Two months after a series of investigative newspaper stories reported widespread sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention and while denominational leaders ponder solutions, the numbers of Southern Baptist clergy in the criminal system for alleged sex offenses continues to grow.
Last Friday Michael McNeil, former youth pastor at Christ Memorial Church in Wilton, Vermont, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual exploitation of a minor.
McNeil, 29, served as youth pastor at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, before moving to Vermont in 2016 to intern at The New England Training and Sending Center for Church Planting and Revitalization, a group of congregations affiliated with groups including the Southern Baptist Convention, Sovereign Grace Ministries, The Gospel Coalition, 9Marks and ACTS 29.
McNeil admitted to the crime in exchange for a sentence with no jail time that keeps his name off the sex offender registry if he stays out of trouble for five years.
According to the Burlington Free Press, the unnamed girl was older than the age of consent, but Vermont has a law making it a crime for someone at least four years older acting “in a position of power, authority, or supervision” to engage in a sexual act with a minor. If convicted of abusing his position of power to entice the girl McNeil could have received up to five years in prison.
“The breach of trust is unbelievable,” Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Kevin Griffin told McNeil after accepting his guilty plea. “The dignity and the compassion that [the girl’s] parents have shown you far exceeded what you did to them.”
Also on Friday, Jonathan Michael Bailey, 37, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in 2015 during a trip to the Sea Shore United Methodist Retreat Center in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Bailey, former minister of youth at First Baptist Church in New Orleans, was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison for molestation that occurred in Louisiana.
A graduate of Louisiana College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Bailey reportedly passed a criminal background check before joining the staff at First Baptist in about 2013, but after his arrest a previous church reported to police he had been fired there about a decade earlier over an inappropriate relationship with a juvenile.
Last Thursday marked the beginning of a trial in the U.S. territory of Guam for former Baptist pastor Renato Capili Bosi, accused of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and child abuse involving a 14-year-old girl.
Bosi resigned after his 2017 indictment as pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Guam, affiliated with the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. Bosi, 58, also known as Ray and Pastor Raye, was a pastor for 40 years, including 23 years in Michigan.
In February the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News produced articles documenting 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers who faced allegations of sexual misconduct in the last 20 years. The number of victims exceeded 700, the newspapers reported, and a number of the alleged abusers managed to find jobs at other churches despite their past.
Last year Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear launched a Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study in response to allegations of misconduct or indifference being lodged against a number of influential SBC leaders.
A separate study at the SBC International Board began after revelations that a one-time missionary who resigned amid abuse allegations in 2007 managed to move on to church jobs, finally landing as an executive in a Baptist state convention, until shortly before his arrest last year for sex crimes alleged in Texas in 1996 and 1997.
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