Child sex abuse victims of a former Memphis Baptist youth pastor speak out together

 This post is in partnership with Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch.

Last weekend, three survivors of child sex abuse by a former Baptist assistant youth pastor in Tennessee publicly shared their stories. Dee and I read these stories and shared them on social media. Our hearts go out to these men, and we applaud them for their bravery in sharing such personal pain. In doing so, they are giving many others courage to come forward and tell their own stories as well as protecting other kids.

Through independent research and verification, Dee and I have learned that the accused former Baptist youth pastor is Chris Carwile. In the posts by the survivors, Chris' name has been changed and appears as "Carl." 

Chris Carwile is currently the Broadcast Program Coordinator of WYPL at the City of Memphis Public Library.

One year ago, one of the survivors, Michael Hansen, sent a letter to pastor Scott Payne, former pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, the church where Chris Carwile served as youth ministry intern during the time the child sexual abuse occurred. In the survivors' posts, Scott's name appears as "Thomas." After Chris was forced to leave Immanuel Baptist Church when abuse allegations surfaced, he reportedly went on to serve in youth ministry at Cherokee Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Update 11/11/16 

Highpoint Church released a statement yesterday, and members received an email with a link to that statement. (archived link just in case.)

Recently, social media communications surfaced regarding the relationship of Highpoint Church with The Church at Schilling Farms (formerly Immanuel Baptist Church). The allegations are of a serious nature involving past sexual abuse. These events did not occur at Highpoint Church, nor were any Highpoint leaders or partners involved. The alleged sexual abuse happened over 18 years ago — before Highpoint Church even existed.
Highpoint first explored a merger with The Church at Schilling Farms in October 2014. Highpoint leadership, along with the Elders at The Church at Schilling Farms, agreed to a merger in the Fall of 2015. After these discussions, both Highpoint leadership and the Elders at The Church at Schilling Farms became aware of accusations of past sexual abuse and inappropriate conduct toward minors by a former intern at Immanuel Baptist Church.
Upon learning of that news, we immediately took action in three ways: we attempted to provide pastoral guidance to the individuals involved; we sought wise, legal counsel from our attorney; and we redefined our future relationship with The Church at Schilling Farms. One aspect of redefining this relationship was the decision that the Pastor of The Church at Schilling Farms would not serve on staff at Highpoint Church.
Due to the serious nature of this situation, the leadership at Highpoint Church, in agreement with the leadership at The Church at Schilling Farms, decided to restructure the relationship between the two churches from a merger to a lease agreement for the facility at 1035 E. Winchester Blvd. We confidently moved forward with this lease agreement because of our commitment to minister to the Collierville community knowing true reconciliation and resolution could only occur between the parties involved.
Highpoint Church has always been committed to providing healing to the hurting, and circumstances like these only reinforce our commitment.
Please join us as we pray for all those involved. Thank you.
Highpoint Church officials now are claiming that the partnership with The Church at Schilling Farms was never a merger. This might come as news to church members since HP announced it as just that, a merger. (link archived here and the audio announcement is here dated November 22, 2015.)

Some may be surprised to learn that The Church at Schilling Farms does still exist as a property owner, though the church itself does not exist as a functioning church, having been announced as a merger with Highpoint Church Collierville

Former Immanuel Baptist/Schilling Farms pastor Scott Payne weighed in on Facebook yesterday. (How many times will this church change names, geez?)

Scott Payne's daughter Amanda posted her thoughts as well.

  Letter to Scott Payne by watchkeep on Scribd (trigger warning)

Immanuel Baptist Church became The Church at Schilling Farms which merged with High Point Church Memphis (HP) about one year ago. HP is a Southern Baptist Church. Originally, HP announced that pastor Scott Payne would be a "key player" at HP and "serve a valuable role as Associate Pastor to the Lead Pastor at Highpoint Church." Chris Conlee is the lead pastor at HP.

About a month after this announcement about the merger, Scott Payne's stated role changed to a "sabbatical."

In an audio recording, Highpoint Church lead pastor Chris Conlee, speaking to the survivors about sex abuse by Chris Carwile, states, "Sometimes it's best to not tell the truth because the truth can be harmful."

Silent no more:

In 1998, Immanuel Baptist Church hired a college student as a paid youth ministry intern. He worked with students through drama programs, worship services, and bible studies. He molested at least three youth at Immanuel that year in their sleep during sleepovers at his parents’ East Memphis home. The senior pastor of Immanuel worked diligently to cover up the abuse and, as a result, it went unreported to authorities and justice was never served. Their abuser went free. Those three boys, now men in their 30s, came forward to share their stories this week in the hopes that it will help save other boys from sexual abuse by this predator (and others) and that the Christian church will acknowledge its institutional failures and seek meaningful reform. Since sharing their stories, multiple new victims of the same perpetrator have come forward.

Michael HansenHow the Church Conspired to Cover Up My Sexual Abuse

Brooks Hansen

Kenny Stubblefield

After three weeks of silence, we learned he had received the letter, and reached out to lawyers from the Southern Baptist Convention. The lawyers from the SBC told Thomas to “prepare for war.

We hope that anyone else who has seen, suspected or suffered abuse by Chris Carwile will come forward and report to law enforcement, seek help to heal and protect others. Silence only helps perpetrators. Sexual abuse is a crime to be handled by law enforcement, not a spiritual matter of sin to be handled by pastors. Forgiveness is a personal, private decision. Protecting kids is a public mandate.

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

How to Report Sexual Abuse

NCMEC Cyber Tipline

Child Help

Criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes information by state

Updated: local Memphis news coverage

Sex Abuse Claims Launch City Investigation Into Memphis Library Employee

City of Memphis library worker accused of sexual abuse, suspended 

WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee


Anonymous said…
Why so much of this happening?
Shy said…
Because the circumstances created by churches are ideal for it. As you see in this story, the youth leader was given enormous trust and freedom to do what he did, no one held him accountable, his victims were kept quiet, the whole thing was swept under the rug "for the good of the church." With dynamics like that, it's an open invitation to predators. They go on doing these things for years and the worst that happens to them is they occasionally have to move to a different church and start over.
Anonymous said…
There are two errors in this story:
1. Highpoint Church did not merge with the Church at Schilling Farms (it is only a lease agreement to use the property for Highpoint services).
2. Scott Payne is not on Highpoint staff.

The official statement from Highpoint Church can be found here:
Anonymous said…
I would like to ask a question of the victims if I may. I have read each testimony with a very heavy heart and my deepest condolences are with all of you. I applaud you in your bravery for sharing your story with the world and I know that is not a feat which could have been easy. What I find alarming and without prying I hope, I was curious if this was an isolated incident or if the abuse was ongoing and reoccurring? You do not of course have to respond or answer but the reason I found it to be of such great concern was that it sounds as if in each case Mr. Carwile abused a youth and then once he had achieved his conquest moved on to another victim. If this is the case then this could have far reaching consequences worse than what may be imagined. Many sexual preditors fixate on one victim and heap the majority of their abuse on that victim until they decide to move on due to the victim's maturing in age or other factors. In this case he appears to move on immediately beyond the initial conquest which would suggest or at least imply that there are a very high number of victims. This cannot be discounted. A preditor such as this knows no bounds in their sexual appetite and will not stop. They simply will not! So if Carl Carwile did in fact move on after conquesting each victim or shortly after than that at least creates the question. His pattern is established. He finds a victim and destroys their innocence and then grows bored and moves on relatively quickly rather than staying with and abusing the same victim over months or years. Who did he find in the interim? Who is filling the void now? Did Chris Carwile require a new victim on a regular basis? These are alarming questions that need to be answered. Is anyone monitoring his activities now? Is he still allowed contact with young children? Does he still work in any capacity where he interacts with boys? We need to get involved in finding these things out so that this monster can be stopped in his tracks. Because he will not stop on his own! A person of his nature never does.
Julie Anne said…
Excellent job, Amy! It sounds like things are really moving now.
Anonymous said…
Is there an email where we can contact you or Dee if we have information to share but are not ready to disclose it in a post on a public board.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your hard work, Amy. What you are doing is saving lives, no doubt. And thank you to the brave men who have shown remarkable courage. What you have faced is the kind of thing most of us have only been forced to endure in nightmares and you are true heroes. God bless you all.

Pastor Scott's Facebook post is disgusting but not surprising. You are only allowed to talk to him if you praise him and his family and say good things? I should think his number one concern would be on seeking the truth and helping the victims heal. But just like twenty years ago his first concern is himself.

Funny how he is willing to take swift and decisive action to protect his reputation, yet he took almost no action whatsoever to protect his congregation from a pedophile. Shows you where his priorities lie.

To add to the information that has been posted already, Chris Carwile, the abuser, did date Pastor Scott's daughter in the immediate aftermath of the abuse. Scott Payne proved 20 years ago the lengths he was willing to go to to cover this up.

From the moment he was contacted and told about the abuse, Scott Payne allegedly went into coverup mode. Much like today he put himself and his reputation first and showed no regard for the victims. Let me also add this man was at the time a prominent pastor on the Southern Baptist scene and he was earning a VERY large paycheck from Immanuel. He allegedly had dreams of turning Immanuel Baptist Church into one of those mega churches you hear so much about and he was well on his way. He was a very powerful man, a rich man, and an intimidating man.

He could have used this power and influence to do good, or at the very least prevent evil, but he made a very alarming choice instead.

Twenty years ago when Chris Carwile's victims came forward to try to get help, Scott Payne immediately appeared to go into coverup mode.

Payne allegedly came up with the master plan of sorts to push this under the carpet. Part of this plan involved Chris Carwile immediately beginning a relationship with Alli Payne, his own teenage daughter.

Yes, you read that right. Alli Payne was still a teenager and her own father allegedly decided to fix her up with a pedophile. Stunning example of parenting this was!

This was allegedly Pastor Scott's very own idea, to have the two date, for it immediately legitimized Chris Carwile and also gave Pastor Scott a very powerful tool to use in his coverup.

He could now say to the parents or anyone who asked: Would I allow this young man to date my daughter if I didn't believe him to be cured of his affliction?

To those who had merely heard the rumors and whisperings about Chris Carwile, Scott Payne would allegedly say: This is not true. Would I break bread with him and allow him into my own home if I thought there was any merit to these claims that he abused young boys? He is a good man and that is why I have given him my blessing to date my daughter.

It is truly sick.
Amy Smith said…

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