Do these constitute examples of Baptist leaders' collusion with clergy sex abuse?
Barry Baker (trustee of Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services, Illinois): While a youth worker at First Baptist Church of Fairfield, Illinois, Baker wrote to a judge to urge leniency in the sentencing of a prominent pastor who pled guilty on child sex charges. In doing so, he put blame on how girls dress by saying: “The girls come to youth meetings wearing much less than is fair for us as boys and men.” Two years after that letter, Illinois Baptists elected Baker as a trustee of their Children’s Home & Family Services.
“The world is too dangerous to live in -- not because of the people who do evil but because of the people who sit and let it happen.” -- Einstein
Murrill Boitnott (former senior pastor of Wayside Baptist Church in Miami and currently the president of Macedonian Call Ministries): Even after staff minister Keith Geren admitted to sexually abusing 10 teen boys, pastor Boitnott couldn’t bring himself to recommend that Geren be fired or even that he have no further contact with church youth. Later, it came out that Geren had also abused boys during his prior stint at First Baptist Church of Lakeland where Boitnott was also working at the time.
Augie Boto (an SBC vice-president): Rationalized and justified the Southern Baptist Convention’s inclusion of criminally convicted sex offenders on the Southern Baptist registry of ministers. Though Boto himself acknowledges that abusive ministers have been able to church-hop and that most sex offenders have no criminal record, he nevertheless insists that the Southern Baptist Convention cannot keep denominational records on credibly-accused clergy child molesters. Boto was identified by the SBC’s president as the de-facto “man in charge of the subcommittee” that was supposed to study Baptist clergy sex abuse but effectively did nothing.
Keith Brickell (senior pastor of Sylvan Hill First Baptist Church in Sherwood, Arkansas): Despite complaints about the principal of the church's school, and even though those complaints alleged "inappropriate behavior" with female students, Brickell did not take action or go to the police. An investigation was initiated only when an anonymous caller contacted the police. The police then contacted Brickell, not vice-versa.
Morris Chapman (former president of the SBC Executive Committee): Despite the vote of 8600 Southern Baptist “messengers,” directing the Executive Committee to conduct a study on Baptist clergy sex abuse, Chapman never even took it seriously enough to set aside a budget for the study. The Nashville Scene provided this summary of the Executive Committee’s response to abuse victims’ calls for help: “Abuse is sad. But because of that pesky matter of church autonomy, we can’t remove predatory pastors from the pulpit. Please stop calling and emailing about your suffering. Our hands are tied, but we hear prayer heals all wounds. God bless.” Think that sounds ludicrous? That’s the point. And the fact that Chapman himself may have preached it with more pious-sounding words doesn't make it any less ludicrous. (Read more about the Executive Committee's report in EthicsDaily and the Nashville Scene.)
James Crittenden (former staff minister at Southmont Baptist Church in Denton, TX): When the church’s senior pastor was sued on allegations of sexually abusing a 14-year-old, and after the pastor made an apology, Crittenden tried to hush it up (while leaving the pastor in the pulpit) by asking the newspaper not to run the story and telling them it would be destructive to “the cause of Christ.”
Wm. Jan Daehnert (former director at Baptist General Convention of Texas): For years, Daehnert was head of the BGCT office that keeps a file of ministers reported by churches for sexual abuse, “including child molestation.” Daehnert publicly justified the secrecy of the file, and the failure of the BGCT to warn people in the pews, by saying “the list is given to us in confidence by congregations that have had ministers confess or where substantial evidence has been uncovered.”
Vern Daugherty (pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Crossville, TN): At the sentencing hearing for a fellow pastor who admitted guilt on a child sex charge, pastor Daugherty publicly attacked and trashed the 14-year-old victim.
Doug Devore (executive director of Baptist Children’s Home services for the Illinois Baptist State Association): On Illinois Baptist Children’s Home letterhead, he wrote to a judge to urge that no prison time be imposed for a Southern Baptist minister convicted of felony sexual assault of a teen girl.
Timothy Dillmuth (pastor of SBC-affiliated Valley Christian Church in New Hampshire): Pastor Dillmuth and 2 deacons of the church, Richard Eland and Robert Gagnon, were found guilty of failing to report child sex abuse. It was "deliberately attempted" to keep it within the church, wrote the judge. The prosecutor described it as "a conspiracy" that was "not only unlawful, but shameful."
Randy S. Duckett (senior pastor, Second Baptist Church of Odessa, TX): Allowed youth minister indicted on child sex charges to remain in ministry within the church and didn’t even place him on administrative leave. “We have been aware of the situation from the beginning,” said pastor Duckett.
Wendell Estep (former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and senior pastor of FBC-Columbia): Allowed a man into a position of trust as a deacon and youth leader despite his prior child molestation conviction. Then, despite written and verbal complaints from parents about the deacon’s “unnatural interest” and “inappropriate touching” of kids, pastor Estep and other church officials did not remove the man from his position of trust until after he was finally arrested -- reportedly at least 4 years after the first complaints to church officials. Then Estep had the audacity to boast that he was proud of how his church had handled the situation.
Kevin Ezell (president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board): "Refuse to testify and fail to warn your church's members about a sexual predator in their midst." According to BaptistPlanet, that was Ezell's reaction when he learned that a church volunteer, who had also taught at a school operated by his church, was accused of sex crimes. As reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal: “Ezell said he did not expect the church would announce Maggard’s arrest to the congregation." Read more on "Ezell's failed leadership on sexual abuse."
Marion “Bud” Fray (a former area director for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission Board): After a missionary kid told her dormitory housemother about her father’s abuse, a report was made to Fray, who confronted the missionary/preacher/father. The man admitted “to a little fondling” but said “it happened a long time ago.” So Fray did nothing and the man went on to abuse more kids.
Brian Fuller (pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, NH): As police were seeking to investigate allegations that a church deacon sexually assaulted a 15-year-old and that the girl was made to apologize before the church when she became pregnant, pastor Fuller reportedly sent an email to congregants "advising parishioners to remain silent." The Associated Press obtained a copy of Fuller's email in which he said "I love you tenderly and am confident you will only talk of these matters to our Lord in prayer." (rev. 7/10)
Steve Gaines (senior pastor of the flagship Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN): He knowingly kept quiet about an admitted child molester on his ministerial staff. He even allowed the child-molesting-minister to serve as a counselor for congregants who said they had been molested in childhood. So, a known child-molesting-minister was able to sit in a church office and feed off asking molested individuals for details about exactly what happened.
Mitch Gavin (former chair of the SBC Executive Committee’s sub-committee that was purportedly designated for addressing clergy sex abuse): A Southern Baptist clergy abuse survivor wrote to Gavin about the sexual abuse inflicted on him as an adolescent boy, named the Louisiana minister he was accusing, told of another known victim, and said he had previously contacted the SBC only to be rebuffed. This time was no better. Gavin directed him to Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (email correspondence of July 18, 2007)
Jack Graham (senior pastor of Dallas megachurch, Prestonwood Baptist, and former 2-term Southern Baptist Convention president): Despite allegations involving the sexual abuse of boys, Prestonwood's former music minister John Langworthy was able to move on to a church in Mississippi. "There are questions about whether Prestonwood church leaders tried to keep the incident under wraps" and "questions of cover-up." And what exactly did Graham mean when, in 2008, he claimed that, in 40 years of ministry, he "never had one moral problem with a staff member"? Does he not think that a minister's sexual abuse of a kid is a "moral problem." Or was it of so little consequence that Graham just forgot about it? More on this story on the New BBC Open Forum.
Rick Grant (pastor of First Baptist Church of Benton, Arkansas): Even after a child-molesting music minister “didn’t deny” allegations of child sex abuse, and even after he provided Grant with a list of 12 boys with whom he had “inappropriate contact,” Grant sat back. He accepted the perpetrator’s explanation that “the dalliances with boys” were confined to “an isolated period in the past.” Not until he learned of a 13th victim did Grant finally decide that he had “no recourse” but to fire the minister, and he minimized it to the congregation as being due to “moral failures.” When a case arose that was still within the statute of limitations, it became known that 3 adult men had told Grant about the minister’s abuse of them as teens. Finally, it came to light that the minister had been able “to sexually victimize scores of boys at the First Baptist Church of Benton over the past 20 years or more.”
Will Hall (SBC public spokesperson and an SBC vice-president): Wrongly said that, for Baptists, there had been a “low number” of clergy sex abuse cases and suggested there had been only “40 incidents in 15 years.” EthicsDaily called on him to issue a correction, but of course, that never happened.
Bryan Herrington (senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Port St. Lucie, FL): After the church’s youth minister pled “no contest” to child abuse (and after he was originally charged with sexual battery), and even though the charges involved a girl he was counseling at the church, pastor Herrington testified on the minister’s behalf and said he was “an exemplary church employee.”
Anthony Jordan (executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma): Kept a letter in a file cabinet in which a Southern Baptist pastor admitted to sexual abuse of a young boy. (He also kept a second letter in which the pastor purported to retract his admission.) Meanwhile, the man continued to pastor an independent church, and then he even got a part-time job driving a school bus. At that point, the earlier victim pleaded with Jordan to do something, telling him “You have the evidence – use it!” Finally, after over a year of effort, the victim was able to obtain a copy of the letters, which the victim himself then delivered to the school superintendent.
Del Kirkpatrick (deacon of First Baptist Church of Romeoville, Illinois): Was one of the deacons who hired a convicted child molester as pastor. Kirkpatrick justified the decision by saying, “In our church, we believe in forgiveness.”
Greg Kirksey (former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and a current pastor of the Church at Rock Creek in Little Rock): Wrote a letter to the judge, asking for leniency and urging no prison time, for a minister who was convicted on child sex crimes and whom authorities said had been abusing boys in the church for at least two decades.
Richard Land (president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission): Wagged his finger at Catholics and bragged that Southern Baptists had only a couple of high-profile child-sex-abuse scandals...in the late '80s, and that they had focused on the problem after that." Of course, there had already been way more than "a couple" cases when Land said this, and by now, there have been many, many more. Yet, Land seems utterly blind to the extent of clergy sex abuse within Southern Baptist ranks. And what has he actually done to implement effective action for routing out Baptist clergy predators?
|"There are just too many guys who have covered up too much, even if they aren't perpetrators themselves, and they are running around scared of being exposed." -- Dee Miller
Dwayne Mercer (former president of Florida Baptist Convention and senior pastor of FBC-Oviedo): Told the press there had been “no complaints” about minister Tommy Gilmore when he was at First Baptist of Oviedo, but this was directly contradicted by a church secretary who told the press about her own complaint concerning Gilmore. Reportedly, Mercer also kept quiet about an abuse complaint involving another minister at FBC-Oviedo and essentially put the woman who reported it on trial and told her not to repeat the accusation.
“Messengers” to the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention: Applauded when Executive Committee president Morris Chapman announced that the Southern Baptist Convention would NOT create a denominational database “to help churches identify predators or establish an office to field abuse claims.” Why didn’t these denominational delegates hold their leaders’ feet to the fire and insist on action? Despite the fact that there was never even a budget for the study that the 2007 messengers voted for, the 2008 messengers passively accepted their leaders’ do-nothingness and never even asked “Where’s the study?”
Tom Messer (pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL): According to news reports and a “smoking-gun” tape-recording, pastor Tom Messer “knew for years” that the church’s founding pastor was a pedophile and participated in covering it up.
James A. Moore (music minister at First Baptist Church of Farmer Branch, TX): Knew about another minister’s sexual abuse of a church kid -- knew about it because both the perpetrator and the kid talked about it to him -- and yet he kept it quiet. Moore told the kid it would be better if she didn’t talk about it to anyone else. And he allowed the perpetrator to move on to work in children’s ministry in other churches. Years later, when the victim tried to get his help to track down the perpetrator and protect others, Moore refused and said that the conduct was “consensual.”
Frank Page (former SBC president, former vice-president of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, and current president of the SBC's Executive Committee): In his official role as SBC president, he publicly castigated clergy abuse survivors who speak out as being “nothing more than opportunistic persons.” And he never apologized. With such caustic rhetoric at the highest level, Page helped to foster a denominational climate of hostility and victim-blaming toward clergy abuse survivors. In fact, Page was promoted to the denomination's top position as president of the executive committee after making those hateful remarks. Many thousands of Southern Baptist pastors failed to hold Page accountable, turned a deaf ear to such hateful rhetoric, and acted as though it were no big deal for a high religious leader to castigate the victims of clergy sex crimes. Also, Page has repeatedly minimized the problem of Baptist clergy sex abuse by referring to it only as “several reported cases of abuse.” And he gave no response to the letter of a father whose two sons were sexually abused by a Southern Baptist minister.
Paige Patterson (former SBC president and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary): Denounced the clergy abuse survivors' support group as "evil-doers.” Patterson himself turned a deaf ear to numerous reports of sexual abuse involving pastor Darrell Gilyard, including reports brought by students who were under Patterson’s charge while he was president of a Baptist college. Gilyard went on to accumulate many more abuse allegations, and he was ultimately convicted on child sex charges in Florida.
|“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
Suzii Paynter (director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas): This is one of the few women with a public voice in Baptist life, but she didn’t choose to use her voice to prod real denominational action on effectively addressing clergy sex abuse. Instead, she publicly parroted the same old senseless Baptist excuse for do-nothingness: “Because there are no bishops.” She said it like a loyal foot-soldier for Baptist power-brokers.
Ed Pettibone (retired Baptist pastor): Over the course of several years, he repeatedly posted mean-spirited, victim-blaming comments on a Baptist blog whenever the clergy sex abuse topic was raised. For example, in discussion of a case involving a convicted 49-year-old pastor’s sexual abuse of a 15-year-old church girl, Pettibone suggested that the parents needed lessons in retaking control of their teen and then used the “two to tango” line. (Update 10/10: I have been informed that Ed Pettibone is not a "retired" Baptist pastor but rather a former Baptist minister.)
Ron Phillips (former chairman of directors for SBC’s Home Mission Board and pastor of Central Baptist Church of Hixson, TN): According to allegations in a civil lawsuit, he failed to investigate complaints concerning the conduct of the church’s music and youth minister, who was eventually convicted on multiple counts of child sex crimes.
Emily Prevost (associate director of the Center for Effective Leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas): A clergy abuse survivor wrote to the Baptist General Convention of Texas saying that she was raped by a Texas Baptist minister when she was an adolescent girl, that the man was still a minister, and that she was hurt by the fact that no one helped her the first time she contacted the BGCT. Emily Prevost wrote back saying that the BGCT didn’t receive clergy abuse reports from victims and telling her that she should take her information to the church. (email correspondence of June 7, 2007) It’s the typical Baptist leader response, and it’s flat-out cruel. It’s like telling bloody sheep to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them.
Mike Roy (former pastor of First Baptist Church of Greenwood, MO): Allowed a staff minister to continue working with kids for four months after police notified him that the minister was under investigation for child sex abuse. Authorities believe the minister was able to abuse at least 2 more boys during that time. In what was later described as “Missouri’s biggest clergy sex abuse” case, the minister whom Roy shielded was ultimately convicted of molesting numerous Missouri church boys, and he was also convicted of molesting children at 3 Kentucky Baptist churches where he worked previously.
Charles Stanley (former SBC president and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta): Representatives of his church ran SNAP members off the premises and called the police on them when they tried to leaflet church members with information about their prior children’s minister who was known to have a substantiated report of sexually abusing a kid in Texas. Stanley didn’t respond to SNAP’s letter informing him of the rude treatment and asking to speak.
Wayne Stockstill (former 2-term president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of FBC-Hesperia): Rationalized his do-nothingness by saying he “erred on the side of grace” when he kept quiet about a deacon’s molestation of children in his church. Police believe there were more victims.
Jim Townsley (senior pastor of Central Baptist Church in Southington, CT): When a girl told Townsley about having been sexually abused by another minister in the church, Townsley confronted the minister, who “admitted to inappropriate behavior,” “denied having done anything more than kissing and fondling,” and suggested that the fault was with the girl. Townsley didn’t report it to police, and allowed the man to resign and move to Tennessee. A couple years later, after an anonymous phone call, Townsley was caught and convicted of sexual assault. Townsley then described the church’s secretive manner of dealing with it as “biblical.”
Sam Underwood (pastor FBC-Farmers Branch, TX): Shepherded his church to threaten suit against a person reporting a prior minister for child molestation, even though another staff minister had already substantiated the abuse report.
Jerry Vines (former SBC president and former senior pastor of FBC-Jacksonville, FL): “Agreed to forgive” pastor Darrell Gilyard for his “out-of-state troubles” and helped give Gilyard credibility in Florida. Gilyard had over 40 complaints of sexual abuse in Texas, and eventually he was convicted on child sex crimes in Florida. Vines also sang the praises of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, even while numerous reports of child sex abuse and cover-ups were being reported . . . and without even so much as mentioning any concern for the scandal.
Bobby Welch (former SBC president, former longtime pastor of FBC-Daytona Beach, FL, and current SBC strategist for global evangelical relations): While SBC president, he received a substantiated report about a minister’s sexual abuse of a kid, and responded through the SBC’s attorney to say that the SBC had no record the man was still in ministry. As it turned out, the man was indeed still in ministry, had been in very prominent churches, and was at a Florida church not far from Welch’s own church.
Stephen Wilson (SBC Executive Committee member and vice-president of academic affairs at Mid-Continent University): Chaired the Southern Baptist Convention’s do-nothing subcommittee that 8600 delegates directed to study Baptist clergy sex abuse but that, in actuality, never even had a budget for any study.
Click here for examples of institutional conduct that may constitute collusion.
What message do Baptist leaders send to clergy abuse victims by this conduct?
Answer: "What happened to you doesn't matter. Go away. Shut up."
What message do Baptist leaders send to clergy perpetrators by this conduct?
Answer: "You're safe with us. We'll cover for you."
"The motivation of those in power...was to protect an institution...to further secure the power of individual men....
No reputation, and no power, that is built on lies and on
the cover-up of serious crimes, is worth protecting."
- Prof. Marci Hamilton
Published April 2010