Pastor accused of child molestation "retires"

Southmont Pastor Plans to Retire

Larry Reynolds announces he will step down at end of year

07:32 AM CST on Thursday, December 21, 2006

By Donna Fielder / Staff Writer

A Denton Baptist church pastor accused in a lawsuit of past sexual abuse of a then-14-year-old female member of his congregation has announced his retirement, writing that staying on as pastor “is not the right thing to do.”

Larry Reynolds

Dr. Larry Reynolds, 59, pastor of Southmont Baptist Church, wrote in a letter dated Tuesday that he will retire effective Dec. 31. Many members of the church, one of the largest in Denton, received the letter Wednesday.

Reynolds publicly apologized to a woman last month as part of a settlement agreement to end a lawsuit she filed alleging that he began sexually molesting her when she was 14 and under his counseling and that the abuse continued for several years. Reynolds told a group of members at a church Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 19 that 20 years ago, he made a “terrible mistake” and that his “lapse in judgment” harmed Katherine Roush of Houston, now 37.

“I confess that proper boundaries were not kept,” he said.

He asked forgiveness of her, the church and God.

Reynolds declined comment when reached by telephone Wednesday.

ALSO ONLINE

Link: Read Dr. Reynolds' letter to the church membership (.pdf)

Link: Statement from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (.pdf)

“The letter says everything I want it to say,” Reynolds said. “Don’t just pick portions of it. Print the whole thing.”

Reynolds was the subject of a front-page article in the Denton Record-Chronicle on Sunday. A members-only meeting was held Sunday night at the church, and some church members said a meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday night to discuss his employment with the church.

“I want to make clear at the very outset of this letter that this decision was mine and mine alone,” the letter stated. “Carol [Reynolds’ wife] and I feel very loved and affirmed by the Southmont family, and we know that I could continue as your pastor indefinitely. However, in the light of the events of recent days, I simply do not feel that is the right thing to do.”

Reynolds wrote that he has been pastor of the church for 28 years and that he wants to avoid a spirit of bitterness, rancor, division or strife in the fellowship.

“I know that some will interpret my leaving as a tacit admission of all the allegations made against me. It is not; but I realize I cannot help what some choose to believe,” the letter stated.

In the lawsuit filed in June, Roush also sued the church, the Denton Baptist Association, the Baptist General Conven­tion of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Catherine Herrington, Roush’s attorney, said Wednesday that neither she nor her client would comment on the resignation. Roush signed a confidentiality agreement in the settlement and was awarded a large sum of money.

“Whatever brought Dr. Reynolds to his decision, it is my sincere hope that both families [Roush’s family and the Reynoldses] will feel loved and affirmed by this body of believers and that now true healing can begin,” said Southmont member Stacy Martin.

Several other Southmont members, asked for comment on the retirement, each expressed criticism of the newspaper story but refused to be quoted.

R.B. Tanner, a Southmont deacon, and his wife, Joan, issued a written comment.

“We have known Dr. Larry Reynolds for a quarter of a century and have always known him as a man of integrity, honor and Godliness,” the Tanners wrote. “It is inconceivable that only one side of the story has been printed. Larry Reynolds chose to abide by the confidentiality provision, which the other side clearly did not.

“Larry will be greatly missed when he retires from the Southmont Baptist Church. He has been a true Pastor to his flock in every sense of the word. The only perfect person in history never opened his mouth in the face of false allegations, and was crucified.

“We are grieved that in this fallen world, injustice too often prevails, but we are confident that Larry’s Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom he loves and serves with all his heart, will be his protector and defender in the court of Heaven.”

Gary Loudermilk, executive director of the Denton Baptist Association, said Wednesday that each Baptist church is autonomous and the association has no control over individual churches.

“We will work with Southmont Baptist Church with anything they may need,” Loudermilk said.

The suit asked that the state convention make public a list of Baptist ministers who either have confessed to, been convicted of or had substantial evidence presented that they had an improper sexual relationship. The convention will respond with a “yes” or “no” to written inquiries from churches about whether a particular minister is included in the files. The files contain cases of marital infidelity as well as cases of sexual abuse of children. No details are provided.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas issued a statement, in response to a request for comment about the pastor’s retirement, stating that the association is concerned about the increasing number of incidents of clergy sexual misconduct and that the convention wants to be proactive in increasing awareness of the issue and helping churches learn how to screen potential ministers.

The list is “confidential,” not “secret,” according to the statement.

“This process in no way protects perpetrators,” according to the statement. “Information regarding those who have been convicted of sexual misconduct is published as public information via other sources.”

 

Staff writers Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe and Monty Miller Jr. contributed to this story.

 

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is dfielder@dentonrc.com .

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