Southern Baptist List Includes Hundreds of Cases of Abuse, Beginning In The 1960s

By Bob Smietana
prayer list abuse
Southern Baptist Convention messengers kneel in prayer during the annual meeting, June 15, 2021, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (RNS photo by Kit Doyle)

Leaders at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee released a formerly secret list Thursday of sexual abusers, which had been kept by SBC staff since 2007.

The 205-page list includes details about 700 cases of abuse by pastors, Sunday school teachers, camp counselors, music ministers, bus drivers and missionaries, with about 400 tied to SBC churches from Alaska to Alabama. In almost all of the cases, the abuse had led to arrests and jail time.

According to a description from Guidepost Solutions, the firm that uncovered the list as part of a multimillion-dollar investigation into how SBC leaders dealt with abuse, the list began as a research project for an SBC committee in 2007.

That committee was looking into the possibility of creating a database of Southern Baptist abusers, an idea proposed by Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson at the SBC’s 2007 annual meeting. At the time, the SBC was dealing with the aftermath of an ABC News report detailing abuse among Southern Baptists and other Protestants.

“My goal was to prevent guilty SBC ministers from transferring to another church or denomination to only re-offend,” Burleson wrote in a recent blog post.

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According to the Guidepost report, an unnamed Executive Committee staffer began an initial search for Baptists accused of abuse and found the names of 66 “pastors, youth ministers, and deacons of Baptist churches who had been arrested or the subject of a civil suit regarding sexual crimes with minors.”

Executive Committee staff then worked to determine whether the alleged abuser or that person’s church was part of the SBC, and tracked whether there were convictions, often by adding links to news stories.

august augie boto
Former SBC legal counsel August “Augie” Boto (Courtesy SBC Exec Cmte)

Those names were given to August “Augie” Boto, a longtime staff lawyer who spent years trying to shield the denomination from any liability for abuse, according to the Guidepost report. The database idea was rejected by the Executive Committee in 2008, largely on Boto’s advice. Even so, the unnamed staffer continued to update the list until recently.

This week, after the release of the Guidepost report, the Executive Committee publicly rejected Boto’s past treatment of abuse survivors and promised to mend its ways.

Releasing the list — the existence of which was unknown to current SBC leaders before the Guidepost report — is part of “addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention,” Executive Committee Chairman Rolland Slade and interim president/CEO Willie McLaurin said in a statement.

“Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us,” they said.

The list was compiled mostly from published reports about convicted abusers, mostly taken from news stories. SBC lawyers redacted the list to take out the names of abuse survivors and in some cases, the details of the allegations.

Here are a number of key details included in the recently revealed list:

A number of prominent SBC megachurches have dealt with abuse

The list included abuse cases at some of the largest churches in the SBC. Among the abusers on the list were a pair of former ministers at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, which is led by former SBC President and Trump adviser Jack Graham; a contract employee who organized choir pageants at Second Baptist Church in Houston, led by former SBC President Ed Young; an associate pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, led by former SBC President Steve Gaines; and a volunteer youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, led by bestselling author Rick Warren. Both Gaines and Graham have been accused of mishandling abuse allegations, something Graham has long denied.

The list also included abuse cases from Baptist churches not affiliated with the SBC, such as First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

A number of abusers worked at Baptist camps and schools or drove buses

The list included teachers and camp staff, including Michael Phillip Latham, a former camp director at the Glorieta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and director of a Baptist camp in Louisiana, who was convicted in 2012 for sending obscene photos over the internet. Sammy Allen Nuckolls, a Southern Baptist evangelist and former camp pastor convicted of video voyeurism; and Daniel Montague Acker Jr., a schoolteacher and school bus driver, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison after he ”admitted to sexually abusing 20 girls” over a 25-year period, according to the list. Acker later admitted additional abuse in 1992, while serving as a youth pastor.

The abuse ranged from 1967 to 2021

The earliest case of alleged abuse on the list involved a former Southern Baptist missionary who was accused of abusing missionary children in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but no charges were filed. Another former missionary, Mark Aderholt, was convicted in 2018 after admitting to abuse that occurred when he was a seminary student.

The list also details abuse by Dale “Dickie” Amyx, a Texas pastor who was accused of abusing a teenager in the 1970s and was convicted of giving alcohol to a minor. He was later sued in 2006, while serving as a pastor at another Texas church. The case was settled out of court with an apology and public admission of guilt.

The longest item in the list details the abuse of convicted sex offender Darrell Gilyard, who was a protégé of former SBC Presidents Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson. Gilyard was fired from several churches for alleged misconduct and was convicted in 2009 on molestation charges involving teenage girls. He later was hired by a Florida church after getting out of prison.

darrell gilyard timeline
Darrell Gilyard’s Florida Sex Offender registry. Screen grab

Some abusers on the list are still active in ministry

As part of Guidepost’s investigation, its staff discovered that nine of the people included on the list may still be in active ministry, including two who have ties to an SBC church. Those churches have been reported to the SBC’s credentials committee, which has the power to recommend those churches be expelled from the SBC.

Several SBC seminaries are included on the list

The list details that in 2008, a registered sex offender was enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and living on campus. David Sills, a former Southern professor, is also on the list. He resigned in 2018 after admitting to abusing a former student. In 2007, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee pleaded guilty to “aiding and abetting prostitution.” That same year, an SEBTS student was sentenced for 13 years in prison for abuse of a minor while another student was arrested for abuse of a 10-year-old.

Along with releasing the abuser list, SBC officials have taken a number of actions since the release of the Guidepost report. Most notably, the Executive Committee has hired Guidepost to run a confidential hotline for reporting abuse allegations. Those allegations can be reported to 202-864-5578 or [email protected].

That hotline was an interim step while the SBC considers a set of recommendations from Guidepost for future actions. The SBC’s North American Mission Board said it is working to have Guidepost investigate any allegations against its staff that are made to the hotline. 

Former SBC President Johnny Hunt, who was accused of abuse in the Guidestone report, posted a letter on Twitter Friday asking his longtime church to forgive him for a “sin” that occurred in 2010. Hunt said that in 2010, after a bout with cancer and the end of his SBC presidency, he fell into “a season of deep despair and probably clinical depression.”

“It was during that summer that I allowed myself to get too close to a compromising situation with a woman who was not my wife,” he wrote. “It happened when she invited me into her vacation condo for a conversation. Against my better judgment — I chose to go.” 

Hunt then said a “brief but improper encounter” ensued, ending when he had an “overwhelming sense of conviction” and fled. 

Johnny Hunt list
Pastor Johnny Hunt speaks at a church in Nov. 2020. (Video screen grab)

The Guidestone report described that encounter differently, saying that Hunt allegedly pinned the younger woman down, got on top of her and pulled up her shirt. Investigators found several witnesses who corroborated the allegations, saying that Hunt had admitted the assault and had gone on leave in 2010. They also spoke with a counselor who had counseled Hunt and the survivor.

“We include this sexual assault allegation in the report because our investigators found the pastor and his wife to be credible,” Guidepost wrote in its report, saying, “their report was corroborated in part by a counseling minister and three other credible witnesses; and our investigators did not find Dr. Hunt’s statements related to the sexual assault allegation to be credible.”

Hunt, who had previously denied the allegation, did so again in his letter, saying that the Guidepost report included the “absurd allegation” that the “brief, consensual encounter” in 2010 was abuse. He did claim that he apologized in 2010.

“As I did 12 years ago, and again today, I confess that I sinned. I crossed a line. I repent in brokenness and shame,” he wrote. 

“Please forgive me.”

Adelle M. Banks contributed to this report.

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.



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16 thoughts on “Southern Baptist List Includes Hundreds of Cases of Abuse, Beginning In The 1960s”

  1. Mellisa Fernandez

    As usual, you shed light on sin and expose abusers. Thank you! Let’s get past the church culture from decades past that vilified abused and coddled, protected abusers. I’m sick and tired of it.

  2. And all these years we thought the Catholics were the only ones with the problems. Go after them all. Find them and root them out. And don’t stop with the SBC. The Assemblies of God has secrets. A person I knew, now deceased, committed despicable acts. How many victims? Only God knows.

  3. The list is good, but this story is a bit odd, because none of the abuse cases are news. They’re all old cases, found in newspapers. That’s how the list was made— by someone googling news stories and seeing which churches involved were Southern Baptist ones.

    So what we have is a useful research tool, but no public exposure of any cases that weren’t already public. In fact, it may be that all these cases were legal cases, criminal or civil.

    In fact, it’s bit odd to redact some of the names, because they are probably in the cited news reports. I looked up one to check, and it was there.

  4. The list was compiled mostly from published reports about *convicted abusers,* mostly taken from news stories…. Gilyard was fired from several churches for alleged misconduct and was convicted in 2009 on molestation charges involving teenage girls.

    So let me get this straight. The list is NOT comprehensive.

    How many other abusers did the SBC identify who were never charged and convicted in court? Gilyard is only on the list because he was eventually *convicted,* even though *several* churches already knew of his abuse.

    Let’s go back to Jane Doe who was raped at The Masters College/University. She was pressured to drop her police report or she would be expelled for drinking and “almost dancing.” John MacArthur and his people pressured her- “You are going to ruin this man’s life!”

    THOSE are the abusers who should also be on this list, not just the ones who were convicted in court.

    1. Betty Phillips

      I agree. A sentence in the report: “In almost all of the cases, the abuse had led to arrests and jail time.” Those were reported cases. How many were not reported?

    2. This list is likely the tip of the iceberg. If this is just the list of the ones who were convicted, how many did they shelter from prosecution? Hundreds? Thousands?

    3. Carolynn Tsabai

      “THOSE are the abusers who should also be on this list, not just the ones who were convicted in court”

      Yes, absolutely, except that the denomination bigwigs had no way of knowing who they are. They did not WANT a way of knowing anything that wasn’t public already. That’s why the list is based on googled news articles. If there had been an internal reporting system for offenders who hadn’t hit the news, then the leaders would have an obligation to act on reports made to them. Which, it seems quite clear they weren’t interested in doing.

  5. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    Unless everyone on that list is actually guilty, and the SBC can prove it, publishing a list of sex offenders opens the door to a raft of defamation lawsuits. The Executive Committee has managed to take a very bad situation and make it just perfectly awful.

    1. Mark Gunderson

      It’s gathered from public records (I think just news stories) so publishing it involves zero liability. The difference is that an SBC church in Alabama isn’t scraping the web for stories about SBC Churches in Texas so they don’t know that Jim Bob, who is applying to be Youth Pastor, made headlines in his last job.

      You’re making the same argument the Executive Committee used all these years to keep from doing anything about it. Protect the organization and its image, but don’t protect the sheep from the wolves. If that’s how the organization operates, it doesn’t deserve any protections.

  6. Steven Simonyi-Gindele

    I am wondering what the $2 million dollar investigation actually uncovered besides the spread sheet with the published offenders. Did some victims come forward that were not in the press?

  7. Fran Christianson

    I dislike when an organization hires a firm and then claims it is an independent study. Who ever hires the firm is the client. The firm works for them. These reports are not third party independent free of bias. It misses the mark in my opinion. Any suggestions on how to make it truly free from the organization it is trying to investigate? My concern is that the client can have some influence or say you can look here but not there. Correct me if I am just nit picking.

    1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

      They could turn it over to government law enforcement. I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of it in no time.

    2. Mark Gunderson

      The report may not have been perfect, but the Executive Committee was forced to commission the ‘independent’ report by the Messengers (they overruled the EC), and was also forced to waive attorney client privilege.

      Waiving privilege is about as nuclear of an option as you can get when it comes to an independent investigation.

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