A former youth pastor at one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship churches was arrested last week on one charge of sexual indecency with a child, according to a report in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
Keenan Hord, 32, worked at a satellite campus of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis until 2016, according to an email sent to the Bellevue congregation last Thursday, Aug. 25. He reportedly was arrested by police in Bentonville, Ark., where he had been on staff at First Baptist Church.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that as of Aug. 26, Hord was being held in the Benton County Jail with no bond set.
According to reporting by Liam Adams of the Nashville Tennessean, Bellevue announced it is launching an internal review into Hord, who worked on the Bellevue youth ministry staff from 2011 through 2016.
Bellevue spokesperson Noah Sidhom told the newspapers the Memphis church had been notified by First Baptist Church of Bentonville of Hord’s arrest. The pastor of the Bentonville church is Chris Dixon, who has been in that role only one year.
Whether any allegations of wrongdoing have been made against Hord related to his tenure at Bellevue is not yet clear.
“We have been devastated to learn that a former employee of our church has been credibly accused of abusing adolescents during his tenure at our church,” FBC Bentonville said in a statement. “We are ministering to the survivors and their families who demonstrated incredible courage in coming forward.”
“We have been devastated to learn that a former employee of our church has been credibly accused of abusing adolescents during his tenure at our church.”
One of the accusations against SBC leadership surfaced in a recent 300-page investigatory report about sexual abuse in the denomination is that leaders have knowing allowed predators to move from one church to another.
Bellevue and its senior pastor, Steve Gaines, are mentioned by name in the Guidepost report, although whether the reference is to this employee or another is not clear. The Guidepost report states that Gaines “admitted that, as senior pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, he had delayed reporting a staff minister’s prior sexual abuse of a child (out) of ‘heartfelt concern and compassion for th(e) minister,’ while acknowledging that he should have ‘brought it to the attention of our church leadership immediately.’”
In a separate case, Bellevue settled with a teenage sexual abuse victim who sued the church and alleged it provided a space for her abuser to groom and abuse her, Adams reported.
Gaines is a former president of the SBC, and Bellevue is one of the SBC’s largest congregations, with an average Sunday attendance of about 8,000 people. Its former pastor was Adrian Rogers, a legendary figure among Southern Baptist conservatives.
According to the report in the Commercial-Appeal, First Baptist of Bentonville said its leaders learned of the allegations against Hord after his employment had ended and immediately notified local law enforcement and the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline.
Meanwhile, leaders at Bellevue issued an urgent appeal to their congregants: “If you have any information regarding any criminal activity, please report it to the local police department. If you or your child were affected by this, we want to help you navigate this difficult situation with access to professional counselors at no expense to you.”