04 Timelines

  • Introduction
  • Condensed History: Key Dates and Essential Documentation from the Actions to Convictions of John Langworthy
  • Significant Documents
  • Expanded History

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Introduction

The following sections have been constructed from online news reports, blog posts, comments and editorials, and social media sources. Select links are given for documentation purposes, and an extensive Bibliography is available for additional research, verification, and resource purposes.

The Condensed History focuses on the historical framework centered around alleged perpetrations of sexual abuse by John Langworthy; when, where, and how those came to light; and his subsequent confession, trial, and convictions. It provides the essential timeline and a few key documents for the case, and descriptions have typically been significantly shortened from longer versions available.

The Significant Documents section contains official court documents, transcripts, and other kinds of documents relevant to #PBCSilentNoMore.

The Expanded History gives a far more complete picture of the interwoven narratives of:

  • John Langworthy, his sexual predations and eventual confession, prosecution, and convictions.
  • His victims, their parents, and their advocates.
  • The multiple alleged past and present failures by Prestonwood Baptist Church leaders in their legal, pastoral, and media responsibilities related to the Langworthy situation.
  • Similar multiple alleged failures of action and inaction by Morrison Heights Baptist Church leaders.
  • Occasional or more recent involvements by other people.

The expanded version also contains longer entries, additional quotes from sources, and more documentation links than the condensed version does.

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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Condensed History:

Key Dates and Essential Documentation from the Actions to Convictions of John Langworthy

Summary

This Condensed History focuses on the historical framework centered around alleged perpetrations of sexual abuse by John Langworthy, how those came to light, and his subsequent confession, trial, and convictions. It provides the essential timeline and a few key documents for the case, and descriptions have typically been significantly shortened from longer versions available.

1980s ~ Unreported Abusive Actions by John Langworthy

1980-1984, there are at least five victims of sexual abuse by John Langworthy while he works in Jackson, Mississippi, during these years.

June 1989. Allegations of sexual abuse of minor males at Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas) surface and youth music minister John Langworthy is fired immediately. However, apparently no one from PBC reports him to the police, although even then, Texas Family Code Ann. § 261.101 requires mandatory reporting of child abuse by clergy members – and failure to do so is a misdemeanor. Mr. Langworthy moves back to Mississippi. He works at Morrison Heights Baptist Church (Clinton, Mississippi) as youth music minister and at the Clinton High School as choir director.

Over 20 years later, the contention emerges that after Mr. Langworthy was fired by Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1989 and he moved back to Mississippi, he continued to call the home of one of his victims from Prestonwood, attempting to speak with him.

2010 – 2011 ~ Attempts to Shine Light on Langworthy, Prestonwood, and Morrison Heights

2010-2011. Amy Smith, a former Prestonwood college student intern in 1989 and friends with both Mr. Langworthy and his PBC victims, starts tracking him down. She is sparked to action by the sentencing of church camp counselor Peter Newman of Missouri for molesting children at the camp.

When she discovers that Mr. Langworthy moved to Mississippi after being fired from Prestonwood, she contacts his current employers there and various news media with her concerns about his sexual molestations at PBC. Over the months, there is little constructive response and no quick response, but she continues with her advocacy of his PBC victims and for protection of other children from victimization. The tide seems to turn when a victim from Mississippi files a report on the abuse with the police in Clinton. This apparently takes place in early April 2011, and leads to cancellation of a planned conference call between Morrison Heights Baptist Church officials with Amy Smith and Sherry LaFils, scheduled for April 12. (Memories Don’t Know Time.)

As it turns out, Morrison Heights officials allow Mr. Langworthy to resign voluntarily. Mr. Langworthy resigns and reads a letter from the pulpit on May 29, 2011, citing mental and emotional reasons. A week later, Morrison Heights hosts a public reception of appreciation for him at the church. (What we already know about John Langworthy and Morrison Heights presents serious questions.)

2011 – 2013 ~ From Confession to Convictions

August 2011. On August 7, he publicly confesses his molestations to the Morrison congregation. The full 12:30 video version of his confession is available here: Admitted minister-molester: “I was not asked to resign.” Here is a Transcript of his statement.

September 28, 2011. John Langworthy is indicted on eight counts of “gratification of lust,” two counts from Clinton and six filed in Jackson.

October 18, 2011. John Langworthy pleads not guilty.

March 19, 2012. This is the deadline for changing his plea as part of a plea bargain deal.

April 2, 2012. This is the date originally set for John Langworthy’s trial. It is later reset to July 30, 2012.

October 25, 2012. Despite having publicly confessed to inappropriate sexual activities with minors, John Langworthy contends the charges should be dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations has passed, as of December 31, 1986. (There was a Mississippi statute of limitations in place during the years of the incidents in Jackson between 1980-1984, although this limitation is not there now.)

November 26, 2012. John Langworthy turns down a plea bargain. A hearing is scheduled for December 18, 2012, on a motion to dismiss. If the motion fails, the trial date will be rescheduled for January 28, 2013.

December 14, 2012. The prosecution files the State’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. This document contains details of Mr. Langworthy’s crimes, and also cites a Texas individual who is one of the Prestonwood Baptist Church victims.

January 22, 2013. John Langworthy pleads guilty to five counts of abuse. For each count, he is given 10 years of a suspended sentence for a total of 50 years. “As part of his agreement, Langworthy will be on five years of supervised probation, cannot have contact with any of his victims and must register as a sex offender” (Former minister pleads guilty to abuse).

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Significant Documents

Summary

This section contains official court documents, transcripts, and other kinds of documents relevant to #PBCSilentNoMore.

Document Descriptions and Links

Admitted minister-molester: “I was not asked to resign” [VIDEO. 12:30. Video is John Langworthy’s statement at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi. It is dated August 7, 2011.] by Christa Brown, Stop Baptist Predators (September 9, 2011).

The link here is to a “rich text” document with a TRANSCRIPT of John Langworthy’s August 7, 2011 statement to Morrison Heights Baptist Church, provided by New BBC Open Forum (August 7, 2011). This is based on a videotaped statement to the church, lasting 12:30, in which he confessed.

This Transcript of Matt’s Call of August 20, 2011, shares Matthew Smith’s phone call to his father-in-law, who was a deacon at Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1989 when the allged molestation by John Langworthy at PBC came to light. This is a KEY DOCUMENT: Read this carefully for facts and insights into what actually happened in 1989 and afterwards as to the “handling discreetly” of the situation.

State’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, Court document in the case of John Langworthy, filed December 14, 2012. This is a KEY DOCUMENT for the prosecution because it contains details of John Langworthy’s crimes, and also cites a Texas individual who is one of the Prestonwood Baptist Church victims.

Letter to Neal Jeffrey. This was written April 5, 2013, to Pastor Neal Jeffrey at Prestonwood Baptist Church by Amy Smith’s husband, Matthew. In it, he gives his view of the last two years of Amy Smith’s activism that helped bring justice for child sexual abuse survivors of John Langworthy. It also asks pointed questions of leaders of Prestonwood Baptist Church, that they have yet to answer.

For full texts of  legal requirements, see Page 07 Texas Clergy “Mandatory Reporting” Statutes.

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Expanded History

Summary

The Expanded History gives a far more complete picture of the interwoven narratives of:

  • John Langworthy, his sexual predations and eventual confession, prosecution, and convictions.
  • His victims, their parents, and their advocates.
  • The multiple alleged past and present failures by Prestonwood Baptist Church leaders in their legal, pastoral, and media responsibilities related to the Langworthy situation.
  • Actions and inaction by Morrison Heights Baptist Church leaders.
  • Occasional or more recent involvements by other people.

The expanded version also contains longer entries, additional quotes from sources, and more documentation links than the condensed version does.

1980s ~ Unreported Abusive Actions by John Langworthy

1980-1984, there are at least five victims of sexual abuse by John Langworthy while he works in Jackson, Mississippi, during these years. Mr. Langworthy is eventually convicted of these five counts on January 22, 2013.

May 7, 1989. Jack Graham is voted in as the new lead Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in the wake of founding pastor Billy Weber departure in the midst of an adultery scandal. He received a 99.3% vote of approval on his appointment.

June 1989. Allegations of sexual abuse of minor males at Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas) surface and youth music minister John Langworthy is fired immediately. (This date comes from Amy Smith in Disturbing Revelations.) However, apparently no one from PBC reports him to the police, although even then, Texas Family Code Ann. § 261.101 requires mandatory reporting of child abuse by clergy members – and failure to do so is a misdemeanor. Mr. Langworthy moves back to Mississippi. He works at Morrison Heights Baptist Church (Clinton, Mississippi) as youth music minister and at the Clinton High School as choir director.

Current Prestonwood Executive Pastor Mike Buster gave this statement in August 2011 about what happened in June 1989:

“In the summer of 1989, the church received an allegation that John Langworthy had acted inappropriately with a teenage student. Based on this allegation, he was dismissed immediately, removing him from all responsibilities with the church. In no way did officials of the church seek to cover up the actions of Mr. Langworthy or silence his accuser. The elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.” (Disturbing Revelations)

According to Prestonwood Baptist Church: Silent No More, a March 25, 2013, article by Amy Smith at Watch Keep, here are some additional details supplied by her father, who was a deacon at Prestonwood in 1989 at the time of these events. Quote:

I first learned from my mother and father that the reason for John Langworthy‘s dismissal from Prestonwood in 1989 was due to allegations of child sexual abuse. It wasn’t until 2011 that I had the opportunity to speak with several of Langworthy’s victims and confirm these allegations. My father was a deacon at Prestonwood in 1989. He recently reminded my husband of some key points about the circumstances surrounding John Langworthy’s dismissal from Prestonwood Baptist Church where he had been employed as the youth music minister:

– There were several boys involved, and at least one of the victims was 15 when it started.
– Randy Addison was the attorney who handled it for the church and was in direct contact with some of the boys and their families.
Bill Taylor, Administrative Pastor, was the point man at the church, who went on to become a director at LifeWay Resources, part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
– Jack Graham became the Head Pastor at Prestonwood the month before Langworthy was dismissed.
– They tried to handle it discreetly.
– He doesn’t remember anyone contacting the police.

Over 20 years later, the contention emerges that after Mr. Langworthy was fired by Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1989 and he moved back to Mississippi, he continued to call the home of one of his victims from Prestonwood, attempting to speak with him.

Summer 2010 – Summer 2011 ~ Amy Smith Attempts to Shine Light on Langworthy, Prestonwood, and Morrison Heights

OVERVIEW. Amy Smith, a former Prestonwood Baptist Church college student intern in 1989 and friends with both Mr. Langworthy and his PBC victims, starts tracking him down. This is after she is sparked to action by the June 9, 2010, report of church camp counselor Peter Newman of Missouri being sentenced for his crimes of molesting children at the camp.

When she discovers that Mr. Langworthy moved to Mississippi after being fired from Prestonwood, she contacts his current employers there and various news media with her concerns about his sexual molestations at PBC. She also contacts leaders at Prestonwood. Over the months, there is little constructive response and no quick response, but she continues with her advocacy of his PBC victims and for protection of other children from victimization. The tide seems to turn when a victim from Mississippi files a report on the abuse with the police in Clinton.

NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the following activities of August 2010 through October 2011 in this section are recorded in her retrospective blog post of October 13, 2011: Memories Don’t Know Time: Shining the Light on Child Sexual Abuse. This post contains the text of a number of significant original documents.

May 2010. Amy Smith posts to New BBC Open Forum. This is apparently the beginning of her media work. Before that, she was told by news agencies that, because she is an advocate and not a victim, they could not do a story on the Prestonwood/Langworthy case unless there is a lawsuit.

August 2010. Amy Smith contacts Dr. Phil Burchfield, Superintendent of Clinton Public School, since John Langworthy is working as choir director at Clinton High School. She receives a reply August 18 from Dr. Burchfield that he has been in contact with a Dallas County probation officer and will be in touch with leaders at Prestonwood.

November 2010. Amy Smith emails Associate Pastor Neal Jeffrey at Prestonwood. (He was a PBC youth minister in 1989 when John Langworthy was fired.) Pastor Jeffrey’s email response includes the following:

Dr. Burchfield, the Superintendent did call me and we had a pretty frank discussion of John, and his time here. He said that he was going to call John in and have a discussion with him about all this stuff. I also called our attorneys, who were involved in all of this back then, and they were going to discuss what we need to do, and probably call Dr. Burchfield, etc, The attorney guys did not remember all of the specifics of the case, so they were going to go back into their notes etc, and see what needs to be done. I have not heard back from any of them, so I will make an attempt to see where all of that is.

I will let you know, blessings to you all,

Neal Jeffrey

January 2011. Amy Smith emails the pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church (MHBC) “with my concerns about John Langworthy. He replies about a month later asking me to call him.”

February 2011 (approximately). Amy Smith calls MHBC Senior Pastor Greg Belser. “He stated he had been made aware of the allegations of abuse from a phone call from a past victim. He stated he had confronted John who admitted the abuse.”

February 24, 2011. Amy Smith receives an email from PBC Executive Pastor Mike Buster, after sending a detailed email of her concerns to the lead pastor, Dr. Jack Graham. His response:

Dear Amy,

Thank you for taking the time to write us and share the information on John. I have discussed all of this with Dr. Graham. We were not aware of the most recent developements. Please know that we will cooperate fully with law enforsement agencies concerning this matter.

God bless you.

Mike Buster

NOTE: Because it is unknown whether the text of the email was retyped into the blog post, or cut-and-pasted, typos have been left as is.

In response to this, she notes: “I urged Mike Buster to have the staff members at Prestonwood who directly knew about the abuse of children by John Langworthy make a report to the police. To my knowledge, they still have not done this.” (In fact, had a report been made even 21+ years later, it would seem that would have been evidenced by Mr. Langworthy having been tried and/or on sexual predator watch lists.)

March 2011. Amy Smith sends emails about her concerns with Mr. Langworthy to staff members at Clinton High School, including the principal and counselors; a few members of the school board; staff at the Mississippi Department of Education; and communications director for Clinton Public Schools. She receives only two replies.

April 2011. MHBC Senior Pastor Greg Belser calls Amy Smith to set up a conference call with him and the six elders there to discuss the results of their completed “investigation” and their reasons for concluding that they felt “safe” in keeping John Langworthy on staff. She writes regarding April 12:

“That night … that the conference call was to happen, Belser called to postpone stating that they had ‘come into some new information.’ This new information was a call from a past Mississippi victim who eventually went to the police in Clinton to report his abuse. The conference call with me, Sherry [a former Dallas County probation officer who worked with sex offenders], Belser and the elders never happened.”

May 2011. About a month after the cancelled conference call with Morrison Heights Baptist Church senior pastor and elders, Amy Smith receives a voicemail from Philip Gunn, an elder of MHBC, attorney and MS state representative. “I emailed him asking the purpose of his call. He replied [by email] asking if I would be willing to discuss a resolution. I said no.” She later adds on her October 2011 retrospective blog post: “Update: details of this email exchange are included in my interview with Ross Adams of WJTV Jackson on Gunn’s role.”

NOTES, ANALYSIS, AND COMMENTARY: This is an important interview, but the original link given in Ms. Smith’s update is broken. The interview has been moved to WJTV’s archive section and the new link is here: Email Shows Gunn’s Role In Abuse Case, by Ross Adams, WJTV (November 29, 2011). [VIDEO. 02:38.] Both original and archival links are noted here for future research purposes.

The video portion of the WJTV article shows sections of a printout from the email Ms. Smith received from Philip Gunn. It says “sent from my iPad” and is time stamped “on May 11, 2011, at 11:39 AM, ‘Philip Gunn’.” The report shows part of the printout, with a yellow highlighted section that says: “To discuss a resolution.”

You need to watch this video and read the article that accompanies it. There seem to be several peculiar things going on here at Morrison Heights Baptist Church. First, despite the fact that Philip Gunn is an elder and church lawyer and state legislature Representative, those credentials do not qualify one to conduct their own private in-house investigation and/or determine whether any children in the church have suffered sexual abuse.

As Amy Smith comments on this in the WJTV video report, she rightly finds it disturbing that MHBC leaders would do such a thing without the police. These kinds of expert investigations are the job of police, not pastors. Sexual abuse is a CRIME, not just a SIN.

Second, the persistence and language of Elder Philip Gunn to find a “resolution” to the situation is also disturbing. It does give every appearance that MHBC is attempting to keep things silent. The apparent reason goes back to their so-called “investigation.” Reread the first paragraph from the entry above of April 2011:

MHBC Senior Pastor Greg Belser calls Amy Smith to set up a conference call with him and the six elders there to discuss the results of their completed “investigation” and their reasons for concluding that they felt “safe” in keeping John Langworthy on staff. (Emphasis added.)

Did these staff members and elders understand the long-term dynamics of “grooming” that are used to “condition” potential victims? And also that if children are abused, “it generally takes six to 15 years” for children who were abused to break their silence about what happened to them, according to former Dallas County probation officer Sherry LeFils, who for 10 years was assigned to work with sex offenders and knows what she is talking about. Things at Morrison Heights Baptist Church could appear utterly safe, and yet not be because of the silence. This foolishness is frightening … [END NOTES, ANALYSIS, AND COMMENTARY PIECE.]

Here is a direct quotation from the news article that accompanies this video:

Email Shows Gunn’s Role In Abuse Case

By Ross Adams

Months before Hinds county prosecutors got involved in the sex abuse against a former Clinton music minister, Philip Gunn and other spiritual leaders at the church where the minister used to work, [were] conducting their own private “investigation.”

Republican Philip Gunn represents Clinton in the state legislature and wants to be the next Speaker of the House. He says he supports a law that requires the reporting of child abuse. Yet Gunn would not allow prosecutors to question church leaders about what they know about John Langworthy’s case.

Langworthy was a minister of music at Morrison Heights Baptist Church for 22 years. He is accused of sexually abusing boys at two different Jackson churches in the 1980s.

According to an email, Gunn tried to take steps to keep abuse allegations against Langworthy silent. In May of this year, Gunn wrote in an email to abuse victims advocate Amy Smith that he wanted “to discuss a resolution” to the case.

What did you take that to mean? “Seems to me like he was asking to offer me something to go away to be quiet and that was not acceptable to me, that’s not protecting children and I simply said no,” Smith told us in a Tuesday by phone from Dallas.

But Gunn didn’t give up just because Smith refused his offer to discuss resolving the case. He also contacted Sherry LeFils, She’s a former Dallas, TX probation officer who says she spent 10 years working with thousands of sex offenders.

LeFils tells us she had three phone conversations with Gunn regarding Langworthy’s case. She says one phone call caught her as quite odd. “My take was what we can do to make this right, to make this go away,” LeFils said.

Both women believe church leaders’ refusal to speak with prosecutors forces victims at Morrison Heights to remain silent. “It generally takes six to 15 years to come out,” added LeFils.

Church leaders tell us they have discovered no children were victimized by Langworthy at the church in Clinton.

We contacted Gunn to get his take on what the women have to say. We haven’t yet heard back from him.

May – June, 2011. As it turns out, Mr. Langworthy resigns and reads a letter from the pulpit on May 29, citing mental and emotional reasons. A week later, Morrison Heights hosts a public reception of appreciation for him at the church. (Church attorney and elder Philip Gunn confirmed this reception in an email to Sherry LeFils.) (What we already know about John Langworthy and Morrison Heights presents serious questions.)

2011 – 2013 ~ From Confession to Conviction

August 2011. Morrison Heights Baptist Church officials allow John Langworthy to resign voluntarily. On August 7, he publicly confesses his molestations to the Morrison congregation. “I was not asked to resign by the pastor or elders,” said Langworthy to his congregation on Sunday. “My resignation was the best decision for my family.” (Disturbing Revelations)

The full 12:30 version of his confession is available here: Admitted minister-molester: “I was not asked to resign”. Link here to a “rich text” document with a TRANSCRIPT of John Langworthy’s August 7, 2011 statement to Morrison Heights Baptist Church, provided by New BBC Open Forum.

Meanwhile, when WFAA news raises questions about the case, including why Mr. Langworthy had simply moved from Texas to Mississippi, Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham declines to comment. Instead, Executive Pastor Mike Buster offers this official statement about what happened in June 1989 for an August 8 news report:

“In the summer of 1989, the church received an allegation that John Langworthy had acted inappropriately with a teenage student. Based on this allegation, he was dismissed immediately, removing him from all responsibilities with the church. In no way did officials of the church seek to cover up the actions of Mr. Langworthy or silence his accuser. The elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.” (Disturbing Revelations)

Amy Smith is also interviewed for this report by Brett Shipp of WFAA.

ANALYSIS: Conspicuously absent is any mention of whoever found out about actual/suspected victims reporting the perpetrator to the police as required by Texas state law. If that was in fact part of Pastor Buster’s original statement but was edited out, that has not been found online to date, nor have details of how the “elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.” Texas law related to mandatory reporting of child abuse, which includes sexual abuse, does not allow the obligation of reporting known/suspected abuse to be assigned to any other person.

September 28, 2011. John Langworthy is indicted on eight counts of “gratification of lust,” two counts from Clinton and six filed in Jackson.

October 18, 2011. John Langworthy pleads not guilty.

November 30, 2011. Morrison Heights Baptist Church elder and church lawyer Philip Gunn is questioned about handling of sexual abuse allegation. Bob Allen of Associated Baptist Press quotes Amy Smith:

“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May,” Smith said Nov. 30.

“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police,” she said. “It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”

March 19, 2012. This is the deadline for John Langworthy to change his plea as part of a plea bargain deal.

April 2, 2012. This is the date originally set for John Langworthy’s trial. It is later reset to July 30, 2012.

June 18, 2012. Pastor Jack Graham is a featured speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference in New Orleans. Victims’ advocate Christa Brown gives her opinion on the contradictions and irony therein. In light of the aftermath of the recent Penn State/Sandusky situation, should a pastor who has kept silent about sexual abuse in his church be seen as a role model for other leaders?

July 30, 2012. This is the date reset from April 2 for John Langworthy’s trial.

October 2012. An additional, previously unknown Prestonwood victim comes forward in October 2012 and later files a report with Dallas police in January 2013. This is also noted in this Watch Keep Facebook comment of March 20, 2013.

October 25, 2012. Despite having publicly confessed to inappropriate sexual activities with minors, John Langworthy contends the charges should be dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations has passed, as of December 31, 1986. (There was a Mississippi statute of limitations in place during the years of the incidents in Jackson between 1980-1984, although this limitation is not there now.) Quote:

A former Southern Baptist music minister is asking a Mississippi judge to dismiss an eight-count indictment charging him with sex crimes in the 1980s, claiming the allegations are too old to be prosecuted. […]

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Langworthy’s motion claims the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes “expired Dec. 31, 1986, nearly three years before the state’s statute of limitations was amended in 1989 to extend for a period of seven years.”

“This man has publicly confessed to child sex crimes,” Amy Smith of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Jackson CBS affiliate WJTV. “He is using a technicality to escape justice.”

November 26, 2012. John Langworthy turns down a plea bargain. A hearing is scheduled for December 18, 2012, on a motion to dismiss. If the motion fails, the trial date will be rescheduled for January 28, 2013. Quote:

Langworthy’s trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 26, but Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bill Gowan granted a continuance until after the first of the year. It was the third such delay in the trial, first placed on the docket for April 2 but moved to July 30 and then to Nov. 26.

The judge said at the Nov. 26 hearing that there will be no more continuances, and prosecutors said the state has withdrawn all offers for a plea bargain and will make no more.

December 14, 2012. The prosecution files the State’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. This document contains details of Mr. Langworthy’s crimes, and also cites a Texas individual who is one of the Prestonwood Baptist Church victims.

January 2013. An additional, previously unknown Prestonwood victim who came forward in October 2012 now files a report with Dallas police. This is also noted in this Watch Keep Facebook comment of March 20, 2013.

January 22, 2013. John Langworthy pleads guilty to five counts of abuse. For each count, he is given 10 years of a suspended sentence for a total of 50 years. Details, plus descriptions of what this means, are given in: Former minister pleads guilty to abuse, by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press (January 22, 2013). Quote:

John Langworthy, 50, former associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., pleaded guilty in Hinds County Circuit Court to five of eight felony counts of gratification of lust against young boys in the early 1980s. He was sentenced to 10 years of a suspended sentence on each count for a total of 50 years.

A suspended sentence is when a trial judge finds guilt and assigns a prison sentence but postpones implementation to give the criminal time to complete alternatives to jail such as probation. As part of his agreement, Langworthy will be on five years of supervised probation, cannot have contact with any of his victims and must register as a sex offender.

Also in the courtroom are Amy Smith, Sherry LeFils (a former Dallas County probation officer assigned to work with sex offenders), and three of the victims – two from Mississippi and one from Prestonwood in Texas. A transcript of a very important and lengthy (1,300 words) courtroom statement from one of the victims, is apparently reproduced in full at A survivor speaks in a Mississippi courtroom to Langworthy: It’s about bringing darkness to light. One important point he makes it that, basically, Mr. Langworthy only confessed to those incidents of molestation on which he’d been confronted/caught, and that there are other victims. Here is a partial quotation, from the opening of the survivor’s statement (emphasis added):

Today has been a long time in coming – over 30 years ago. I didn’t ever think I would see this day, and really didn’t want it to come to this in many ways, but it has. Some would say that is simply too long ago, we must simply forgive and forget. And in some ways that is true. We must forgive. And I want you to know John that I did a long time ago. Why we are here is not because of vengeance or retribution, it is not to get even or get payback. It is simply about bringing the darkness to the light. And that is not easy for victims to do. It takes a long time to process what happened to them and why and how people they trusted would betray them and harm them and then process all the mess that it makes inside a child who becomes an adult. It’s a lot to process. People who speak about the ridiculousness of it taking so long for this to happen simply weren’t victims. They can’t understand.

Let’s be honest though, that today was not of your choosing, but due to the diligence and hard work of 2 ladies in Texas and a victim from Texas to bring to light what had occurred and what we believe has still been occurring. Let it be clear that though it was said you were repentant and had confessed, you only confessed to those 2 victims, me and one other from TX, who had come forward at that time to let people know what had happened. You did not confess to the other 4 victims that came forward in Jackson until today!  You confessed to sexual indiscretions with younger males in a church in MS and a church in TX, when in fact it was not sexual indiscretions, but you molested and sexually abused at least 5 children here and 3 were from another church. Even in your public confession and in private to those holding you accountable to put it in your words, you still didn’t tell the whole truth. Only to that which you got caught doing. There are many who support you who do not know the fact that you still haven’t told the truth until today. They believe that because it was a long time ago that we should forgive and forget. Forgive yes, and forget to some extent, however it never justifies what you did and that you should never be allowed to around children ever again and thankfully after today that will be very difficult for you.

There are other victims in Texas that you still have not admitted to molesting there and I believe some still here in MS, but I believe that one day it will come. I would encourage you to go ahead and come completely clean and name all your victims both here in MS and Texas and make a true confession and be truly repentant.

COMMENTARY: This is quoted here and emphasis added because it is another indicator that there were more than just one victim at Prestonwood. This has become a point of contention in the long-term unfolding of this situation. As best I have been able to find in all direct statements made by anyone from Prestonwood Baptist Church, there has ever only been acknowledged one victim. The only reference I have found is in an August 9, 2011, article by Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press: Abuse confession raises questions of cover-up by Baptist mega-church. Here is the relevant quote (emphasis added):

[Prestonwood Pastor Dr. Jack] Graham declined to comment for a news story about Langworthy by Dallas TV station WFAA, but Executive Pastor Mike Buster gave this statement: “In the summer of 1989, the church received an allegation that John Langworthy had acted inappropriately with a teenage student. Based on this allegation, he was dismissed immediately, removing him from all responsibilities with the church. In no way did officials of the church seek to cover up the actions of Mr. Langworthy or silence his accuser. The elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.”

Note the singular, accuser. To my knowledge, there has not been an objection or correction filed for that quotation, or a retraction. Apparently the official stance from Prestonwood Baptist Church is that there was/is only one minor male who was victimized by John Langworthy. However, there are so few statements on record from PBC that everything is parsed to the limit.

Quotes by others are plentiful, and they raise issues about whether PBC really had multiple victims, despite only apparently acknowledging the single one who brought the allegations to light. For instance, in a WFAA investigative news report from August 2011, two alleged victims from Prestonwood say that church officials conducted their own internal investigation on the extent of the abuse, and spoke with victims. This issue will be explored more on Page 05 Allegations and Analysis, in the section of analysis on Key Allegations and Issues Surrounding Prestonwood Baptist Church.

January 2013 ~ The Aftermath of Conviction: Attention Refocused on Prestonwood

OVERVIEW: After the sentencing, some of the interest in the case turned back toward the roles of Prestonwood Baptist Church leaders in it taking so long for the victims to find justice. The key events of January through March of 2013 take us to the point when this expanded history was compiled, mid-March 2013.

January 26, 2013. A silent protest vigil is held in front of the church, sponsored by SNAP – Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (and other clergy). Amy Smith read the following statement from the mother of one of the Prestonwood victims.

As a mother of a child that was molested by John Langworthy when he was at Prestonwood in the late 80’s, I want people to know the truth, The hurt our family endured during this time is indescribable. First of all, we were not contacted by Prestonwood when our son went to the youth minister, Neal Jeffrey to tell him what he had been going through for months at the hands of John Langworthy.

 The phone rang and it was the counselor’s office calling to confirm my son’s appointment. I called [Prestonwood Pastor] Neal [Jeffrey] immediately to find out what was going on. The next thing I remember is seeing my son sitting on the curb outside our front door waiting for Neal and a youth volunteer to arrive. Our son could not bring himself to come into our home to tell us what John had done to him. We felt Neal was there to look after the church’s interest.

Prestonwood only tried to protect themselves. The church never reported John to the police, and he left Texas within a week for Mississippi. My husband and I found out that Langworthy was working at a elementary school in Mississippi. We made a call to a school official to tell them about John’s molestation of young boys. We knew we had to notify the school. No more children needed to be John’s victims.

 We ask that Prestonwood take responsibility for their coverup, and to say they are sorry.

There was no response to this plea from Prestonwood Baptist Church.

January 28, 2013. Two days later, there was an ABP news report on the SNAP protest at Prestonwood. Abuse cover-up alleged at SBC church, by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press (January 28, 2013). It adds one other piece of information about the contention over the actual number of victims at Prestonwood. Quote (emphasis added):

The Mississippi prosecutor told a judge Langworthy had at least one other victim in Texas, prompting the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to hold vigil outside a Saturday evening service at Prestonwood’s main campus in Plano, Texas, Jan. 26.

February – March 2013 ~ Chris Tynes Becomes a Lightning Rod That Issues Remain

INTRODUCTION: While 13-year Prestonwood Baptist Church member Chris Tynes is exploring some social activism issues, he finds links to information about the Prestonwood/Langworthy situation on websites by victims’ advocates Christa Brown and Amy Smith. He becomes concerned about the allegations of how his home church may have mishandled John Langworthy’s sexual abuse and/or covered it up later. In his attempts simply to find out what went on, and whether the church has yet resolved the outstanding issues, he becomes embroiled in a new phase of the controversy. He is barred from the PBC property and reported to the police as a “suspicious person, possibly violent.” Instead of this deterring Mr. Tynes, this galvanizes his resolve to work with those who have gone before to bring light into the situation.

February 18, 2013. Prestonwood Baptist Church member Chris Tynes views the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, on clergy sexual abuse. From a Facebook post he wrote about how this experience affected him,  he received comments that linked him to the stories of Amy Smith and Christa Brown. This eventually led to an Associated Baptist Press editorial by Christa Brown, sharing the story of John Langworthy and how this showed the need for a sexual predator database in the Southern Baptist Convention.

February 21 – March 5, 2013. These questions lead to a series of interactions via social media, email, and phone between Prestonwood leadership/staff and Chris Tynes, as Chris tries to understand the situation that happened with John Langworthy. He posts questions about the case on PBC’s Facebook page (they are soon deleted). So, he schedules a meeting with Executive Pastor Mike Buster, but it is canceled and Mr. Tynes is told there would be no rescheduling and that Pastor Buster does not “need” to speak with him.

On March 5, Mr. Tynes goes to the wait in the church parking lot, hoping to meet with a pastor and ask his questions. On the way there, he posts several Tweets with words about his “target” and hoping to “ambush” a pastor to talk. At that point, he is new to Twitter, and only has about 10 followers. Somehow, apparently, PBC personnel have somehow received those Tweets or copies/forwards of them.

Three church security guards meet Mr. Tynes in the parking lot. They ask him to leave and inform him that he is barred from setting foot on church property again. Mr. Tynes records most of the interaction on his phone, and apparently, the security team also is recording the interaction. He leaves. It turns out later that the church has filed a police report about him as a “suspicious person, possibly violent.” [TO BE ADDED: Time stamp on the police report.] He speaks with a police detective about the report, and no further action is taken.

For extensive details on these events, see the article on The Wartburg Watch: Prestonwood Baptist vs. Chris Tynes: Something is Very Wrong! It also has details of an abrupt “no comment” phone call allegedly from an administrative assistant at PBC to researcher/writer Dee Parson, the author of the article.

March 6 – 14, 2013. On March 6, the day after the parking lot incident, Chris Tynes starts the Facebook page, People Against Prestonwood’s Silence on Allegations of Sexual Abuse. People begin to post information, critiques, and commentary on the issues.

From there, other social media start picking up the story … especially spiritual abuse survivor blogs and some Facebook groups on recovery from spiritual abuse, along with the already-existing Twitter hashtag campaign #PBCSilentNoMore.

A few news agencies pick up the story, including WFAA, a local news outlet that had posted one of the more crucial news stories about John Langworthy, reporting his public confession in August of 2011. Reporter Jobin Panicker interviews Mr. Tynes, but the story is delayed for several days by other news reports with apparently more priority. During this period of waiting, Mr. Tynes Tweets his perspective on the whole situation:

I haven’t made allegations of @prestonwood; I discovered them and asked questions. Must not fall in trap of me being the story. (Tweet of March 13, 2013; @crtynes).

The much-anticipated WFAA news clip finally airs on the evening of March 14. However, the angle taken is – surprisingly – not about the victims and unresolved issues with PBC and John Langworthy, but seemingly about the use of social media: Social media posts cause discord between Prestonwood Baptist, member; by Jobin Panicker, WFAA (March 14, 2013). [VIDEO. 02:30.] This report focuses on Prestonwood Baptist Church’s confrontation with parishioner and questioner Chris Tynes.

On March 15, Mr. Tynes posts a detailed response to the WFAA report on his Facebook page. In it, he responds to what are, in his opinion, seven questionable statements made by PBC “Director of Administration” Ben Lovvorn – or so Mr. Lovvorn is listed in the WFAA news report of March 14. It turns out that Director Lovvorn is not listed on the PBC website in the leadership directory – at least, not at the time of this compilation on March 15-17. Several researchers are curious about this … oversight … and soon discover that Mr. Lovvorn is apparently a lawyer on staff with PBC, according to the State Bar of Texas, and that he has also worked with the Dallas law firm of Bell Nunnally & Martin, LLP. This may hold important implications in the ongoing critiques of Mr. Panicker’s WFAA report.

ANALYSIS: As of 24 hours after the WFAA report focused on Chris Tynes aired, there had already been some qualitatively significant push-back on the WFAA report. Much of this criticism has come from apparent members of the spiritual abuse and/or sexual abuse survivors communities, given their self-disclosures of person experiences in those areas. Their critical opinions expressed disappointment with the WFAA report lacking in investigative detail, providing a very spotty context for the conflict, and focusing on what are small issues in light of questions left unanswered by Prestonwood still since WFAA’s own piece in 2011.

Besides the alleged cover-up, additional specific issues may continue to emerge as more people research the case. For instance, noted on March 15 are the apparent attempts by PBC to block the public editing of the Prestonwood Baptist Church Wikipedia page, by removing insertions like this one dealing with the John Langworthy situation. Also noted that same day is that the person labeled the Director of Administration for PBC, who is not found on the church’s leadership directory page, happens to be a lawyer in the employ of Prestonwood Baptist Church, according to the Texas State Bar.

Meanwhile, the renewed publicity for PBC’s role also contributes to a stepping up in the #PBCSilentNoMore social media campaign to publicly challenge Prestonwood leaders to take responsibility for unanswered questions and unresolved issues left from over 20+ years of silence. The creation of the PBC Silent No More website is part of that campaign.

  • Expanded History ~ Version 1 ~ March 17, 2013; 2 PM, PDT by brad/futuristguy

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