Young victim: Former pastor said sex was 'a test of faith'

Steven C. Haney

By Lawrence Buser

The Commercial Appeal

Memphis, TN

August 30, 2007

The former pastor of Walnut Grove Baptist Church convinced a young member to have a long-term sexual relationship with him by telling him at age 15 it was "God's plan," the young member, now 21, testified Wednesday.

The young man said Steven C. Haney convinced him for six years that having sex with him would enable him to do great things for God.

Haney, 47, was bound over to a grand jury Wednesday on felony charges of sexual battery by an authority figure.

"Steve had convinced me this was for God," the young man testified in General Sessions Criminal Court. "I was always trying to get out of it. He always told me to step it up. If a pastor of 20 years prays with you at the pulpit to step it up, when you're 15 or 16 years old, you believe it."

He said Haney gave him paying jobs at the church and would fire him if he refused to have sex, then rehire him when the sex resumed.

"Steve persuaded me to have sex," the young man testified. "He said it was a test of faith."

The sex occurred in the pastor's office at 8801 Walnut Grove Road, at Haney's home and at Haney's mother's home, he said.

He said Haney began sexually abusing him in 2001 and ended last December when he finally realized that what Haney had been doing was wrong.

After much soul searching and discussing the incidents with his fiance and parents, the young man said he reported Haney to police earlier this summer.

He testified that he was wired with a recording device and secretly taped a telephone conversation with Haney about the sexual activity.

He said he also met with Haney at a Sonic restaurant in a car that was wired by police for both audio and video recording.

Haney, who was arrested in July, is free on $25,000 bond. He left the church in November.

Haney did not testify in the one-hour hearing before Judge Ann Pugh.

-- Lawrence Buser: 529-2385

See also:  (1) Former Minister Arrested on Sexual Battery Charges and Former Church Member Speaks Out about Accused Pastor, WMC-TV 5 in Memphis, 7/14/07 and 7/20/07; (2) Alleged Victim Says Former Pastor Told Him Sex Was Test of Faith, EthicsDaily, 9/20/07; and (3) Federal grand jury indicts former pastor on child pornography charges, Commercial Appeal, 10/16/07.

SNAP Note: Walnut Grove Baptist Church is listed as an SBC-affiliated church. In approximately April 2008, Walnut Grove Baptist Church changed its name to Gracepoint Baptist Church.