Thursday, May 1, 2014

Morrison Heights Baptist Church Attempts to Whitewash Abysmal Conduct in Clergy Sex Abuse Case

Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, MS hosted a sex abuse awareness training on Tuesday. I planned to attend but wasn't able to make it. Thanks to our Jackson SNAP leader, Mark Belenchia, for attending and providing some feedback.

Mark was impressed by the presentation of Ministry Safe founder and director, Greg Love. According to the bio on his website, Mr. Love litigates sexual abuse cases across the country, and consults with entities regarding the design and implementation of sexual abuse safety systems. Mark highlighted the section of Love's presentation on the "train wrecks" of gross mishandling of child sex abuse allegations within churches. Is Mr. Love aware of the train wreck in the building he was speaking in at Morrison Heights Baptist Church? 

Throughout the entire conference John Langworthy's name was never mentioned, not even by Morrison Heights pastor Greg Belser. If he refuses to acknowledge and address the train wreck of the past, how can we expect him to behave differently in the future? Morrison Heights cannot whitewash its abysmal conduct in the Langworthy scandal by simply hosting an awareness training.

In early March, I found the link to the abuse conference at the Baptist Children's Village website. I was excited to see them partnering with Morrison Heights to host such an important event. I immediately tweeted the link to promote this conference. Later that day, I received a call from someone affiliated with the conference who had received a call from Celeste Cade in the public relations office at the Baptist Children's Village. I'm told that Celeste is a long time member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church. Apparently, Celeste and Morrison Heights were bothered by my promotion of this abuse awareness event, not wanting any connection made whatsoever to the train wreck of the Morrison Heights/Langworthy child sex crimes debaucle.


Last Sunday morning, SNAP sent a letter to Morrison Heights pastors and elders on the eve of the "sexual abuse awareness training,” urging them to take a hard look at their own failures in connection with their own clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandal. Here is a portion of that letter:

Before you engage in any training, we urge you to take a hard look at your own church’s failures in connection with a clergy sex abuse scandal.
While we applaud efforts to raise awareness about child sex abuse, we also know from experience that awareness programs are never enough. Talk about proactive prevention is nice, but such talk rings hollow unless it is combined with responsible action, transparency and accountability.
We know how your church leaders failed when accusations first arose against former music minister and convicted child sex offender John Langworthy. But there are still many unanswered questions about continued secrecy, mishandling of abuse reports, your failure protect kids, and your refusal to turn over important evidence to prosecutors.
...
Morrison Heights has failed its children for decades. We are asking you to honestly acknowledge that failure and to do something about it. Until then, we cannot be assured that the crimes of the past are not continuing and thriving within your church's walls.

Someone mentioned to me that one impression of this Morrison Heights abuse conference by someone in the Clinton community is that it is an attempt to begin the process of restoring convicted child sex offender John Langworthy. The just redemption would be for John Langworthy to go to prison for a very long time for his crimes to keep kids safe from him. Kids are safest when predators are in jail. My impression is that this conference is an attempt to whitewash the train wreck Morrison Heights refuses to face. Perhaps it is their own image they hope to redeem. No concern has been expressed by Morrison Heights for the victims or a plea for them to call police, heal and protect other kids. There may be many more victims.

We hope that anyone else who has seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Langworthy will come forward to law enforcement, no longer be silent, heal, and protect other kids. Below are some helpful contact numbers. 



Clinton, Mississippi – Detective Josh Frazier Clinton police 601-925-6106.
Hinds County Assistant DA in Jackson, Mississippi – Jamie McBride 601-968-6568 (prosecuted John Langworthy’s case recently for crimes in 1980-84).
Dallas, Texas – Police Child Exploitation unit 214-671-4211 (answered by a trained counselor with many years of experience doing this)
Mark Belenchia, SNAP Mississippi leader, msbelenchia@gmail.com, 601-953-2535
Amy Smith, SNAP leader Texas, 281-748-4050, watchkeepamy@gmail.com

Victims seek apology from top Baptist official Frank Page

SNAP is also asking the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for his "very hurtful comment" about the organization and for a chance to speak at the annual SBC meeting in Baltimore this summer. Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing Frank Page hoping to talk about preventing clergy sex crimes before thousands of Baptist who will gather in Baltimore this summer. And they want Page to publicly apologize for what they call his "hurtful comment” in 2007 when he wrote that their group was “nothing more than opportunistic persons motivated by personal gain.” 
The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.

CNN: Child sex abuse is a taboo topic for some parents






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