The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
Statement Regarding Secret File of Clergy Predators
at Baptist General Convention of Texas
February 20, 2006
We are at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest state-wide Baptist organization in the country. Why? Because ministers who prey on kids are hiding in this denomination just as they are among Catholics. We are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and other Clergy. We call upon the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to stop shielding clergy predators and to take action for the protection of kids.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas keeps a file of clergy who have committed sexual abuse. By written policy, it will place a minister's name in that file only when the report of abuse is made by a church and only if there is a confession, a conviction, or "substantial evidence that the abuse took place." So, a minister's name doesn't get into that file merely because a single victim reports him. A church must decide to report the minister, and even after that, the Baptist General Convention must decide for itself that there exists "substantial evidence." Only then does the Baptist General Convention place a minister's name into that file of what it calls "known offenders."
We know of at least one minister's name in that file. Tommy Gilmore. Court filings show that Mr. Jan Daehnert, a director here at the Baptist General Convention, confirmed the decision to put Gilmore's name in that file, and that at least two other Convention leaders knew about the decision. Yet, Gilmore was not removed from ministry. The Baptist file of "known offenders" is kept confidential and secret. These are the kinds of secrets that keep kids at risk.
Gilmore was able to continue as a minister at a large church in Florida. Can you imagine how parents at that church in Florida would feel if they knew that the Baptist General Convention of Texas had "substantial evidence" of a minister who sexually abused a kid in Texas, and that it didn't take action to protect their own kids in Florida? We've seen how the Baptist leadership explains its inaction with talk about "congregational autonomy." But we expect most ordinary people are a great deal more concerned with knowing that their kids are safe than they are with the technicalities of "congregational autonomy."
How many abusive ministers' names are in that file and how many kids have they hurt? Why aren't the parents of Baptist kids entitled to know which ministers' names are in that file? If you learned that your own kid had been raped by a Baptist minister, would you be content to have the minister's name simply sitting in a confidential file, while the minister himself was still working in another church?
We call upon the Baptist General Convention of Texas to disclose the names in that file so that parents can be warned and kids can be protected.
And lest you think there may have still been some doubt about the allegations against minister Tommy Gilmore, you should know that the church where it happened, the First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch, has finally issued an apology which acknowledges the truth of Gilmore's sexual abuse inflicted on a minor. It is a truth that was actually known all along because another minister in that same church, music minister James A. Moore, was told about it years ago. Told by both Gilmore and the young victim. Yet, even though Gilmore's abuse of a minor could be readily substantiated by another minister, it took a lawsuit to finally obtain this acknowledgement of the truth.
We applaud this courageous survivor who worked so hard to bring the truth to light so that others might be protected. For anyone else who may have been abused by a Southern Baptist minister, we urge you to report it to the police, no matter how long ago it happened. Whatever shame you may feel, it doesn't belong to you. All of the shame and guilt belongs to the abusive clergy and to any other church and denominational leaders who chose to turn a blind eye. You can find a starting place for support and information at www.snapnetwork.org. SNAP seeks to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
For more information:
Miguel Prats, SNAP Coordinator for Texas, 713-305-0159, [email protected]
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests