The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention acted contrary to scripture by withdrawing fellowship from a church pastored by a registered sex offender, that minister has said.
Erbey Valdez, 47, the pastor of New Spirit Baptist Church in San Antonio, expressed that view in a May 16 letter to the SBTC’s executive board and its chairman, Danny Forshee. The executive board voted to withdraw membership from the congregation because of Valdez’ sex offender status.
In his letter, which he shared with Baptist News Global, Valdez described the decision as one made “both in error and in stark contrast” to biblical teachings. He also said SBTC succumbed to media pressure.
The board’s decision was one “of self-preservation of its image, by disaffiliating with any pastors who have a public testimony of sexual sin,” Valdez said.
The (San Angelo) Standard-Times reported that Valdez, then a middle-school principal, was arrested in 2009 on a charge of improper relationship between educator and student. A second charge of sexual performance by a child was added by a grand jury in 2010. He pleaded guilty to both felonies and was sentenced to 10 years probation for each count, to be served concurrently.
The path to New Spirit’s eventual ejection was opened in March when, the Southern Baptist TEXAN newspaper reported, the SBTC executive board approved a policy denying affiliation to any church whose senior pastor has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child.
That vote followed a series of articles by the Houston Chronicle and (San Antonio) Express News detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers.
After meeting with officials from SBTC, New Spirit decided to retain Valdez, the Baptist publication reported. The board responded with a May 1 letter informing the church of its decision.
“While the Executive Board agrees that in Christ Jesus all sin is forgiven, we maintain that there remain earthly consequences to one’s sin,” the executive board said in the letter signed by Forshee. “One of the earthly consequences for conduct that resulted in a Christian’s listing on the national sex offender registry is the disqualification of the individual to serve in the office of Senior Pastor.”
The SBTC letter concluded that while respecting the autonomy of the local church, Valdez’ status as a sex offender places New Spirit outside “our confessional fellowship of churches.”
In his response, Valdez agreed there are earthly consequences for sin, but that disqualification from ministry shouldn’t be one of them. He cites the Apostle Paul’s call to leadership and evangelism despite his previous persecution of Christians.
He added that his offense occurred years before becoming senior pastor at New Spirit, which he referred to as NSBC in his letter.
“Removing NSBC from affiliation will do absolutely nothing to improve the problems of sexual abuse in the church,” Valdez said.
He said the church is moving on from the controversy to continue its Great Commission work.
BNG News Editor Bob Allen contributed to this report.