TX--Group wants Methodist officials to “do outreach”
Victims prod church to “take action”
Youth minister was arrested last week
He’s accused of molesting three children
SNAP: “Parents, ask your kids if they were hurt”
Group wants Methodist officials to “do outreach”
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will
--blast local church officials for their public comments in a pending child sex abuse case,
--urge them to “do aggressive outreach” seeking other “victims, witnesses and whistleblowers,”
--beg parents in the congregation to “ask their kids if they were hurt,” and
--prod anyone who may have “seen, suspected or suffered” crimes by the minister – or cover ups by his colleagues or supervisors – to “protect kids by calling law enforcement immediately.”
Thursday, April 7 at 11:00 am
Outside First United Methodist Church of Cedar Hill, 128 North Roberts Road in Cedar Hill, Texas
Three members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including the organization’s Dallas-area director
Willie Lee Bell Jr., a youth pastor at this church, is accused of sexually assaulting two little boys behind their apartment on East Little Creek Road in February. And last week, he was reportedly caught in the act of molesting a third boy. The mom says bystanders attacked Bell to stop him.
Bell, 29-years-old, was arrested in West Oak Cliff.
In a statement, First United Methodist Church of Cedar Hill said it has no knowledge of any criminal acts happening at the church,” according to Fox 4 News. That’s designed to breed complacency, SNAP says, when just the reverse - vigilance and action – are needed now.
“Every current and former church employee or member who spent any time at this church should be
Beating the bushes and shouting from the rooftops, finding anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered Bell’s crimes and begging them to call police,” said Amy Smith of SNAP. “Now is the time for United Methodist staff and congregants to step up and resist the natural but irresponsible temptation to be passive.”
Church officials also claim they’re “cooperating” with police. But again, SNAP says, that’s not enough.
“When religious official say they’re ‘cooperating’ with police, that usually means they respond if they’re subpoenaed and that’s just the bare minimum,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s executive director. “If Methodist church staff and members really care, they will use their resources, connections and mailing lists to seek what the Gospel calls the ‘lost sheep’ – any other child who might have been assaulted by Rev. Bell, so that law enforcement can build the strongest case against him and get him locked up for a long time.”
Bell’s reportedly been at First Methodist since November 2015. He was reportedly let go from his job at the church the day after his arrest.
SNAP wants Methodist officials – at the local and regional level – to use weekly bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to prod others with information or suspicions about Bell to call law enforcement.
“Our hunch is that Bell has been at other local Methodist churches, for big events or lending a hand to an ill or vacationing colleague, so outreach efforts shouldn’t be limited to this one congregation,” said Smith.
Jeff Garrett (972-291-1711, firstname.lastname@example.org) is pastor of First United Methodist. SNAP believes that church belongs to the broader North Texas Methodist Conference, headed by Bishop Michael McKee (972-526-5000, email@example.com) and headquartered in Plano (972-526-5000, 800-815-6690,http://www.northtexasumc.org/)
SNAP also wants church officials to alert Bell’s previous employers to his arrest. They include WILBE Productions, LLC in Chicago (where he’s reportedly the CEO & President beginning in January 2006), Allstate Insurance in Dallas, New Covenant M.B. Church in Chicago (where he was a youth pastor from 2009 to 2014), Victory Honda in Jackson, Tennessee (where he worked from 2008 to 2010) and EMI Gospel (where he was an intern from 2007 to 2008). This info comes from Bell’s Facebook page.
Anyone with information about Bell or possible additional victims is asked to call police at 214-671-4217.