CLINTON, Miss. (ABP) – A former Southern Baptist music minister who recently confessed to past “sexual indiscretions” with younger males was arrested Sept. 7 on seven charges of gratification of lust.
Police in Clinton and Jackson, Miss., allege that John Langworthy, 49, sexually abused five boys in the early 1980s, while he was a student at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College. Two of the acts allegedly occurred in a dorm room at the Christian school affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention in Clinton.
According to local media , Langworthy gained access to the boys by befriending their families and babysitting for them. Authorities declined to go into detail about where the abuse took place in Jackson but said an investigation showed that Langworthy was involved heavily with youth choirs at First Baptist Church of Jackson and Daniel Memorial Baptist Church in Jackson between 1980 and 1984, when the crimes are alleged to have occurred.
Langworthy resigned recently as associate pastor of music ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton. He confessed to the congregation Aug. 7 of “indiscretions” with younger males before coming to work at the Mississippi congregation 21 years ago in a part-time position.
Langworthy said it happened while he was serving at a church in Mississippi and then in Texas and when it came to light he had to leave his church in Texas. He assured the congregation there has been no “sexual impropriety” in the 22 years since he chose to relocate to Clinton.
In Texas Langworthy was a youth music minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church, led by Pastor Jack Graham, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Plano mega-church released a statement saying that Langworthy was dismissed in 1989 due to an allegation of inappropriate activity with a teenage student.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he hopes any church officials who knew about or suspected Langworthy’s crimes but did not tell police will also be prosecuted.
“We are grateful that his child-molesting cleric has been arrested,” said the head of the 23-year-old support group begun during a child-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church but now with members from many denominations. “For the safety of kids, we hope he stays locked up a long time.”
Mississippi authorities say Langworthy’s victims were between the ages of 10 and 13 when their abuse occurred. They applauded the now-adult men for courage in coming forward even after 30 years, because of the stigma attached.
“It takes great courage for a victim to step forward,” Amy Smith, who works for SNAP in Houston, said Sept. 8. “When a predator’s name is made public it helps to protect children and warn parents. Also, it helps others who have been hurt to find the courage to step forward, contact law enforcement and begin to heal.”
Langworthy’s past came to light after Smith — a former member of Langworthy’s youth choir who was serving on staff at Prestonwood as a college intern in the summer of 1989 — worked over a year to warn police, media and staff of both Prestonwood and Morrison Heights Baptist churches it was dangerous for him to be around children.
“Predators need secrecy to hurt children,” Smith said. “When a survivor steps forward, no matter how long ago or how recent the abuse occurred, a very strong message is sent to any child being abused that it is OK to tell. It’s very difficult for victims to speak up, but that’s what it takes to expose predators, protect children and prevent crimes.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.