Monday, April 21, 2014

How to get promoted in the Southern Baptist Convention

Step 1: Cover for an admitted child sex offender.

Step 2: Refuse to speak with police and prosecutors about private meetings with said admitted child sex offender, claiming priest-penitent privilege, forcing prosecutors to issue subpoenas to obtain said information.

Step 3: Exert political influence and put pressure on the admitted sex offender to take the plea deal so you don't have to comply with the subpoena to testify at the trial about the information shared with you by said admitted child sex offender.

Step 4: Remain silent on sexual abuse.

Exhibit A: Greg Belser and Philip Gunn

What Philip Gunn Did In Child Sex Case
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 asked Gunn: Should you of done that? "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.      
Don't you have a higher calling to God than to just hide behind the blanket letter of the law? "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."
Associated Baptist Press: Church leader questioned about handling of abuse allegation
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.”
In addition to involvement in his local church, Gunn is a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was re-elected in June to a second term that expires in 2016.
Email Shows Gunn's Role in Abuse Case

Last week, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville announced that Philip Gunn was elected chairman of the board of trustees for the seminary.

The Wartburg Watch covered this announcement in detail, referencing Gunn's role in covering for convicted child sex offender, John Langworthy at Morrison Heights Baptist Church.

Speaker Philip Gunn, Child Abuse, and Irony

Last year, Morrison Heights Baptist Church pastor Greg Belser was appointed to the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Council.
The ERLC Leadership Network Council is a collection of SBC pastors and leaders who serve as an advisory council for the Network and receive intentional investment from the ERLC team. During their annual term, these council members enjoy equipping through conference calls and events while providing direction for the Network and occasional content for
Beginning today in Nashville, the ERLC is hosting a Leadership Summit.
The ERLC Leadership Summit will address the gospel and human sexuality to equip pastors and church leaders to speak to these critical issues in their own congregations. This event will be held April 21-23, 2014, at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville, TN. 
From broken marriages to pornography to homosexuality, sexual confusion and sexual brokenness has ravaged our culture and can deteriorate the integrity of our churches.
Greg Belser who protected convicted child sex offender Langworthy is a featured panelist speaking tonight on "The Gospel and Homosexuality." Noticeably absent from the entire summit is the topic of sexual abuse. Here are some of the topics covered:
• The Talk: How to Discuss Sexuality with Teens in Your Home and Church -Jimmy Scroggins
Keynote: J.D. Greear “Mending Fences: The Gospel and Pastoral Care for Sexual Sin”
Panel: The Gospel and Homosexuality
Moderator: Andrew Walker, Greg Belser, Jimmy Scroggins, J.D. Greear, Mark Regnerus
Keynote: David Prince “The Birds and the Bees: The Gospel and Your Childrens’ Sexuality”
Breakout Session
• Traffic Stop: How the Gospel Can Overcome Sex Trafficking - Tony Merida
• The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Embracing Gospel-Shaped Manhood (for men only) - Robby Gallaty
• Resisting Lips that Drip Honey: Wisdom on Sexuality from Proverbs - Jon Akin
• Biblical Womanhood: June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, or the Proverbs 31 Woman (for women only) - Trillia Newbell
Keynote: Russell D. Moore “Walking the Line: The Gospel and Moral Purity”
Panel: Ministering in a Sex-saturated Society
The topic of sexual abuse is nowhere to be found. It's See No Evil. Hear No Evil. Speak No Evil.

The Southern Baptist Convention of churches is a very dangerous place for kids today and a very wounding place for survivors of abuse.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Morrison Heights Baptist Church's sex abuse awareness conference irony

Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi is hosting a Sexual Abuse Awareness Training Conference on April 29, 2014.
Today we are partnering with the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Morrison Heights Baptist Church to provide Sexual Abuse Awareness Training for pastors, church staff and lay leaders.  Our goal is to equip church leaders with the skills and resources they need to keep children safe.
However, with just 12 days away from this conference that Morrison Heights is hosting at their church as a conference partner, there is no mention on their church website anywhere about this conference. Why?

Washington Times story on this upcoming conference: Program for all churches to avert child sex abuse
CLINTON, Miss. (AP) - A church where a former music minister admitted sexual abuse will host a program for all denominations to learn how to keep their ministries free of child molestation.
About 2 weeks ago, I addressed this omission to Morrison Heights, pastor Greg Belser, and the Baptist Children's Village on twitter where the BCV has been promoting the conference:

I received this response from the BCV:

I know a few community leaders who are planning to attend this conference that have expressed to me confusion over this omission from the Morrison Heights website, and questioning if this conference is really taking place. So I called Morrison Heights church this morning and spoke at first with a receptionist. She confirmed that the conference is still on 4/29 and mentioned that they had recently had a staff meeting about it.

Hmm, a staff meeting about an event that isn't mentioned on the church website? The receptionist kindly offered to transfer me to someone who knew more about the conference. I then spoke with Sharon Prather, Administrative Office Manager, asking why there is no mention of the abuse awareness conference on their website, where they do promote several other events taking place at their church and also promote events for organizations outside the church, such as Compassion International (a great organization which our family supports). There is also a banner in fact on the church's home page for One Cry: A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening. Sharon said, "We are looking into it."

I asked Sharon if anyone had questions about the conference could they call Morrison Heights? Sharon said, no, only the Baptist Children's Village could answer questions about the conference as they are "handling all publicity."

Greg Belser, pastor of Morrison Heights, was willing to give his pulpit to John Langworthy to confess his child sex crimes, the former MH minister, and now convicted child sex offender, on a Sunday morning in August 2011. Greg then dedicated the sermon that morning to praising and supporting John Langworthy and his wife Kathy who remains on the church music staff. Belser even took shots in his "sermon" at those of us who worked to expose the truth about Langworthy.  Belser then invited the congregation that Sunday morning to publicly surround the Langworthys, and hugging, crying and praying ensued. How painful it must have been to be a victim of Langworthy or any other offender that day.

Langworthy's confession

To this day, there has never been a moment of mention from the pulpit of the victims: no crying, no support, no praying for them. There has never been a plea from Morrison Heights for anyone else who may been harmed by Langworthy to contact the police, to seek justice, begin to heal and to protect other kids. Langworthy pleaded guilty in January 2013 to 5 counts of sex abuse of 5 boys ages 6-13 from 1980-84. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, but all of it was suspended, so he didn't spend a day in prison and was immediately allowed to return home from court the day of his conviction and sentencing. Children are safest when predators are in jail.

In a phone conversation with Greg Belser in February 2011, he told me and Sherry LeFils that he wanted to "save John." That was his priority then, and it seems to still be his priority 3 years later with no public indication otherwise. Will he speak at the conference at his church? Will he mention support for the victims? Will he urge others to come forward to the police? Whether he wants it to be addressed or not, Langworthy is the elephant in the room. 

And now with a Sexual Abuse AWARENESS Training Conference being held at his church, Greg Belser isn't even willing to give this important conference a mention on his church's website or calender of events.

This is how a real leader addresses abuse, without hesitation and unequivocally:
Show moral courage and take a stand against it.