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)