By Bob Allen
Leaders of a Baptist association in Alabama investigated questions raised in recent media reports about a director of mission’s handling of alleged child sex abuse decades ago in 2009 and found no evidence of cover-up, according to a news story dated July 17 in the Alabama Baptist.
Recent news stories about the May 20 arrest of a former youth minister at Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., included comments by one of the alleged victims claiming the pastor at the time, Mike McLemore, knew about the abuse but kept it quiet to protect the congregation’s image.
Mack Allen Davis, 73, minister of youth and recreation at Lakeside Baptist Church from 1977 until his retirement in 1999, faces 15 charges from three counties stemming from allegations by two men who stepped forward to claim that Davis molested them 30 years ago.
One of the men, Davis’ nephew, Andrew Guffey, 44, told the Birmingham News that McLemore, now director of missions for Birmingham Baptist Association, knew about the abuse by the late 1990s but did not report it to the police.
The Alabama Baptist report says the allegations against McLemore are nothing new. The association’s executive committee and human resources committee studied the matter 15 years ago and reported on Jan. 29, 2010, that no one “has seen any information to support the charge that Dr. McLemore knowingly protected a pedophile during his tenure as pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church.”
McLemore insists he knew nothing about Guffey’s abuse until he started making public allegations against him. He told the Alabama Baptist that he learned in 1999 of accusations that Davis had molested someone else, but the family asked to keep the matter confidential.
“That guided everything I did from that point on,” McLemore told the Alabama Baptist.
McLemore said Davis was forced to take early retirement at age 59 and agreed to pay for counseling for the victim. McLemore said he followed normal procedures for a departing long-time staff member, including a farewell reception and financial gift, in order not to call special attention to the separation.
The Southern Baptist Convention lacks authority to hire or fire ministers of local churches, but in 2013 passed a resolution reminding “all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any accusations of child abuse to authorities.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., advised ministers at the recent 2014 SBC annual meeting in Baltimore to immediately “dial 911” at the first report of any alleged child sexual abuse.
An earlier SBC resolution in 2007 renounced “individuals, churches, or other religious bodies that cover up, ignore, or otherwise contribute to or condone the abuse of children.”
“There’s been an awareness raised because of the Catholic fallout,” McLemore said in a Birmingham News report dated June 14, 2007. “It’s something we need to address. We have training and workshops available through our state convention.”
According to the Alabama Baptist report, renewed interest in the case prompted associational leaders to take a second look at the situation. The newspaper quoted McLemore as saying “he has been overwhelmed with support from pastors and churches in the association.”