Friday, May 31, 2013

Aslan is on the move

There's strength and power in connecting with others, sharing our stories and shattering the silence. The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Selective Outrage of Southern Baptists

The SBC annual meeting is June 11-12 in Houston. The SBC pastors' conference is June 9-10, same place. Jack Graham, pastor of megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church and former, two-time SBC president, is a featured discussion panel leader on the topic of "leadership." We are planning an awareness event outside the convention to stand for those abuse survivors who don't have a voice or whose voices are being callously ignored by pastors and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Perhaps you may have a few minutes to simply come stand with us outside the convention in honor of those survivors who don’t have a voice? Details TBA...

I was interviewed by Bob Allen for a story in the Associated Baptist Press last week about a resolution proposed by a Baptist pastor for the upcoming SBC meeting and it includes my statements: 

Victims’ advocate Amy Smith, Houston representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Lumpkins’ concern applies not only to organizations with informal SBC ties, but also to “celebrity leaders” within the denomination.

Smith has been talking publicly for two years about former SBC President Jack Graham’s handling of a credibly accused sexual predator at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas in 1989. Smith, at the time a student intern at the church, claims that Prestonwood fired John Langworthy for inappropriate sexual contact with youth, but did not call the police as the law required.

Langworthy went on to serve two decades as a music minister at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss. After resigning as associate pastor of music and ministries, Langworthy confessed to the congregation on Aug. 7, 2011, of “sexual indiscretions with younger males" while serving churches in Mississippi and Texas in the 1980s.

After video of Langworthy’s confession appeared on the Internet and in TV news reports, six men went to police claiming they were sexually abused by Langworthy when he babysat for families he met through serving in Baptist churches while a student at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College between 1980 and 1984.

Langworthy pleaded guilty Jan. 22 to five felony counts of gratification of lust, but avoided prison time in a plea bargain offered in part because prosecutors feared they might lose the case on a technicality due to ambiguity in Mississippi’s statute of limitations for sex crimes.

A blog that monitors reports of sexual abuse by Baptist clergy recently posted a photo of Langworthy dining with his family at a local restaurant.

Smith says since Langworthy’s conviction in Mississippi, other alleged victims have come forward in Texas, including one who never told anyone about the abuse for 24 years. She believes that since Langworthy fled Texas to avoid arrest and never returned that he could still be charged with crimes there.

Smith said she disagreed with Lumpkins on one point -- that the damage being done to Southern Baptists’ reputation is “indirect.”

“From the numerous survivors of child sexual abuse by Baptist ministers that I have had contact with, the tarnishing is direct,” she said.

It's now been 4 months since the criminal conviction of child sex offender and former Baptist minister John Langworthy. Not a peep from Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist where Langworthy worked on staff for several years and confessed to sexually abusing boys there, one who came forward to Mississippi prosecutors. Not a peep either from prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention like Al Mohler who are very comfortable being outspoken in decrying the actions of Penn State and Sandusky. On Nov. 10, 2011, within a few days of Sandusky's arrest (and 7 months before his trial), Mohler wrote:
When the facts became known, the firings of both Paterno and Spanier were inevitable and necessary. Both men had credible knowledge that young boys were being sexually abused, and neither did anything effective to stop it. Most crucially, neither man did what they should have done within minutes of hearing the first report — contact law enforcement immediately.
Jack Graham also knew that young boys were being sexually abused, and like Paterno and Spanier, neither Jack or Neal Jeffrey "did what they should have done within minutes of hearing the first report- contact law enforcement immediately." Al Mohler, your silence speaks volumes.

Greg Belser, pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi, has also refused to decry Langworthy's child sex crimes. In fact, he and the elders embraced Langworthy with hugs and prayers for grace after Langworthy's public confession (VIDEO embedded below) from the pulpit on August 7, 2011. This public display of support for a convicted child predator is not only disgusting, it is continuing to place kids in the community of Clinton, Mississippi in danger today. Langworthy's wife Kathy remains on the music staff at Morrison Heights.

The elders of Morrison Heights Baptist Church took the time to put out a statement of their position on same-sex marriage in May of 2013. They have yet to put out any kind of statement regarding Langworthy's child sex crimes. He confessed to sexually abusing children in private meetings with these same elders 2 years ago. The only message from Morrison Heights has been one of love and support for Langworthy, a convicted and registered child sex offender. They continue to enable a predator. They have had no message of support for Langworthy's victims or called for anyone else harmed by him to contact the police.

In their same-sex marriage statement:
Why speak on this issue?
As elders of a local congregation of Christians, the spiritual care of the souls of our people is a direct charge from God. We must speak clearly and courageously when the cultural conversation would lead our people away from God and His Word.
When will they speak clearly and courageously about one of their own who raped children and led them "away from God and His Word" in the most heinous of ways?

The world is watching.


*Update: more selective outrage about the new Boy Scout policy to allow openly gay members. Still waiting for the tweets decrying the child sex crimes of ministers of their own churches, like Langworthy, and calling for the accountability of pastors like Jack Graham who break the law by failing to report child abuse to the police.

Perhaps Al Mohler is vocal about Penn State but silent on Langworthy's conviction, because his buddy Philip Gunn, one of the Morrison Heights Baptist Church elders, is a trustee at his seminary. Oh, and Gunn is Speaker of the House of Representatives in Mississippi. The good ole boys club has each other's back.

The Wartburg Watch covered the connection here- Phillip Gunn, SBTS, Al Mohler: Legal Right = Moral Right?

And FBC Jax Watchdogs covered it here- Seminary Trustee, Lawyer, Tells Church Leaders to Not Speak to Police about Meetings They Had with Molester

WJTV in Jackson covered it here- Email Shows Gunn's Role in Abuse Case

WJTV-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Jackson, MS

Embedded below are the crimes Langworthy pleaded guilty to on Jan. 22, 2013. I was in the courtroom that day and heard it. These are the child sex crimes committed against children ages 6-13 between 1980-84 just prior to his enrollment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and employment at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas, one of the largest churches in the nation with over 30,000 members, where he continued his child sex crimes and was fired for the abuse but not reported to police as required by law since 1971. Some of the crimes took place in Langworthy's dorm room at Southern Baptist affiliated Mississippi College. One of the Prestonwood victims is detailed in the state's case against Langworthy.

The good ole boys network needs a good ole fashioned kick in the butt.

Of Questions and Cowards (guest post by my husband)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prestonwood Baptist Church: perceived vs. actual threats

Lastly, he comments how he feels like Luke Skywalker circling the beast as he approaches the Death Star.
Sounds like an excerpt from a science fiction novel right? It's an actual statement from the Plano Police Department harassment complaint (embedded below) filed by Prestonwood Baptist Church executive pastor Mike Buster (see emails from Mike and Neal Jeffrey to me, embedded below) on longtime church member Chris Tynes. Prestonwood described Chris Tynes to the police as a "suspicious person" after he arrived in the church parking lot (see video) hoping to catch Mike Buster to ask Mike why he refused to meet with him regarding questions about the church's handling of  "past indiscretions by a former pastor."

Tynes had questions about the church's handling of child sex abuse allegations by former youth music minister John Langworthy who pleaded guilty in January 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi to child sex crimes there prior to his employment at Prestonwood.

Asking questions is the best place to start. Don't stop. Seek the truth. I was 20 and a youth staff intern at Prestonwood when Jack Graham fired Langworthy for sexually abusing boys, some of them my friends. I waited 22 years to speak up. I wish I had done so back then in 1989, though I was not powerful, wealthy, or an executive staff member...or an owner of a professional sports team in Dallas who come to pose for pictures with Jack Graham in his office. Langworthy was my youth music minister when I was in high school. He confessed to my dad, and to Neal and Jack. They fired him but failed to obey the child abuse mandatory reporting law in place in Texas since 1971. They have never called the police about Langworthy. 

I also know the names of 3 other Prestonwood child sex abuse perpetrators that the staff knew about but also have failed to report to police. Thus, kids are still in danger from these offenders, wherever they may be. Predators rarely have just one victim, and they never retire from offending, unless they are in jail or dead.

Prestonwood's egregious actions regarding Langworthy didn't end in 1989 when they fired him. They continue to wound victims and victims' parents to this day, as well as endanger more kids with their silence. After the first WFAA story, one victim's parents went to Prestonwood to seek a meeting with Jack Graham but he refused to meet with them. Also, another one of the Langworthy survivors, who recently came forward to the police, had never told ANYONE until a few months ago. This survivor may have had the courage to tell sooner and get help to heal had Jack and Neal Jeffrey not cowered in silence for 24 years. If one has suffered in silence alone for 24 years, are there others?

The tragic irony is so obvious, glaring in fact, that Prestonwood immediately reported the perceived threat of an executive staff member by Chris Tynes to the police, yet did not, and has never reported the acual threat, acted out, of child sex crimes by Langworthy against innocent children in the church. You can read here what he did to children, boys ages 6-13, in his Mississippi criminal case, also embedded below. These crimes were committed between 1980-84. He came to Prestonwood soon after and worked there until his firing in 1989 for sexually abusing more boys.

Chris Tynes and The Wartburg Watch: What is going on?

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Tale of Two Jacks


 A senior pastor at The Church of Corinth was allegedly recorded in about two hours of audio files attempting to persuade a female juvenile to undress, read an arrest affidavit released Thursday morning. Jeffrey Dale Williams was jailed on charges of attempted sexual performance by a child. Bond was set at $10,000.

 I'm sure there are more, perhaps many more victims. Predators rarely have only one.
Interviews guaranteeing complete confidentiality and immunity from prosecution, conducted by Emory University psychiatrist Dr. Gene Abel*, uncovered that:
· Male offenders who abused girls had an average of 52 victims each.
· Men who molested boys had an astonishing average of 150 victims each.
Only 3% of these crimes had ever been detected
We applaud this brave young girl and hope that others will have the courage to come forward to the police as well.

And yes, former Prestonwood Baptist Church minister, John Langworthy, also has many more victims from 3 decades of child sex crimes.

Thank you to WFAA and Brett Shipp for covering and exposing the story of Langworthy's confession and Prestonwood's failure to report him to the police in 1989 when they fired him for allegations of child sexual abuse of several boys in the church.

Prevent Abuse Now:
Among victims of sexual abuse, the inability to trust is pronounced, which also contributes to secrecy and non-disclosure. Children often fail to report because of the fear that disclosure will bring consequences even worse than being victimized again. The victim may fear consequences from the family, feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator, and may fear subsequent retaliatory actions from the perpetrator.

That's why it's so critical that kids and adult survivors of child sexual abuse hear that we believe them. That's why what Prestonwood continues to do by refusing to speak out and decry Langworthy's child sex crimes at Prestonwood is so damaging.

Imagine the life-changing and eternal impact for good on the souls of kids Langworthy has abused both in TX and MS, particularly the younger, more recent and current (scared) victims, if Jack Graham used the multitude of resources at his disposal to reach out to them publicly, calling for an end to the silence protecting John and calling on all harmed by him to call police, seek help and justice and protect other kids? Like Jack did when he immediately took to the pulpit to decry the criminal behavior of Joe Barron after his arrest in 2008.

Jack Graham is not taking the bold stance that earned him praise from a few years back, though.

Why did Prestonwood report Chris Tynes to the police but not child molester John Langworthy? WFAA ran a story about that report but failed to ask anyone at Prestonwood why they reported Tynes to the police but not Langworthy. That's the most relevent question that should have been asked. It's not too late to ask it, and we hope someone in the media will. The victims deserve that.

In the few months before and few weeks since the story of Tynes appeared, some brave survivors that were sexually abused by Langworthy at Prestonwood have come forward to police in the Dallas area. We hope others will as well, to heal, pursue justice and protect other kids. Langworthy is now a convicted sex offender in Mississippi, but he is not in jail. In fact, he is living large in and around Clinton and Jackson, out and about discussing "prayer" according to one eye witness, a concerned Jackson citizen.

Langworthy publicly confessed to molesting at least one child from Jack Graham’s time at Prestonwood. That survivor came forward to Mississippi prosecutors (MS court document embedded below). It's past time Jack Graham show consistency and authenticity. Joe Barron was arrested in a sting operation. Thankfully the child he thought he was meeting was an undercover police officer in Bryan, Texas. Langworthy's victims are many and they have real names...and souls.

We urge anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Langworthy to call police, get help, heal and protect other kids.

In Dallas, call 214-671-4211. This is the child exploitation unit of the Dallas Police Department which has already had one victim from Prestonwood call to report.

In Mississippi, call Josh Frazier in the Clinton Police Department at 601-925-6106 or call the main number and ask for Josh at 601-924-5252.

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

Phone call with Allen (my dad) discussing then confessed and since convicted child sex offender John Langworthy, former minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church, redacted only to protect the names of victims/possible victims. Responses by Amy Smith in bold to a few of the statements by Allen. Transcript provided by Allen, a former deacon at Prestonwood Baptist Church: