Advocates for survivors of clergy sexual abuse criticized the Missouri Baptist Convention for electing a university trustee accused in 2005 of not cooperating with police in what media at the time described as Missouri’s biggest clergy sex-abuse case to date.
The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests and the For Such A Time As This Rally announced Wednesday they will urge Missouri’s attorney general to launch a statewide investigation into Baptist child sex crimes and cover ups similar to one conducted last year involving the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.
Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, announced Feb. 24 that trustees will launch their own investigation into whether a newly elected trustee “imposed” on the university by the Missouri affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention mishandled child sexual abuse allegations against one of his staff members in 2005.
The university did not identify the trustee, but For Such A Time As This, a #MeToo-type movement launched in 2018 to draw attention to sexual abuse and domestic violence in the Southern Baptist Convention, last week criticized the installation of Mike Roy, lead pastor of Pathway Church in Raymore, Missouri, to the Southwest Baptist University board of trustees.
In 2003 Roy hired Shawn Davies, a former classmate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary he met in 1998, to lead music at First Baptist Church in Greenwood, Missouri, near Kansas City. Two years later Davies pleaded guilty to 27 counts of statutory sodomy, furnishing pornographic material to minors, supplying liquor to minors, sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 14, use of a child in sexual performance and endangering the welfare of a child.
Davies, recently released from prison and registered as a sex offender listed by the Stone County Sheriff’s Office as living in Reed Springs, Missouri, was already under investigation for similar crimes in Kentucky after a boy told police in 2001 that his youth minster showed him pornographic movies in either 1998 or 1999.
After leaving the small Kentucky church, which authorities declined to name to protect the privacy of victims, Davies reportedly worked at First Baptist Church of Ferguson, Missouri, in suburban St. Louis before finally landing at First Baptist Church in Greenwood.
News outlets including Associated Baptist Press, forerunner to Baptist News Global, quoted a detective as saying police faced setbacks in their nine-month investigation because of Roy’s unwillingness to cooperate.
Local media said Roy discussed the allegations against Davies with deacons in July 2005 but did not suspend him until the end of October, after a computer company found pornography on his computer.
First Baptist Church in Greenwood reportedly conducted two background checks on Davies prior to hiring him in 2003 that showed no arrests, but churches where he formerly worked when contacted by police were forthcoming in warning others that Davies was addicted to pornography and “didn’t work well” with children.
Pathway Editor Don Hinkle said in a column published Feb. 24 that allegations against Roy are untrue. Lee’s Summit attorney James Freeman, who provided legal counsel for Roy and the church at the time, told Hinkle that media reports that Roy was unwilling to cooperate with the investigation constituted “a completely false accusation” intended to sell newspapers.
Hinkle described the university’s description of the slate of trustees “unilaterally imposed” by the Missouri Baptist Convention without the school’s input or approval as “an odd, combative choice of words considering the SBU is an entity of the MBC (the parent corporation) and has a legal right to name its trustees.”
In 2018 Southwest Baptist University fired a professor in the Redford College of Theology and Ministry for unprofessional conduct after he reportedly shared his concerns about “doctrinal instability” in the school with leaders of the Missouri Baptist Convention. The board of trustees censured and eventually removed a trustee who supported the professor for violating the board’s conflict of interest policy.
A third-party review led by David Dockery, chancellor of Trinity International University and former president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, found “an erosion of trust” between the institution and its denominational sponsor attributed to a lack of doctrinal “clarity” in the school of religion.
Last fall the Missouri Baptist Convention nominating committee rejected a slate of trustees proposed by the university and elected its own slate of names that included Roy. University President Eric Turner told messengers at the 2019 Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting that the university would not challenge the convention’s nominees but that he was “disappointed in the process.”
For Such A Time As This Rally organizers said they were unaware of the dispute between the convention and university board of trustees. “We just care about the safety of the vulnerable, and those who have been credibly accused (by law enforcement) of enabling abuse or refusing to cooperate with investigation into abuse should not be elevated to positions of increased power and influence,” the group said on Facebook.
Shawn Davies, now 46, was one of 220 Southern Baptist Convention church workers and volunteers named last year in reports by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News investigating sexual abuse in the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics.
Convention leaders responded with reform measures including a committee seeking to ensure that cooperating churches comply with the denomination’s standards regarding abuse prevention and victim care.
Cheryl Summers, a former Southern Baptist who left the denomination five years ago due to concerns about its handling of abuse, was lead organizer of For Such A Time As This Rallies held outside Southern Baptist Convention meetings in 2018 in Dallas and last year in Birmingham, Alabama. Summers said Wednesday the group plans to be in Orlando, Florida, for the 2020 SBC annual meeting scheduled June 7-8.