Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened. -Winston Churchill
On October 25, 2012, link TWW posted the story of Amy Smith, a brave young woman, who endured rejection by her parents, in order to bring to light the story of a pedophile, John Langworthy.
Langworthy on Jan. 22 pleaded guilty to five felony child molestation charges in connection with the sexual abuse of the five Jackson-area victims decades ago. Smith, Sherry Lefils, a former Dallas County probation officer assigned to work with sex offenders, and three of Langworthy’s victims sat in the courtroom as he responded “guilty” five times to Hinds County Circuit Judge Bill Gowan.
However, Amy Smith is not done. She is now asking for Prestonwood Baptist Church to admit their alleged culpability in failing to report alleged incidents involving Langworthy that occurred at the church in the 1980s.
On Jan. 26, the women held a news conference outside Prestonwood before the night’s services began. Smith read a statement to media from the mother of the Prestonwood alleged victim who called Belser and Burchfield in February 2011.
“We ask that Prestonwood take responsibility for their coverup, and to say they are sorry,” the man’s mother said in the statement read by Smith.
However, this story will not focus on Smith but on Chris Tynes who, inspired by Amy Smith, Christa Brown and others, decided to ask a few questions of his home church, Prestonwood Baptist Church and found his world turned upside down. I plan to write more on Smith in the coming weeks.
Here is the unbelievable story. We believe that it demonstrates the sovereignty of God in raising up people who will radically risk their comfortable lives to pursue the truth! I spoke at length with Chris who told me this story in great detail. This is obviously told from his perspective and therefore readers should put the word "alleged" in front of everything from this point forward. Lawyers are reading….
I found Chris to be an engaging, intelligent and thoughtful individual who appears to be a man who seeks truth, no matter where it takes him. He would be a corker on the stand! Oh yeah, Dee got an interesting phone call from Prestonwood. More on that later.
Chris Tynes, the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, is married and the father of two children. He is a software developer who has been a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church since 1998. Prestonwood Baptist Church, in Plano (North Dallas), is one of the country's largest and most successful (at least from a monetary level) SBC churches. From Wikipedia:
Prestonwood Baptist Church, in Plano, Texas, is one of the largest megachurches in North America and one of America's 50 Most Influential Churches.The Plano campus covers an area of 140 acres and includes a 7,000-seat worship center, a school offering Pre- Kindergarten through Grade 12, a fitness center, a sports stadium, sports fields, a large cafe, a library, and two bookstores. In 2006, the church expanded to include a second "North" campus of nearly 128 acres in Prosper, Texas. In 2011 the church again expanding adding a "Dallas" campus near LBJ Freeway and Hillcrest.
Chris and his family loved Prestonwood and, until two weeks ago, were very active in various programs. He especially admired Jack Graham, the well-known and long time senior pastor. However, just a couple of weeks ago, this mild mannered, committed Christian man was about to have his world turned upside down.
February 18, 2013
Chris viewed the documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. From Wikipedia link we learn:
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a 2012 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. The film details the first known protest against clerical sex abuse in the United States by four deaf men.
Profoundly affected by the story, he wrote about it on Facebook. He remarked how moved he was by the bravery of these men who stood up to clerical abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Funny, how a sovereign God works to bring clarity and role models into our lives. Several people left comments, linking him to Amy Smith's story and to Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators which, in turn, linked him here to an Associated Baptist Press story on John Langworthy.
Chris told me that he "couldn't believe it." This was talking about his church, and he thought there must be a terrible mistake. So, using his considerable computer skills, he went to work, researching this story.
He found the above linked Clarion Ledger story. He then posted the link on Prestonwood's Facebook page and asked about it. Within short order, his comment was removed. This happened two more times. He said he got no message as to why they were deleting his comments. They were just gone!
This incident so upset him that he began to suspect something was up. He emailed the church, asking how one could be removed from the membership rolls.
On the same day, he emailed Jack Graham, asking if he knew the reason why his comments were removed from Facebook. At this point, Chris thought that maybe Graham was not aware that this sort of thing was going on inside the church. He did not receive a response.
He also contacted Christa Brown to try and understand her perspective on the situation. He continued to hope this was all just a bad misunderstanding.
February 26 (10:56 AM -This guy keeps accurate records, folks)
Chris got an email from Charles Herbert, purportedly the brand new Minister to Young Adults. They then talked. Herbert allegedly asked Chris this question:
How can Prestonwood serve you better?
He appeared to be responding to Tynes' email asking about how to leave the church. Tynes filled him in on his concerns up to this point. Charles apparently claimed not to know very much about the Langworthy incident, but he assured Chris that Jack Graham had "done the right thing" and he would look into it.
This link will take you to the staff photo page if you want to look up any of the pastors to whom we refer.
Herbert contacted Chris and gave him a copy of the child safety guidelines at the church. They look good, but Chris pressed him about the past to no avail.
Chris then emailed Neal Jeffrey, the Associate Pastor of Pastoral and Preaching Ministries, to ask for an explanation regarding an alleged victim's claim. Apparently, a person who is now an adult had come forward and made a report to the police about alleged past abuse by Langworthy at Prestonwood. Jeffrey, a former Baylor football star, had been accused by the alleged victim's mother for allegedly concealing a conversation he had with the victim link. (Bolding by editor).
As a mother of a child that was molested by John Langworthy when he was at Prestonwood in the late 80's, I want people to know the truth, The hurt our family endured during this time is indescribable First of all, we were not contacted by Prestonwood when our son went to the youth minister, Neal Jeffrey to tell him what he had been going through for months at the hands of John Langworthy.
Chris did not receive a reply. Remember, this is only one week since Chris began to find out about this information. He becomes increasingly concerned. This is not unlike the movie he had viewed just a week earlier; however, this time it is in a Baptist church, not the Catholic church.
Chris received an email from Charles Herbert stating that the Executive Pastor, Mike Buster link would like to meet with him. Chris is relieved and encouraged but that was not to last for long.
Chris calls Debbie Hatchett, Pastor Buster's administrative assistant (I could not find her listed on the church's website). She set an appointment for March 6, 10AM with Pastor Buster.
At this point, Chris told me he was still optimistic and wanted to do "due diligence" before making any further moves.
March 4- evening
Chris received a message saying his March 6 meeting with Pastor Buster was canceled and would not be rescheduled.
March 5 -The day it all changed.
10 AM: Chris called Debbie Hatchett. Pastor Buster will not speak with him according to Hatchett. He is reportedly "out of town". She then reportedly tells Chris:
He does not need to talk to you.
Chris said that he needed to talk with the pastor or any other pastor. She said it would not happen. Chris vows that he will call Buster's office every day to ask for an appointment until Buster, or any other pastor, agrees to see him.
Around noon: Chris decided to drive up to the church and wait in the pastors' parking lot until one of the pastors drove in so that he could talk with him (any him) on an informal basis outside the church. He got out of his car and sat on the hood, hoping someone might look out and invite him in to talk. There are no pastors' cars present in the parking lot. (Those SBC pastors love their lunches, don't they?)
Suddenly a van comes screeching into the lot and some people exit it and run into the church. A door in the church then opens, and three security guards approach Tynes. Chris quickly turned on his smartphone video as does one of the security guards. Here is the video, along with the transcript. Special thanks to Deb for providing us with a written transcript.
Transcript as recorded by Deb: bold by editor
Security guard: “I just don’t want to see you… I think it might be better to uh…” inaudible . . .
Texas winds are blowing . . .
Security Guard: “Let’s just do it the right way? The right way is to make an appointment . . .” inaudible
Chris: “I have done it the right way. I’ve been a member here for 14 years.”
Security Guard: “Right, but do you have an appointment today? That’s what I need to ask you.”
Chris: “I had an appointment, and he canceled it and says he doesn’t need to speak to me, but I’m the one who wants to speak to him.”
Security Guard: “Yeah, I understand. You have a right to do that, but I think we need to. . .”
Chris: “I helped build this place.”
Security Guard: “Yeah, I did too, but…”
Security Guard: “I think we need to take the right way, and it would be the proper way to do it uh if you would call and talk to Debbie Hatchett if that’s who you …”
Chris: “That’s who I’ve been talking to, and I told her, I said if he doesn’t want to call me back, I’ll wait and talk to…”
Security Guard: “Yeah, but you know that’s not a good, you know truthfully that’s not a good way to do is to confront somebody like that.”
Chris: “I can’t ask a question?”
Security Guard: “Well, I think you certainly can, but I think it needs to be in that kind of environment, so…”
Chris: “But he won’t even, but he won’t talk to me, so who do I talk to?”
Security Guard: “Well…”
Chris: “I mean, do you know what this is about?”
Security Guard: “Oh no, and it’s none of my business, but I’m just here to, you know I have responsibility for security out here and making sure that, it’s just kinda unusual to see somebody standing here.”
Chris: “But I’m a member.”
Security Guard: “I know, I understand, but you don’t have any appointment to be on campus, and you know with all the trouble that we’ve had lately with everybody and everybody’s uptight about that, so I’m just asking you to do it the proper way if you don’t mind and that would be to call and ask, just go through the proper channel even though you have and let’s see what happens this time. Is that fair?”
Chris: “And what happens if he doesn’t even respond to me?”
Security Guard: “Then call me.”
Chris: “Do you have a card?”
Security Guard: “Uh huh.”
Chris: “What’s your title?” inaudible
Security Guard: “Is that fair?”
Security Guard: “Be in touch."
Security Guard: “All right. Talk to you later…”
Later the same day
Chris receives a call form Prestonwood's "Director of Operations" who does not identify himself by name. He tells Chris:
- Do not call or contact anyone at Prestonwood.
- Do not step foot on the grounds of Prestonwood ever again or they will take action.
Chris tries to ask if this means he cannot come to church, but the above warnings are repeated. Chris is now banned from his own church with no explanation!
Charles Herbert calls Chris. Chris, assuming the call is being recorded, reiterates his questions. He asks Charles to see if Prestonwood broke the law surrounding the Langworthy case. Charles says that he "trusts the leadership." He then asked to "pray with" Chris. Chris refuses, obviously feeling rejected. He tells Herbert that he plans to talk publicly about this story and the conversation ends.
Could it get any worse? Oh, yeah!
Chris is notified Prestonwood has filed a complaint with the police: Prestonwood complaint: #2013-41341. Chris Tynes, mild-mannered software executive is accused of being:
" a suspicious person, possibly violent".
Chris then spoke for almost 30 minutes with Detective Bill Washington who he describes as "incredibly understanding & professional." Chris is planning on going to the police station get the full report. Oh yeah, he plans to respond to the police in writing and in great detail about his concerns in this matter.
One final encounter involving Dee
I felt it was only fair to get Prestonwood's side of the story. On Thursday, March 7, I called Debbie Hatchett at Pastor Buster's office. She said that I needed to speak with Josh Graham (Jack's son? – churches truly are a family business) in the Public Relations office. I left a message stating who I was. I said that Chris Tynes' story is exploding all over the internet and thought that Prestonwood might like to make a statement.
Around 5 PM my phone rang. A somewhat stern, female voice claimed to be calling from the Communications (I think- it happened fast) Department. She said I was not to attribute the story to ? (I didn't catch what she said). She then said something to the effect that:
Prestonwood would not be making a comment on the matter.
She then immediately hung up. I had no time to say:
- "Thank you."
- "Say what?"
- "Who are you?"
- "Are you winning the building war with FBC, Dallas?"
- "Wanna pray?"
Since I have been writing this blog, I have had the opportunity to speak with state attorneys, police chiefs, well-known pastors, journalists, authors, atheists, Mormons, etc. I have never received a phone call as disrespectful as the one I received from Prestonwood.
This response, when taken in context with the way Chris Tynes was treated by his formerly beloved church, leads me to a conclusion. I believe that something is very, very wrong at Prestonwood Baptist Church in regards to the Langworthy situation. Tom Rich, of FBC Watchdog, has also written a great post titled Prestonwood Baptist Doesn't Call the Cops on the Molester, But They Call the Cops on the Church Member Who Asks Questions About the Molester.
When a church cannot answer a devoted member's simple questions without reporting him to the police as a potentially violent individual, said church is in deep trouble. It makes them look suspicious. TWW will continue to follow this story closely. We extend our thoughts and prayers to Chris Tynes and his family. It is very hard to realize that your church and its leadership is not what it portrays to the world. However, Chris has joined a growing club of committed Christians who will not stand by and allow victims of child sex abuse to go unnoticed and allow those who cover up child sex abuse to continue "business as usual".
Chris, we honor your courage. Let us know how we can be of assistance. You are truly following the One who called Himself "The Truth". Shame, shame, shame on Prestonwood Baptist Church!
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 19:1-20:9 Luke 19:28-48 Psalm 88:1-18 Proverbs 13:12-14