LifeWay Christian Resources revealed in a statement June 14 the arrest of a summer staff worker accused of molesting two children attending a church camp in Arizona.
Noah John Paradis, 19, is listed as an inmate at the Navajo County Detention Center in Holbrook, Arizona.
Brad Waggoner, acting CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention entity, said Paradis faces multiple felony counts for acts allegedly committed the week of June 10-14 during a CentriKid Camp at Bison Ranch Retreat Center in Overgaard, Arizona.
CentriKid, a five-day, four-night camp for third through sixth graders staffed by college and seminary students, operates from mid-June until early August at numerous conference centers and Baptist college campuses across the country.
LifeWay said Paradis’ involvement was limited to the June 10-14 camp in Arizona, and as soon as the company learned of charges he was fired.
“We are grieved that someone representing LifeWay would behave in this manner and abuse their position of authority with a child,” Waggoner said. “LifeWay is working with local law enforcement as the investigation is ongoing and will continue to follow their lead in the case.”
News of the arrest came on the heels of a major emphasis on abuse prevention and response at last week’s SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. Convention leaders began a process to amend governing documents to disqualify churches indifferent to abuse from membership and authorized a standing committee to look into abuse allegations.
A new resource titled Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused was introduced. A resolution denounced “the evil of sexual abuse.” More than 1,250 people registered for a panel discussion “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention” co-sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study task force appointed by convention President J.D. Greear.
Outside the meeting hall abuse survivors and advocates pushed for stronger reform, advising denominational leaders to stop trying to police themselves and bring in outside experts to receive, evaluate and share information about abuse allegations.
Speakers at the second annual For Such a Time as This rally also challenged a theology of male superiority that organizers said breeds a culture of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.
Over the weekend local media reported the arrest of Stephen Bratton, a former pastor at Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston, on charges of sexual assault against a teenage relative for five years.
Grace Family Baptist Church is a five-point Calvinist congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The church released a statement saying that Bratton confessed May 16 to two pastors, who immediately filed a police report.
Church leaders said Bratton was excommunicated as a member May 19 and is no longer receiving a salary.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recently removed a church for retaining a pastor who is a registered sex offender but claims to have reformed.
Just prior to this year’s SBC annual meeting, the pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, a multi-site megachurch in Nashville, Tennessee, informed members that a 2018 summer intern had been arrested on charges of statutory rape of a student.
While the timeline is unclear, Pastor Robby Gallaty said in a statement June 9 that the alleged abuse appears to have taken place during the former intern’s 10-week service period with the Gallatin campus student team.
The crime, committed when a person who holds a authority over the victim has sexual intercourse with someone between the ages of 13 and 17, is punishable by three to 15 years in prison without the possibility of probation.
According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Widrick, a resident of Camillus, New York, was charged, arraigned and released from jail on $25,000 bond in a single day on June 4.