JACKSON, Miss. (ABP) – Mississippi prosecutors said Sept. 28 that a former Southern Baptist music minister and high school choir teacher has been indicted on eight felony counts of gratification of lust.
John Langworthy, 49, former associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., and a teacher at Clinton High School, was first arrested Sept. 7 by both Clinton and Jackson police. He was originally charged with two counts of gratification of lust and five counts in Clinton for acts alleged to have occurred more than two decades ago when he was a student at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College.
According to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, the indictment served Sept. 28 charges Langworthy with eight counts of crimes — two in Jackson and six in Clinton. Authorities said the charges relate to the same five alleged victims in the initial investigation. The five men claim Langworthy befriended them at two Jackson Baptist churches and then abused them. They all were ages 10-13 at the time and allege the acts occurred between 1980 and 1984.
Police launched their investigation into Langworthy after he confessed Aug. 7 to the congregation of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton that he had committed “indiscretions” with younger males at churches in Mississippi and Texas before coming to work at Morrison Heights 21 years ago. He had recently resigned from his church position, citing “mental and emotional reasons.”
Langworthy’s resignation came after an internal investigation of allegations against him by the elders of Morrison Heights Baptist Church. He said in is Aug. 7 statement that the allegations were the source of much of the stress he was facing but that he was not asked to resign.
Prior to returning to his native Mississippi Langworthy was a youth music minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a Dallas-area mega-church whose pastor is former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham.
A former co-worker who was an intern at Prestonwood when Langworthy left in 1989 claims he was dismissed due to an allegation of inappropriate activity with a teenaged student.
Amy Smith, Houston representative for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says Prestonwood officials told Langworthy to leave town but did not call the police. She worked for nearly a year to bring Langworthy’s past to light as a matter of conscience prompted by news of a Christian camp director convicted to life in prison for sexually abusing more than a dozen boys.
Both Texas and Mississippi require ministers to report reasonable suspicion that abuse has occurred. When Hinds County prosecutors said they wanted to know what Langworthy told church elders during their investigation over the course of several months, the church’s attorney argued the conversations were protected by minister-penitent privilege and if leaders revealed information obtained in confidence the congregation could be sued.
Langworthy, who is married and the father of two girls, was booked into the Hinds County Detention Center on Wednesday and then released on his previously posted $700,000 bond. If convicted he could receive a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine on each count, the penalty in effect when the alleged crimes occurred.
Langworthy did not return to his public-school teaching job this fall.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.
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