Baptists cracking down on clergy sex abuseGroup publishes list of convicted
workers, makes reporting easier
By Sam Hodges
June 5, 2007
Baptist General Convention of Texas says it's stepping up the fight against clergy
sexual misconduct, including posting on its Web site the names of convicted sex
offenders known to have worked in Texas Baptist churches.
group also is making it easier for its 5,600 affiliated congregations to report
sexual misconduct by a pastor, and is considering starting a hotline for individuals
who want to report allegations directly to the BGCT.
"The BGCT is concerned
about the problem of clergy sexual misconduct, and we care deeply about its victims,"
said Emily Prevost, a staff member who has helped implement the changes.
some Baptist leaders applauded the BGCT, a representative of a victims' group
was less enthusiastic.
"These are very small and inadequate steps,"
said Christa Brown of Austin, who has helped the Survivors Network of those Abused
by Priests (SNAP) to extend its work to victims of Baptist clergy.
Protestant denominations are more centralized than Baptists and have been able
to respond more directly to clergy sexual misconduct. Baptist churches hire their
own pastors and don't brook interference from state conventions or the Southern
But because of the efforts of advocates like Ms. Brown,
as well as media reports of spectacular cases of sexual misconduct by Baptist
pastors, the SBC and state conventions have faced pressure to act.
began Friday to post the names of eight convicted sex offenders who have been
ministers in Texas Baptist churches. Most of the cases involved minors.
of the offenders are behind bars, and the BGCT has no information that any of
those who are free are working at a church, Ms. Prevost said. The convention can't
guarantee they aren't, she added.
The BGCT is publishing their names to
give prospective employer churches fair warning.
"We don't want anyone
to hire without knowledge," she said.
The BGCT plans to cross-check
a database of registered Texas sex offenders with staff lists from BGCT churches.
If pastors with a sex offense background come to light, their names will be added
to the Web site list.
The convention has long kept a confidential list of
pastors believed to have engaged in homosexual relationships or sexual misconduct
including adultery or pornography addiction. Pastors can get on the list through
a conviction or, in the case of noncriminal activity, a confession or a report
from a church.
Churches looking to hire a pastor can send a notarized form
to the BGCT, asking if a particular job candidate is on the list. The BGCT says
yes or no. It does not reveal the nature of the misconduct.
The BGCT has
always required a church reporting on a pastor's sexual misconduct to have "substantial
evidence," reviewed by a lawyer. But the BGCT has now waived that requirement,
saying that if church officials are convinced of the misconduct, the pastor will
go on the list.
Fewer than 100 names are on the confidential list. Eliminating
the evidence requirement may cause the list to grow, Ms. Prevost said.
BGCT's moves cheered the Rev. Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church
in Arlington, who has called on the SBC to do more to protect children in its
"I commend the Baptist General Convention of Texas for their
proactive determination, and I pray that Baptists all across the country will
follow suit," he said.
Joe Trull, a Baptist ethicist who has written
extensively about clergy sex abuse and has worked with the BGCT on its policies,
called the new moves a "giant step."
He said the convention should
also start a hotline for those who don't feel comfortable directing complaints
to a church. Such a hotline is under consideration, Ms. Prevost said.
Brown said the BGCT should not only have a hotline but investigate any complaints
that come in, and make sure that offenders aren't moving from church to church.
BGCT has done more other state Baptist conventions, she said, but she called that
fact "terrifying." She said Baptists still haven't come to terms with
the extent and tragedy of the clergy abuse problem.
"I heard from an
81-year-old woman the other day who said this happened to her in a Dallas church
when she was 16 years old," Ms. Brown said. "I was the first person
she had told."
Copyright © 2007
The Dallas Morning News