NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — How extensively did the Southern Baptist Convention know about the sexual abuse of children going on within their own walls?
A secret list that detailed church-related sexual abuse has now been released by the denomination. The 205-page document was initially compiled by a now-retired member of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, and according to the denomination, only a few members knew it existed.
After an extensive study conducted by Guidepost Solutions, the SBC has decided to release the list as the first step towards transparency.
"I didn’t know how widespread it was, and how deeply rooted it was in the top levels of our leadership and the executive committee," said Pastor Grant Gaines of Belle Air Baptist Church in Murfreesboro.
Gaines was a leading voice in the SBC calling for a thorough investigation.
"I think it was just overall, a callous disregard for survivors and victims of sexual abuse," he told NewsChannel 5 on Monday.
The SBC has now released the document, labeled highly confidential, that was a working list of different clergy, members and volunteers accused of sexual abuse. There are some names you've heard in the news before — like Christopher Crossno and Jonathan Giles. They both served, at different times, at the same church in Clarksville — Spring Creek Baptist Church.
Then there's Matthew Dennis Patterson. He was charged with eight counts of aggravated sexual battery after abusing children at Nolensville Road Baptist Church in Nashville. There are also reports out of the Fort Worth Star that he also abused children at churches in Texas prior to moving to Tennessee.
A mother spoke to us back in 2018 who asked us not to reveal her identity. She was worried her own child was one of Patterson's victims.
"I'm just hoping kids could be safe going to church," she said. "I didn't at first but when I look back at it, watching some of the behavior and movements toward certain people now it kind of makes sense."
And then there are numerous names that are redacted. According to the Southern Baptist Convention, the names were blacked out unless the individual confessed to church officials or a third party investigator, were convicted in a court of law, or had a civil judgment rendered against them.
Pastor Gaines said shedding light on this is a good first step, but now the really important work begins.
"The question now, is — now that you know what the problem is, what are you going to do about it? So I think now is the time for action," said Gaines.
The SBC will make further decisions about how they plan to address this at their annual meeting next month. In the meantime, they invite any victims or survivors to come forward.