The systemic epidemic of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention: Wes Feltner and passing the trash



Wes Feltner is a Southern Baptist pastor currently at Berean Baptist Church in Minnesota where he has been since 2014. He is lead pastor of Preaching and Vision.  


I became aware of alleged sexual abuse by Wes Feltner yesterday upon reading the stories of two women who have come forward to tell their stories. Their abuse took place while Feltner was their youth pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville, Indiana. 

Megan's story

JoAnna's story 






Brought to the Light
Brought To The Light was created by two abuse survivors for victims and survivors, as well as a support tool for their friends and family navigating the aftermath of abuse.  After 17 years of guilt, anxiety, shame and blaming themselves, these two brave women have stepped up to share their stories with the intent to ‘bring darkness to the light’ and spread awareness of the abuse that sometimes happens inside the walls of churches, homes and workplaces, how to recognize it, find a voice and begin healing…

From Megan and JoAnna on why they are coming forward now...

WHY COME FORWARD NOW?

It’s been 17 years, why now?  Simply put—God’s timing.
Here are the events that unfolded in early October 2019 that reopened wounds and unleashed undealt with emotions from the seemingly distant past.
First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tennessee was in search of a new lead pastor. When a local resident heard the name of their lead candidate, Wes Feltner, she felt compelled to share her knowledge of his past. Her sister was on a joint youth winter retreat in December 2002 with Joe Donahue’s and Wes Feltner’s youth groups. On the trip, two young women confided in her that they were in relationships with their youth pastor.
Wes Feltner’s candidacy was protested to the search committee, and Joe Donahue’s contact information was provided. The Pastor Search Committee chairman then asked Joe Donahue to reach out to the victims to see if they were willing to speak to the Chairman. Via Facebook, Joe reached out to JoAnna and Megan. Megan immediately deleted the friend request because she remembered Joe was Wes’ best friend in 2002. JoAnna responded, reached out to Megan, and both girls agree to talk with the chairman and submitted written statements to be shared with the committee.
Both JoAnna’s and Megan’s statements were provided to the Pastor Search Committee Chairman for First Baptist Church, Clarksville. Joe, concerned that the information was not being fully share with the entire pastor search committee, also shared the written statements with a committee member directly.
Even with the new information, it seemed as though the chairman was pushing Wes’ approval process forward.
An email response from the committee chairman seemed to attempt shaming the abuse victims into remaining quiet:
… At the core, it is important that you control your information. Don’t let anyone, not me and not these others, coax you to share this beyond what you and your husband decide to do.  You have more to lose than any of the rest of us.  In this search process, which is similar to a corporate hiring process, we scour the Internet for details.  You don’t likely want this situation to be what your kids and your future employers find at the top of the search about you, and I fear that Joe’s further publication of it would do just that. In modern day HR, and in society in general, people take sides in stories and there may be as many that point an accusing finger at you, even as inappropriate as that may be.
Again, I am sorry that through this search process we brought up this topic into your life.
Megan and JoAnna state that this is not the first time a church has been notified of abuse by Wes Feltner.  
2002: First Southern Baptist Church, Evansville, IN:  After the winter youth retreat, Pastor Don Moore met with the families of the victims—they were told they had “been duped” and that in order to “protect the church” they should not speak about what had happened.  Feltner “resigned” but was allowed to move on to another church without any known hinderances from the church.
2003: Oak Park Baptist Church, Jeffersonville, IN: Families and the wife of the Head of Deacons from First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville called to inform the church of the events that took place and that Oak Park should not hire Feltner; the church did not listen and he served there for over four years.
Around 2014: Berean Baptist Church, Burnsville, MN: Former Youth under Wes Feltner at First Southern Baptist Church spoke with the Executive Pastor at the time—it is unknown if any investigation was performed. 
The executive pastor at Feltner's current church, Berean Baptist, is Tony Manning.  

Why is Wes Feltner seeking to leave Berean Baptist Church now? He's a candidate for pastor at a smaller church, First Baptist Church Clarksville, Tennessee. According to a news story in the Star Tribune in 2017, Berean Baptist was one of the top ten fastest growing churches in the nation. For a pastor that has a history of allegations of sexual abuse and using his position of trust to abuse, this prospective move raises many red flags. Has another victim come forward to his current church in Minnesota? Is Berean Baptist trying to pass the trash to Tennessee? 

Last Sunday, the chairman of the pastor search committee, Paul Batson, at FBC Clarksville spoke about their candidate for pastor, Wes Feltner. Other members of the search committee are Jason Daugherty, Steve Girsky, Licia Massa, Donna McIntosh, Bob Palmer, and Beverly Parker.

Paul Batson referred to the two women, Megan and JoAnna, as adversaries, for speaking out about the abuse by Feltner.


Paul Batson is president of TSW Automation in Nashville, Tennessee.


According to Wes Feltner's bio on his website, he earned his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a M.Div in Theology, and a Ph.D. in Leadership from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, KY. He states that he is an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and Seminary and Capital Seminary and Graduate School, in Lancaster, PA; and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

In an online search, Dr. Feltner was listed as a professor in the 2013 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral studies viewbook


Feltner was also listed as an adjunct professor in the SBTS 2018-19 academic catalog. His dissertation on the relationship between pastoral influence tactics, follower outcome levels, and types of congregational change is posted online at SBTS. The president of SBTS is Albert Mohler





Feltner is listed as a graduate adjunct professor in the 2019-20 graduate catalog at Lancaster Bible College. The president of Lancaster Bible College is Dr. Peter Teague.


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Why two Indiana women are speaking up about alleged pastoral abuse 17 years later



Minnesota is a state that criminalizes clergy sexual relations with congregants, even adults. Berean Baptist Church needs to make a report to police. It’s not their role to investigate sex abuse crimes. This is a very serious situation unfolding in the SBC. Will Wes Feltner still be preaching while he's under investigation?


It’s important to point out that Berean Baptist Church’s statement about doing an investigation into Wes Feltner seems to pertain to abuse accounts from Meg and JoAnna from Indiana. An important question to ask is, does this also pertain to any new allegations? Are they aware of further allegations? If so, this needs to be reported to law enforcement. Again I ask, is this why Feltner has been planning to leave his church in Minnesota and go to First Baptist Church Clarksville in Tennessee?

It's A Crime, Not An Affair

Comments

I've been keeping up with the #churchtoo movement. Let me share mine. When I was a YOUNG girl(`7years old), I went to a church-sponsored gathering and bible study in the country while staying with some relatives in upstate Mississippi. I had been invited by a young friend and was curious. We rode in a bus and were mainly all girls around the same age attended by older males in the late teens and early twenties. They engaged in behavior I found disturbing: holding the hands of the girls, pulling them into their laps, and kissing them. One approached me and was persistent, so I did what my father has instructed me to in such cases: I yelled (loudly) GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME! (My father was not Christian, and indeed would have been horrified to learn of my presence on this trip.) All activity immediately ceased and everyone gathered around me to pray the demons out me. As I had never witnessed anything like this before, I thought WTF? When we got to the encampment, I spent the entire time sitting with my back against a tree and wary, b/c the same type of activity was taking place. I never told any adults about this. This was the early 60s. You just didn't think to tell adults things back then. In an addendum to this, I was recounting this story to my now best friend whom I met in college. She got quiet then asked if it was this particular church (can't recall the name, I have memory problems, sorry). But she knew exactly the church. She had been molested by the youth minister of that chuch.

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