boto took an “interest” in it.

“I won’t go into what Becca’s testimony at trial had to entail, and the evidence that was submitted by the child victims, but it was horribly graphic,” Denhollander tweeted. “Augie attended the trial and sat through all that testimony because he was ‘interested’ in it.

Denhollander also notes that Boto used his position with the SBC to qualify as an “expert” witness and argue that there were errors in Schiefelbein’s trial.

“(T)wo years after Becca’s story started a tidal wave and we knew that USAG (USA Gymnastics) had a file on her abuser that was inches thick, of prior warnings, Augie came to court with his SBC credentials, and did his best to get this man released.”

Denhollander concludes, “USAG has done their level best to protect the pedophile coaches in their circle. And so did the SBC’s legal counsel.”

The Roys Report left a voicemail for Boto seeking comment, but it wasn’t returned.

Court documents confirm Boto’s involvement

Court documents obtained by The Roys Report support Denhollander’s account.

Defense attorneys called Boto as a character witness for the former gymnastics coach during a 2003 sentencing. Schiefelbein had just been convicted of repeatedly molesting former gymnast Becca Seaborn starting when she was 10, an appeals court opinion shows.

Boto had known Schiefelbein for less than five years when the case went to trial, a related district court opinion states. Boto’s teenage son was involved in gymnastics too and was friends with the former coach, according to the opinion.

An appellate brief states Boto was also called to testify in a hearing on a motion for a new trial, but the judge wouldn’t allow it.

Following the trial, “Boto contributed monetarily to the petitioner’s defense,” the district court opinion states.

At the time of Schiefelbein’s trial, Boto had been vice president for convention policy for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee for about five years. In addition, Boto became the executive committee’s general counsel in 2004, the year after the Schiefelbein trial.

In 2007, Boto moved up to become the executive committee’s executive vice president.

Years later, in a 2018 hearing where Schiefelbein sought a new trial, Boto testified on Schiefelbein’s behalf as an expert knowledgeable about jury trial proceedings. He cited his position as general trial counsel for the Executive Committee of the SBC as one of his qualifications.

Schiefelbein’s conviction was upheld on appeal and he remains incarcerated in Tennessee.

SBC leader Ronnie Floyd praises Boto

Boto retired from his SBC post in 2019 and received high praise from then-Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.

“I have known Augie for many years and appreciate his close walk with the Lord, his deep commitment to his family, his active involvement in his local church, and his love for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told Baptist Press at the time. “He is a Christian gentleman and a godly layman of the highest order.”

Floyd also said Boto “ably led the Executive Committee” for 13 months as interim president “during a challenging year in Southern Baptist life.” (Boto was interim president after Frank Page resigned until Floyd took the helm.)

Floyd said in an email today that when he praised Boto two years ago, he was “absolutely not” aware of Boto’s email calling advocates part of “a satanic scheme” or his testimony on behalf of the former gymnastics coach.

Earlier this year, Boto agreed not to hold any leadership positions within SBC entities as part of a settlement between a charitable foundation Boto helped direct and two SBC schools—Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary.

The schools had sued the foundation for organizing a “secret coup” to divert gifts away from the schools and instead to the foundation.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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21 thoughts on “Former SBC Leader Says Abuse Survivor Advocates Are Part of ‘Satanic Scheme’ to Derail Evangelism”

  1. God in the Old Testament rejected the priests’ work if the priests themselves were defiled. The real lie of Satan is the idea that we have to choose between evangelism and church discipline.

    1. William Orris

      When carnality rules, when the end justifies the means, when a program response is substituted into terminology to make it sound authentic such as “evangelism”, seems to me that puts all the rest of the admonitions of the Gospels and the Epistles on the back burner. What ever happened to living a Holy life as “The” basis for serving Christ, not attempt to serve Christ and work on the rest when you get around to it.

      When someone falls, it didn’t just happen….something was brewing under the surface… the act of conception is the result of an event that transpired much earlier in time.

  2. “If we look at sin, you’ll see that sin affects both Southern Baptists and the rest of the population. That means it’s not statistically significant enough to warrant addressing sin in Southern Baptist churches. And if we do, it’s part of a satanic scheme to get us to stop preaching the gospel” – My summary of Boto’s argument.

  3. My my when the Conservative Resurgence was raging and tearing up the SBC the FUNDAMENTALIST claimed that once all the “liberals” were removed the SBC would flourish. Such situations as the one described in this piece shows there continues to be major problems in the SBC.

    1. As much a I agree that the SBC had to split over liberal/conservative theology, it’s my understanding that the way in which the conservatives acted was quite unchristian. “The end justifies the means” sort of thing. With a movement that rewarded combative and sinful actions, it’s only natural that they have continued to this day.

      1. I do not agree over the split. The FUNDAMENTALIST took over the whole organization that they had barely supported financially and kicked out those not like them and destroyed other Christian’s lives. There have been many books written on the TAKEOVER. For me reaping and sowing is going on in the SBC.. If the SBC gets down to just two people they will fight each other over something theological.

      2. “I agree that the SBC had to split over liberal/conservative theology”
        ———————-

        and my, my, my, look at the wonderful fruits of the conservative resurgence! just when you think it can’t get more corrupt, something more happens. all of it justified as “biblical” and “conservative”, while scapegoating opponents with “liberal” flamethrowing.

        there is room for different perspectives on the liberal/conservative spectrum (except for those who siphon themselves and others off in a bunker mentality) — they are a check and balance against tyranny and groupthink that passively lets it happen.

  4. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call “tone deaf”. Yes, statistically there isn’t a proliferation of predators in the SBC. BUT one victim is one too many in God’s eyes.

    1. Well said Mark, well said. Sexual misconduct in any form should never be tolerated, or covered up, or ignored, etc. etc. One incident of this horrendous sin is one too many. I’m just trying to figure out why anyone would want to tolerate, or cover up or ignore sexual abuse. It really does go beyond my understanding. And then to stick the dagger in deeper, we malign the victims. The church has really backed itself into a corner on this issue. How will it all shakeout?

      1. “I’m just trying to figure out why anyone would want to tolerate, or cover up or ignore sexual abuse”
        —————————-

        deep-seated misogyny sanctified by misogynistic theology, and to protect their inflated salaries, golden retirement parachutes, power and legacy for themselves.

        deep personal insecurities are a part of it, too.

  5. Frannie Christensen

    Love Southern Baptist teaching but I have never been fond of the Southern Baptist convention. I can’t see how this structure is endorsed in Scripture on how to run a New Testament church. The Convention has way too much power over the local church. Church members are far away from the real decision making process . I believe in the local church. The Convention is not a local body.

    1. Christopher Burcham

      As I tried to clarify in a response to you on another thread, the Southern Baptist Convention actually has NO power at all over the local church. Each one of its nearly 50,000 churches is completely autonomous.

      1. Chris, are you saying the SBC should just ignore this issue as there is nothing “IT” can do about it? because all the churches are free to do as they wish? If you think your SBC church is autonomous call a woman Pastor. Also this idea of autonomous has often been used as an excuse to do nothing by the SBC such as in all these cases of abuse. It is way past time for change for the SBC.

  6. After reading through this article it is pretty clear to me that there is not a word in English language foul enough to describe the likes of Mr. Boto. No wonder Jesus called guys like this what he did. Although to be fair to the snakes at least they are being what they are without any pretenses. But to be one dressed up like an adorable teddy bear, that really takes that extra touch of evil.

    When you consider all of the others in the brood, the ones who made it possible for the likes of a man who coddles child molesters and refers to the victims as, essentially, “tools of Satan” well what kind of men would want this kind of character to be a VP of anything? What did Boto do to get that position? These guys pat each other on the back and say the nicest things about each other. Why can’t someone just admit that this is just another institution every bit as corrupt as the Pharisees and Sadducees? Narcissism rises to the top just like the impurities in a fine metal. At the final harvest all of these guys are going to be gone like the tares they are. What they do to the least of these they do to Jesus Himself. Jesus Himself will wipe the smug look off of their faces. It is too bad that the common man in the pew can’t tell the difference and simply cares far too little to do anything at all…

  7. Who will make a motion at the upcoming convention that this “leader” be investigated by a independent organization to determine if he has broken any laws as it relates to abuse. His approach to the sexual abuse in the SBC is beyond callous. Do something SBC leaders and that includes publicly repenting without making any excuses about the devil.

  8. Jennifer Eason

    “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”

    Joseph Conrad

    Not that I disbelieve in a supernatural source of evil but the point is well taken that humans are quite capable of inflicting evil on their fellow humans without reference to the devil. What, exactly, is the point of evangelizing if the sheep newly entered in to the fold are at risk from those who do not “enter the sheepfold by the door but climb in by another way”?

  9. Brian Patrick

    What a filthy, corrupt, vile cesspit of a denomination. It’s time to disband the SBC entirely–the real believers in it can join another or start a new church.

  10. “Earlier this year, Boto agreed not to hold any leadership positions within SBC entities as part of a settlement between a charitable foundation Boto helped direct and two SBC schools—Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary.

    The schools had sued the foundation for organizing a “secret coup” to divert gifts away from the schools and instead to the foundation.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    so, let me get this straight.

    A few days after Paige Patterson was fired for cause from SWBTS, Augie Boto et al secretly attempted to remove the Harold E. Riley Foundation’s only Beneficiaries (SWBTS / Baylor) from any governance roles while simultaneously restructuring the very nature of the Foundation, diverting millions of dollars gifts away from them.

    Despite being designated as the sole beneficiaries of the foundation, the millions of dollars were diverted away from SWBTS and Baylor to the Sandy Creek Foundation, Paige Patterson’s personal nonprofit.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/september/southwestern-baylor-sue-riley-foundation-paige-patterson.html

    https://swbts.edu/news/settlement-returns-harold-e-riley-foundation-control-to-southwestern-seminary-baylor-university/

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