A Southern Baptist church in Georgia reportedly fired its music minister after being called out publicly by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear for suspicion of indifference toward allegations of sexual abuse.
Thomas Hammond, executive director of the SBC-affiliated Georgia Baptist Convention, said March 2 he was told that a staff member who had admitted to molesting a young teenager decades ago has been dismissed and instructed not to return to Trinity Baptist Church in Ashburn, Georgia.
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, included Trinity Baptist in a list of 10 churches warranting examination after a Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News investigative series documented widespread abuse allegations in the nation’s second largest faith group.
The newspapers did not identify Trinity Baptist or the staff member by name because no one was ever charged with a crime but interviewed two men who claimed the man abused them at another Georgia Baptist church in the 1980s.
Rodney Brown, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, initially told Baptist Press he felt “shock” and “discouragement” upon learning that Greear had asked convention leaders to determine the church’s fitness without first contacting the congregation.
“I thought the Southern Baptist Convention was there to support the churches that were a part of it,” Brown said in a Feb. 26 story summarizing responses from churches that Greear said Feb. 18 should be asked to assure the convention they are working to correct their policies and procedures related to abuse. “I kind of felt betrayed because no one had bothered to reach out to anybody in the church, me in particular as pastor, to allow us to verify or deny any allegations.”
The BP story said the church fired the individual when he confessed in 2013 or 2014 to molesting a “young teen” but later reinstated him as minister of music because he had repented.
“Church leaders came back to me and said, ‘Rodney, the man says he’s repented. We’re not his judge. We’ve not seen anything to indicate any of this at our church,’” the denominational news service quoted Brown as saying.
“Church leaders came back to me and said, ‘Rodney, the man says he’s repented. We’re not his judge. We’ve not seen anything to indicate any of this at our church.’”
Hammond, the Georgia Baptist executive, said in a March 2 statement in the Christian Index that in his initial contact with Trinity Baptist, he told the pastor he was sorry for how the conversation came about but later apologized for leaving the impression “that I was more concerned about a church or a process than the priority of one abuse victim.”
“With respect to Trinity Baptist, Pastor Brown confirmed to me yesterday what he’d stated to Baptist Press: that a staff member admitted to being a sexual abuser, and furthermore, remained in a leadership position at Trinity,” Hammond said. “Today, I also learned from the pastor that the perpetrator has been dismissed and instructed not to return. It is my expectation that there is more work to be done at Trinity and more healing to be experienced by the victims; I am committed to both efforts.”
David Pittman, one of the alleged victims quoted by the Texas newspapers, posted an article online in 2012 revealing a secret he had kept for 30 years, that he was sexually abused from age 12 to 15 by a youth minister at a large Southern Baptist church in Georgia who was now leading worship at another church because the pastor defended him.
Since then, Pittman said in an update to the article last week, a total of nine men – one of them now deceased – from four different churches have come forward with similar allegations involving the same man, who today walks free “due to the pathetic statute of limitation laws in Georgia and too many states throughout the USA.”
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