05 Allegations, Analysis, and Systems Solutions

  • Introduction
  • Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Prestonwood Baptist Church ~ Plano, TX
  • Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Morrison Heights Baptist Church ~ Clinton, MS
  • Key Systems Issues on Sexual Abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention and Beyond

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Introduction

NOTES: Preference is given to “primary sources” and they were used wherever possible for developing the historical frameworks here. The recollections of these individuals come from their first-hand experiencing, witnessing, or participating in events related to this situation – sexual victimization by now-convicted sexual predator John Langworthy, alleged harmful actions and omissions of leadership at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas, and/or alleged harmful actions and omissions of leadership at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Mississippi. However, since the abuse victims and their parents themselves mostly remain anonymous, their quotes or reports about them by victims’ advocates and other secondary agents may be the only sources currently available for some details.

The bias here is on the side of survivors of sexual abuse, their families, and their relational support systems. Knowledgeable parties from that perspective were invited to review the materials on this site for overall accuracy and to detect anything major that is missing. We also will make every effort to correct inaccuracies or omissions that any readers alert us to. (Please use the comment form on pages or posts to let us know how we can improve the factual accuracy of this site.) Beyond that, the analysis, interpretation, and commentary here is that of the site administrators/moderators. The initial content work on the site was done by “brad/futuristguy.”

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Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Prestonwood Baptist Church ~ Plano, TX

Summary

The Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Prestonwood Baptist Church section gives a summary description of specific questions that remain unanswered and issues that remain unresolved in how PBC leaders dealt with the situation of John Langworthy’s sexual molestations of PBC victims and other individuals related to them or to the overall situation. It also gives extended analysis and commentary on five clusters of related issues and allegations:

  1. The firing of John Langworthy, failure to report, using reporting as a negotiating tool for a speedy departure.
  2. Holding an “in-house investigation,” speaking with alleged victims (apparently without parents or legal counsel present), failure to inform victims’ parents, arranging for counseling without parental knowledge or consent, and later refusal to speak with a victim’s parents.
  3. How apparent failures to report and notify had unintended but potentially incalculable damaging effects. Failure to report to the police potentially put additional children elsewhere at risk from a now-known pedophile. What if “potential” went to “actual”? Failure to notify the congregation about John Langworthy delayed the processes for additional victims coming forward, and for healing of known victims and their families. What if other actual victims had stepped forward to confirm the abuse and to receive help sooner?
  4. Did others in the organizational structure respond appropriately to move from intervention to prevention? What might they have done better then?
  5. What constructive lessons can we learn from this in order for all of us to do better now at the local church level? At the systems level for denominations or associations? At the cultural level for the Church as servants to our host society?

These items will be posted over time in an article series, and each of them copied into their section here after they have been posted and reviewed.

Allegations and Issues

Additional details and issues forthcoming …

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Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Morrison Heights Baptist Church ~ Clinton, MS

Forthcoming …

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Key Systems Issues on Sexual Abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention and Beyond

Summary

The Key SBC Systems Issues section describes some historical attempts to put prevention, interception, and intervention into place in the Southern Baptist Convention. It also suggests specific, constructive ways for any church to address these concerns.

Southern Baptist Systemic Issues

2006. Christa Brown worked with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) to encourage the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt systems approaches to sexual predators, to prevent them from church-hopping and putting more children at risk of sexual abuse. (Prestonwood saga)

In 2008 the SBC Executive Committee studied the feasibility of a denomination-wide system like those used by other faith groups to collect, evaluate and report on ministers convicted, confessed or credibly accused of sexual abuse. In the end convention leaders recommended against such a database, saying because of autonomy of local churches they could not compel churches to report abuse, and that putting up a partial list would create a false sense of security. The Executive Committee added a section to the convention website about preventing abuse, including links to registered-sex-offender databases, which include only persons who have been convicted of a crime.

Comments from Wade Burleson on the Prestonwood situation and the SBC systemic issues are quoted on this article on The Wartburg Watch. I could not find the original post on Wade Burleson’s current blog. However, that August 10, 2011, post is available on the internet archive Wayback Machine: Full Circle: Why the SBC Child Predator Database Is Needed Now More Than Ever.

Here is a major problem. The SBC refuses to set up a sexual predator database.

Wade Burleson has posted his position here on establishing a sexual predator database in the SBC. He reviews this incident and has opened his blog to comments in this instance.

“Leadership at Prestonwood, for reasons not yet clear, chose not report to report John Langworthy’s sexual crimes to law enforcement. Worse, leadership at Prestonwood did not publicly reveal to church members why John Langworthy was being released from staff. As a result, another Southern Baptist Church, Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi eventually hired John Langworthy as their worship pastor and immediately put their entire church into a minefield of another’s making.

Everything about this is painful.

But it all could have been stopped had forced reporting been instituted in the SBC, had a SBC sexual abuse data base been in existence, and had Morrison Heights made one phone call to the SBC headquarters in Nashville and asked the question of the [database] employee, “Has John Langworthy ever been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse?” [Does the SBC Fear Women Pastors More Than The Molestation of Children?, by Dee Parsons, The Wartburg Watch (August 12, 2011).

Additional details and issues forthcoming …

Larger Systems Issues in Churches and Kingdom

Additional details and issues forthcoming …

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