SBC vows change as report reveals a Jacksonville Pastor has 44 accusations of sexual abuse
(For Immediate Release May 25, 2022)
During the Southern Baptist Convention executive meeting held yesterday, top leaders and several committee members said that they will release a secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated personnel accused of sexual abuse. They also vowed to work toward changing the culture of the denomination and to listen more attentively to survivors’ voices and stories. The report is expected to contain new details about former Jacksonville Pastor Darrell Gilyard. He was a minister at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville in 2007.
Accusations against Pastor Gilyard have apparently been made by at least 44 women, and ranged from grooming and groping to rape and attempted rape. The leaders who were told about these crimes may also have been complicit in at least one crime: the crime of covering up. If these leaders were mandatory reporters in Florida or elsewhere, the Attorneys General of those states should be investigating them.
What has emerged from the report is a sort of Baptist Leadership Playbook that echoes the Catholic Bishops Playbook. Deny the accusations, move the perpetrators, intimidate, shame, and blame the victims. Included in this playbook is the use of minimizing, vague terminology: a pastor calls the abuse a "sin" and refers to the moving around of known abusive pastors as “sin." These actions need to be called what they really are, they are crimes.
In our view, talk is cheap and most of the talk so far is designed to deal with the current humiliating heat for SBC's leadership. Much like the Catholic Bishop's 2002 Dallas Charter, where promises were made and then repeatedly broken, the Southern Baptist Convention says it must "be different and do different". The Catholic list of abusive clerics has nearly doubled since 2002. We expect the same with the SBC.
In addition to the publication of the Secret List, SBC's leadership should also publish a chronology of each accused's education and work history. Furthermore, it must detail when the accused was first exposed to SBC leadership. The enabling of the abuse is nearly as bad as the abuse, and when a victim comes forward and is lied to, blamed, minimized, or threatened, the survivor is retraumatized. For SBC's leadership to truly "Be Different and Do Different," it will also need to expose the vast ring of enablers who retraumatized victims, protected the abusers, and in so doing put other boys and girls, and men and women, in harm's way.
Without truth, there can be no true justice. Also, without the complete truth, the possibility of re-designing the culture of the SBC will fall flat, and the list of victims over time will grow even larger. If every pastor had 44 victims, there could be upwards of 30,000 victims just on the list of 700 we have been told about. The SBC should start publishing the number of victims and invite more survivors to come in from the cold as well.
With the names and work histories of all abusers, the SBC can map exactly how many of its 47000 parishes employed a perpetrator, and the years that abuse could have occurred in that location. That mapping should start now. While we understand victims and we know that speaking out about trauma takes time, we also surely know that SBC executives can clearly help to accelerate that process by doing all the things we suggest.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)