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.



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