Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it. –Mark Twain
Pillars of Creation-Hubble Telescope
Today, an SGM pastor posted an apology of sorts over at SGM Survivors here.
But, I have had enough of the SGM saga for today and will proceed with my planned post. Deb plans to do a post about Mark Dever and CJ Mahaney on Monday. That should provide enough fodder for a maelstrom.
Although we find the SGM story compelling, we want to emphasize that we are not an SGM, SBC, or any other group watch blog. We just follow trends in the panoply of the post-evangelical thicket.
Also, we have been alerted to a number of sexual abuse issues over at the Calvary Chapel nondenominational denomination. (Same sort of nonsense as SGM). The stories were so disconcerting that we have postponed trying to place them within this post and will plan a series within the month. Calvary Chapel appears to be very similar to the SGM organization and should provide our readers with a sad sense of déjà vu.
However, for those of you who have followed us for a while, you know that our blog has one major hot button issue: sexual abuse and the church. Jesus gave a stern warning about those who would allow a little child to come to harm. An abyss and concrete boots figure prominently. Yet many of today's churches seem to overlook this warning with vigor.
TWW believes that this is the single most neglected issue in many of today’s churches. If ever there was an issue that shouts “SHAME,” this is it. Yet the SBC appears to think that another issue demands an all out assault. Something that is so heinous that it demands a 2-week response time. What could be more important than molested children? Quite simply, now get ready, take a deep breath…it is the presence of women in the pulpit.
Recently, in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the town that inspired Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, the following incident, reported by Associated Baptist News, occurred. LINK
“Surry Baptist Association in North Carolina expelled Flat Rock Baptist Church in Mount Airy from membership July 26, two weeks after their new female pastor started at the church.
The association of 65 churches reportedly voted “overwhelmingly” at a regularly scheduled meeting to disfellowship the church for calling Bailey Edwards Nelson as pastor. Messengers viewed the church’s action as violating scriptural guidelines that they believe reserve the role of pastor to males."
Now, there are many issues that could be discussed regarding this incident. However, I want to focus on this one aspect. This church was thrown out TWO WEEKS after calling a female pastor. A major crisis is averted and North Carolina Baptists have been rescued from such sinners.
One would think that an even harsher approach would be applied to a church that hides a pedophile. However, I cannot find one instance in which any SBC church was disfellowshipped over the mishandling of a pedophile incident. Not one! Stroll on over to Christa Brown’s blog, Stop Baptist Predators here and see the many documented stories of churches and pastors who have mishandled the reporting of pedophiles. See how many of these incidents led to further abuse of many children over many years.
And how does the mighty SBC address this? They have refused to set up a sexual predator database and instead choose to focus on the clear and present danger of women in the pulpit.
Here is a recent incident, which involves Jack Graham (former president of the SBC) and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano (Dallas) Texas. This is one of the largest SBC churches in the country and one that is near to my heart because I had many friends who attended that church and I visited there on a number of occasions. My daughter had the distinct honor of having Jack Graham, and the inimitable William F Buckley Jr. sing “Happy Birthday” to her. I have always thought fondly of Graham and that is why I was so saddened by this story.
I want to praise New BBC Open Forum here and FBC Jax Watchdog here as well as Wade Burleson here (who has opened comments up for this story showing his deep concern) for bringing this matter to light. It is my belief that bloggers are having a significant impact in today’s church. One only need to follow the Sovereign Grace Ministries story or the Ergun Caner debacle for proof. I want to thank all three of these bloggers, who have put up with incredible grief and criticism, to bring the truth to light in these matters. Thank you also to Arce, a TWW commenter, who sent this story to me.
On August 8, 2011, WFAA investigative reporter, Brett Shipp, posted the following story here.
“John Langworthy, a former youth music minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, admitted to molesting at least one of his young students in the late 1980s.
While he was immediately fired, there are questions about whether Prestonwood church leaders tried to keep the incident under wraps. He went on to become the youth music minister at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi.”
But, several students told Amy Smith, a young, former Prestonwood staff member, that they had been molested by Langworthy. These incidents occurred at Prestonwood and at least one occurred in Mississippi. Smith tried to warn people about this predator and found help on New BBC Open Forum here.
This compassionate and concerned blogger immediately posted the story. Current Morrison Heights church members discovered, through this blog, that they had a monster in their midst. Cue standing ovation for New BBC Open Forum and Amy Smith.
The story picks up with FBC Watchdog Link
“Their (Morrison Heights) church leadership began an investigation, and then Brett Shipp (investigative reporter mentioned above) became involved. Brett covered the story because of the connection of Langworthy to Prestonwood, and their apparent failure to report Langworthy's crimes to the police back in 1989.”
Bob Allen, at Associated Baptist Press, gives some additional and shameful information here.
“Jack Graham accepted the praise of the Dallas media and the SBC when he did act decisively in another incident in 2008.”
“Joe Barron, minister to adults at the then multi-campus Prestonwood with its main facility in Plano, Texas, was charged with solicitation of a minor — a Dallas Morning News editorial praised Pastor Jack Graham’s up-front handling of the matter as the “right way to react to a scandal.”
“Did he defend the disgraced minister?” the editorial said. “Did he speak of all the good things the perpetrator had done in his ministry? Did he call for forgiveness? Did he say that the pastor was going off for counseling and would be back in ministry soon, a ‘wounded healer?’ Did he blame pop culture for the minister’s fall, or lash out the news media?”
Enter "the ever quick to grab media face time" SBC Executive Committee. “Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, cited the editorial in his report to convention messengers that year.
“We must join Dr. Graham in confronting this horrible crime, exposing it for what it is, and doing everything within our power to protect the children under the care of the ministries of our churches.””
Here are some observations:
Jack Graham appears to have lied about his history with Langworthy.
According to ABP, “In 2008 Graham, a former SBC president, said in 40 years of ministry “never have I had one moral problem with a staff member, until now.” But Smith says Graham, who began his ministry at Prestonwood in 1989, was head pastor when Langworthy was asked to leave. She says Langworthy admitted guilt and begged to stay on through the summer for a youth choir trip but was told to leave town immediately or he would be reported.”
“Smith, however, cites correspondence with a former Prestonwood member who remembers not being told about why Langworthy left but learning details from second-hand sources over the course of weeks. Smith says Langworthy, who was at Prestonwood about four or five years, was a close friend to her family and for a time even lived in their home. She thought of him as a brother or uncle and was in his wedding. “
Jack Graham believes that the Devil's behind those questioning his actions!
He tweeted the following two statements according to FBC Jax here.
- “Over the years when criticized or accused I Have tried to live by this axiom- No attack No defense Let God fight your battles”
- “When you are falsely accused trust God and remember that Satan is the source of lies”
Smith, seeking to protect minors from further molestation, contacted pastors at both churches and the Associated Baptist press to no avail.
From ABP we read “She contacted leaders of both churches and the superintendent of public schools. She approached media outlets including Associated Baptist Press but was told that since she was an advocate and not a victim that unless there was a lawsuit or arrest they couldn’t do a story.”
Frankly, all of those contacted should hang their heads in shame. Their lack of response may have caused more pain and suffering for children.
It does appear that Prestonwood Baptist Church and Jack Graham may have violated the law.
From the Brett Shipp article we learn that “two of the alleged victims from Prestonwood said church officials conducted an internal investigation to determine the extent of the abuse. What Prestonwood did, from my knowledge, is find victims in the church on their own and begin to speak with them," Smith said. "That is the job of law enforcement."
"The State Family Code on the books at the time required professionals — including clergy — to report suspected child abuse to authorities. Failure to comply with state law on reporting child sexual abuse is a misdemeanor offense, but may not come into play in this case since the alleged abuse took place more than 20 years ago”.
Prestonwood Baptist Church and Jack Graham appear to be morally responsible for putting children in Mississippi in extreme danger (but not, we hasten to add, as much danger as a woman in the pulpit, of course).
From the Shipp article-“Smith says not only weren't police notified, but Langworthy then headed to Clinton, Mississippi, where he led youth choirs at a church and a public school.”
Jack Graham is refusing to answer questions about the situation.
Shipp continues “Dr. Jack Graham, who had just been named Prestonwood’s pastor at the time the abuse was discovered, declined comment."
Prestonwood offered a lame statement to the public.
According to Shipp “Executive Pastor Mike Buster gave offered this statement:
"In the summer of 1989, the church received an allegation that John Langworthy had acted inappropriately with a teenage student. Based on this allegation, he was dismissed immediately, removing him from all responsibilities with the church. In no way did officials of the church seek to cover up the actions of Mr. Langworthy or silence his accuser. The elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly."
Without the help of courageous blogger, New BBC Open Forum, and Amy Smith, none of this would have come to light.
As Shipp concludes: “What's clear to Amy Smith is that none of this would have been made public had she not worked so diligently on behalf of the victims.”
Here is a major problem. The SBC refuses to set up a sexual predator database.
Wade Burleson has posted his position here on establishing a sexual predator database in the SBC. He reviews this incident and has opened his blog to comments in this instance.
“Leadership at Prestonwood, for reasons not yet clear, chose not report to report John Langworthy's sexual crimes to law enforcement. Worse, leadership at Prestonwood did not publicly reveal to church members why John Langworthy was being released from staff. As a result, another Southern Baptist Church, Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi eventually hired John Langworthy as their worship pastor and immediately put their entire church into a minefield of another's making.
Everything about this is painful.
But it all could have been stopped had forced reporting been instituted in the SBC, had a SBC sexual abuse data base been in existence, and had Morrison Heights made one phone call to the SBC headquarters in Nashville and asked the question of the date base employee, "Has John Langworthy ever been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse?"
However, I think that, if the SBC really cared about this issue, within two weeks of Prestonwood’s admission that they did not report this incident to the police, a vote should have been be taken to disfellowship Prestonwood from the North Texas Baptist Association.
But, such an action will never take place. Why? The answer is quite simple. It is far more dangerous to have a woman in the pulpit than to have pedophiles raping children. The impeccable priorities of the SBC are quite clear and the watching world sees it for what it is. Time Magazine called the SBC’s neglect of this issue one of the underreported stories of 2008. Link
Oh, and in case one is tempted to educate me that it was a local association that disfellowshipped the Mount Airy church, I have one thing to say. Why hasn’t any association disfellowshipped a church that has not reported a pedophile a la Prestonwood ? This sort of weaseling is unbecoming. The SBC is doing nothing different than the Roman Catholic Church did with their cover-up of their pedophile priest scandal. SHAME ON THE SBC. (Yep, I’m shouting, blog style).
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 15:25-17:24 Acts 10:24-48 Psalm 134:1-3 Proverbs 17:9-11