“I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It's still my symbol of rebellion — against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God." Johnny Cash
In 2007, Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said critics of the convention’s policy on sexual abuse by clergy are not really advocating on behalf of children but rather are opportunists motivated by personal gain. Link.
Frank Page should be ashamed of himself. Tom Rich, TWW, Wade Burleson and others who have advocated for this initiative gain nothing personally from our crusade. We advocate for a database because we care about the victims. It is about the victims, pure and simple. One may disagree with our solution but one cannot denigrate our motives. In fact, there is much within the SBC that indicate that Page should have pointed the finger towards himself and others.
Al Mohler’s stated view on the church and child sex abuse.Link
“The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.
Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.
A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities. A clear lesson of the Penn State scandal is this: Internal reporting is simply not enough.
After law enforcement authorities have been notified, the church must conduct its own work of pastoral ministry, care, and church discipline. This is the church’s responsibility and charge. But these essential Christian ministries and responsibilities are not substitutes for the proper function of law enforcement authorities and the legal system. As Christians, we respect those authorities because we are commanded to do so.”
However, I contend that Al Mohler has flexible views on church responsibility when it comes to friends in high places.
The Amy Smith post link
On 10/25/12, TWW wrote a sad story about Amy Smith who heroically stood up to Prestonwood Baptist Church regarding their alleged complicity in covering up a pedophile scandal in their church.The reported pedophile left Prestonwood and went on to allegedly abuse more children in Mississippi. This brave woman has been “disowned” by her parents and Jack Graham and the staff at Prestonwood Baptist refuse to discuss the matter.
End of story? Nope, just the beginning of the same old, same old SBC church response to pedophiles in their midst. Let’s travel east on I-40 to the church that Jeff Langworthy went to after slip sliding out of Dallas with a wink and a nod from Prestonwood Baptist Church.
Phillip Gunn-SBTS trustee, Mississippi speaker the house says "Shhhhhhh."
On 12/11, our good friend, Tom Rich, FBC Jax Watchdog wrote Seminary Trustee, Lawyer, Tells Church Leaders to Not Speak to Police About Meetings They Had With Molester link.
As further evidence of the institutional problems within the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to reporting child abusers, we look at the latest article by Bob Allen at the Associated Baptist Press in the John Langworthy case.
Attorney Philip Gunn, who is also a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a Republican state legislator, is advising the elders of Morris Heights Baptist Church to NOT discuss with police investigators details of their internal investigation into accused child molester John Langworthy (Langworthy served there as minister of music-ed note)
Yes, you heard right. Gunn is claiming some sort of "priest-penitent" privilege that binds the church leaders to secrecy regarding THEIR discussions with Langworthy.
The church leaders/elders aren't priests. The men aren't pastors. The men are lay people who are "elders". And they may have important information that could help prosecute a child molester but they won't talk to the investigators.
How much more of this nonsense are Baptists going to have to endure? So now the church elders are "men of God" and apparently are above having to answer questions from the police and prosecutors about a molester going on trial next spring? Isn't this the entire problem – men in a church who think they are the ones to investigate molesters and who don't willingly hand over information to the police?
Bob Allen quotes Amy Smith of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who sums it up quite well:
“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May."
“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police. It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”
Al Mohler comments on Gunn link.
Philip Gunn, second vice chairman of the seminary's board of trustees, was elected speaker in early January of this year, making him the first Republican to sit as speaker of the house in Mississippi since Reconstruction.
"This is a tribute to the leadership of Speaker Gunn, and his election brings honor to the people of Mississippi and to the board of trustees of Southern Seminary," seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a letter to the trustee board.
Russell Moore also weighs in.
Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, said he's proud of Gunn as a fellow Mississippian.
"He's a humble, decisive servant-leader who knows his roots and his vision," Moore said. "I love working with him at Southern Seminary and pray for him as he leads the greatest of the 50 great states."
What does his pastor at Morrison Heights Baptist church say about him?
Yes, that’s right. Gunn is a member, and leader, in the church which he thinks he is protecting.
"The Mississippi House of Representatives has elected a true Christian statesman to its highest position," Morrison Heights senior pastor Greg Belser said. "I know of no finer man in politics anywhere. Philip Gunn is a man of unquestioned character and a deep love for Christ and the church while balancing the enormous demands of family and community service. He is the real deal.
The news media raises questions about Gunn’s defense of the church while supporting new child abuse statutes link.
“An expert is questioning a state lawmaker's legal reasoning for shielding church leaders from discussing what they know about an alleged child sex abuse case. According to Mississippi College School of Law professor matt Steffey, state law doesn't exempt ministers from reporting a crime."The law's primary concern is not to protect ministers in the performance of their duties but to protect children."
Steffey says the privilege rule Gunn cites only applies during trial, and not when prosecutors are investigating a crime. “There is a difference between saying you don't have to testify in court at the end of the day years down the road if somebody is put on trial and it's another thing to say you don't have to alert authorities that a child may be victimized or in danger," he says.
“Gunn says he supports a bill that requires someone to report suspected child abuse to authorities. But as attorney for Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Gunn denied Hinds County prosecutors' request to question church leaders about what the suspect may have told them about his alleged crimes.”
Further insights by WJTV into Gunn’s views on the church situation link
Gunn says he supports a law requiring the reporting allegations of child abuse. He claims Democrats have bilked the legislation for years.But it's ironic that Gunn is pushing for such a bill to be passed.
According to Hinds County prosecutors, Gunn would not allow spiritual leaders at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton to discuss with the District Attorney's office what former music minister John Langworthy told them about his alleged child sex abuse.
We (WJTV) asked Gunn: "Should you have done that?"
(Gunn) "What I'm telling you is that the elders are bound by privilege under the law there's a legal privilege that attaches. Are there no exceptions to that. No there are no exceptions to that, " Gunn said in an interview Tuesday. Gunn cited Mississippi rules of evidence #505 about priest-penitent privilege.
(WJTV) Don't you have a higher calling to God than to just hide behind the blanket letter of the law?
(Gunn)"The letter of the law prevents us from divulging what Mr. Langworthy may have told us. That's the law. I didn't make the law that's just the way it is."
Gunn tells us church elders didn't do anything wrong, they didn't withhold any information from prosecutors because that information was already in the public domain. The victims had already come forward and told their stories." (Ed. note: This is the old "Trust me, I'm an elder line.)
“Still, Hinds County prosecutors want to know what Langworthy allegedly told the ministers at the church and say they are prepared to get a subpoena if that’s what it takes to get them to talk.”
Amy Smith allegedly gets an odd email from Gunn link.
“Amy Smith, a victims’ advocate, worked for a year behind to scenes to make public that Langworthy was accused of sexual abuse of young males in 1989 while serving on the staff of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. She says leaders at the Texas church including future Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham took the allegations seriously enough to fire Langworthy but did not report him to the police.
Smith, who worked at Prestonwood as an intern at the time and now is Houston representative for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said one thing that bothers her most about Morrison Heights Baptist Church’s handling of Langworthy was an e-mail she received from Gunn offering to “discuss a resolution” to the case.
“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May,” Smith said Nov. 30.
“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police,” she said. “It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”
More information on Phillip Gunn’s contacts with Smith and another link.
According to an email, Gunn tried to take steps to keep abuse allegations against Langworthy silent. In May of this year, Gunn wrote in an email to abuse victims advocate Amy Smith that he wanted “to discuss a resolution” to the case.
(WJTV) What did you take that to mean?
“Seems to me like he was asking to offer me something to go away to be quiet and that was not acceptable to me, that's not protecting children and I simply said no," Smith told us in a Tuesday by phone from Dallas.
But Gunn didn't give up just because Smith refused his offer to discuss resolving the case. He also contacted Sherry LeFils, She’s a former Dallas, TX probation officer who says she spent 10 years working with thousands of sex offenders.
LeFils tells us (WJTV) she had three phone conversations with Gunn regarding Langworthy's case. She says one phone call caught her as quite odd.
"My take was what we can do to make this right, to make this go away," LeFils said.
Both women believe church leaders’ refusal to speak with prosecutors forces victims at Morrison Heights to remain silent.
Gunn allegedly refused to comment on these contacts.
Stop Baptist predator’s, Christa Brown, weighs in link.
“In front of his Morrison Heights congregation, Langworthy made a public confession about what he so euphemistically called “sexual indiscretions” with younger males. The church claims it conducted an internal investigation. Understandably, prosecutors want to know more about what Langworthy may have said to church officials.
So . . . let me be doubly-clear about this. According to reported news accounts on this, the person who is trying to keep this information secret is not the arrested minister. It’s the church itself and the church officials.
Rather than doing everything possible to cooperate with prosecutors and work for the protection of kids, Morrison Heights church officials are apparently trying to protect themselves.“
Stop Baptist Predators Addresses Al Mohler link.
You got a lot of press for all your talk about the Penn State sex abuse scandal. It was good talk. But was it just talk?
When I look at your actual deeds lately, I wind up thinking that talk is all it was. That grieves me, because it will take a lot more than talk to protect kids against clergy predators. Words aren't enough.
You’re right, of course, that churches and Christian organizations should “contact law enforcement” with any information about child sex abuse. But that’s true for everyone, and it’s been true for a long time. So the mere fact that you say it doesn’t make it some bold new initiative of Southern Baptist leadership. To the contrary, so long as there are no institutional consequences for Southern Baptist leaders who don’t contact law enforcement, your talk is toothless, and nothing in Baptist life has changed.
There you are, telling seminary employees that they should contact law enforcement with any information about child sex abuse. But what about seminary trustees, Al?
So why aren’t you calling for the resignation of seminary trustee Philip Gunn? As a church elder and an attorney, Gunn has urged that church officials should not cooperate with the police, but should instead keep secret the information they have about child sex abuse allegations against a trusted minister at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Mississippi.
SNAP spokesperson Amy Smith summed up the scenario quite succinctly: “Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police.”
But Al, here’s the thing. You should be the person insisting on accountability for Mr. Gunn. If you remain silent when your own Southern Baptist seminary trustee does exactly what you say shouldn’t be done, then all you’re doing is preaching platitudes and talking easy generalities.
Furthermore, I really gotta wonder why in the world you chose to invite Morrison Heights' senior pastor Greg Belser to speak at seminary chapel in the midst of such an egregious child sex abuse cover-up scandal? Why did you lend the seminary’s institutional credibility to Greg Belser at the very time when Belser was refusing to cooperate with prosecutors in the pursuit of child sex charges against one of Morrison Heights' former ministers?
Morrison Heights did what you’re critiquing in others. It failed to prioritize the protection of kids, and instead looked out for the institution first and foremost. Yet, rather than calling this Southern Baptist church to task for such keep-it-quiet conduct, you effectively held it up as an example.
John Langworthy’s Trial
Langworthy has been indicted and is scheduled to go to trial this November 26th
Do Christians use the letter of the law or the heart of the faith?
I have no doubt that Gunn and the Morrison Height’s Baptist Church have every right, under US law, to fight for priest/penitent privilege. I also have the right, under US law, to go drinking, get plastered and attend a male strip show at the Golden Banana, while marrying and divorcing a series of husbands so long as I do not drink and drive. Does having the right make it right?
There is a plague infecting today’s churches and that is the horror of pedophilia. If the church does not take it seriously, we will continue to be viewed as the hypocrites that we are. We cannot have it both ways. Al Mohler claims to be concerned about the children. But, he builds up those who appear to be doing their darndest to “protect” individual churches that are loyal to SBTS. Perhaps the former is true and the latter is unfair. But, that is what it appears to me and I consider myself an average person when judging appearances. If I see it that way, I can assure you that others do as well.
What do we think we are doing when we try to ‘protect” the church from possible prosecution? We show the world that we believe our God is weak. They see us acting like a garden variety Bernie Madoff, whining about our rights and behaving like a common thug. We have reduced the power of the living God to who has the better lawyer.
Let me ask the question this way. "So what if the church gets sued?"
For example, Jack Graham could confess that Prestonwood should have reported the problems with Langworthy to both the police and his subsequent churches. Must we protect the church's assets at all costs? Do we think that is more important than doing the right thing? What happens if we lose our assets? Is that what the church is about? Jesus did just fine without all the money. Do we not trust Him? Should we not do the right thing and let Him decide what should or should not happen?
Do we not think the approval of Jesus trumps hiding behind the skirts of the law? I am afraid that the answer is “no.” It is no longer “In God we trust” but “In attorneys and assets we trust.”
Our hypocrisy speaks volumes when we back slap the guys who are on our side and slam the Joe Paternos for not doing the right thing. The SBC is no different then Penn State. If you are a star, we will overlook your indiscretions because you are one of us.
Jesus rarely spent time with the “stars.” In fact, he usually called the leading men of that day “snakes’ and “white washed tombs.” He insisted that the little children come to him and warned that anyone, ANYONE, who harmed one of these little ones may as well take a swim in Crater Lake with cement boots.
- I wonder, how would he “compliment” Phillip Gunn?
- Would he hold him up as the example of pristine character as Al Mohler and others have done?
- Would he tell Gunn and the church to keep things on the down low about the Langworthy incident?
- Would he tell Gunn to call some brave women and try to get it to “go away?"
No wonder people are running from many of today’s churches. These churches mimic ho-hum secular institutions in intrigue, back slapping, pride, cover-up and greed. Until the church prioritizes the weak, let down and hurting, the exodus will continue. Shame on all those who say one thing and do another.
It’s the victims, stupid!
Preach it, Johnny
Lydia's Corner::r Leviticus 20:22-22:16 Mark 9:1-29 Psalm 43:1-5 Proverbs 10:18