WPSD Local 6 [Paducah, KY]
June 1, 2022
By Jane Kim
A once-secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church personnel accused of sexual abuse has been released to the public by the Southern Baptist convention.
The database was released by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee following an investigation by Guidepost Solutions into allegations that the committee mishandled reports of abuse and mistreated survivors.
The list released by the committee includes a case in Murphysboro, Illinois. According to the database, a man named Russell Bryant attended Elm Street Baptist Church in 2005. The database entry says the church knew Bryant was a registered sex offender, but didn’t believe he was in violation.
Bryant was charged in 2001 with sexually assaulting a girl between the ages of 13 and 16. He later pleaded guilty to that charge. Then, in 2005, the database entry says Bryant was charged with violating a law that prohibits registered sex offenders from being in facilities with people under 18 years old.
The database is 205 pages long and includes reports in multiple churches in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, among other states.
Tuesday, Local 6 spoke with Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center Executive Director Mary Foley about the denomination’s release of the database.
Foley was sexually abused by a man who was part of her church community. That abuse was not connected with the SBC list, but Foley says it happened in a church setting.
“The egregious, atrocious, abhorrent actions that have happened in the name of God and in the name of the church and in the name of protection,” Foley says. “We have to be able first to admit that it happens in our midst.”
Local 6 also spoke with Pastor Hank Garner with Lone Oak Baptist Church.
He says the Southern Baptist Convention is made of autonomous churches. Garner says it’s important to keep churches accountable, and to care for abuse victims.
“Details in the report are incredibly sad,” Garner says. “It represents organizational failure at many different levels.”
Garner says he voted for the Southern Baptist Convention to commission the report.
The list released by the SBC mainly includes cases spanning from 2000 to 20019.