SNAP leader says police should investigate alleged abuse cover-up by DOM

The arrest of a former youth pastor at a Southern Baptist church in Alabama has one of the alleged victims pointing a finger at his former pastor.

By Bob Allen

An advocate for clergy abuse victims said July 2 that police should investigate whether a Southern Baptist director of missions concealed molestation by the youth minister at a church he previously served as pastor.

Mack Allen Davis, 73, former youth pastor at Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., faces 15 charges from three counties in a grand jury indictment handed down after two men came forward alleging Davis molested them 30 years ago.

mike mclemoreThe Birmingham News reported July 2 that one of the alleged victims claims that Mike McLemore, executive director of the Birmingham Baptist Association since 2007 and pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church from 1983 to 2007, knew about the allegations but swept it under a rug to protect the church’s reputation.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said ministers who cover up child sex crimes play just as much of a role in hurting innocent children as the perpetrator.

“We urgently urge law enforcement to investigate these allegations,” said Clohessy, an abuse survivor who testified before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. “We also beg anyone who saw, suspects or suffered cover ups by McLemore to call police right away and help protect other potential victims.”

McLemore, a former president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, told Birmingham News reporter Greg Garrison that the accusations against him are false, but he acknowledged dealing with the situation privately.

“It was a private matter with the family," McLemore said. "The family involved had asked me to keep the situation confidential. I advised them what they had the right to do."

The alleged victims claim they were abused by Davis multiple times over a decade from the late 1970s through the late 1980s. The alleged abuse occurred in multiple locations, including Davis’ church office, Shocco Springs Baptist Camp in Talladega, Ala., and Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina.

Davis was hired in 1977 by Lakeside Baptist Church as minister of youth and recreation and the following summer named director of the church’s summer camp. He retired in 1999 at age 59, after his wife filed for divorce upon reading letters from both victims threatening to reveal their sexual abuse.

Davis’ ex-wife says she discussed the allegations with McLemore, and he responded that he had talked to her former husband and there was nothing to it.

One of the alleged victims, Andrew Guffey, 44, told the newspaper he felt pressure from the church to keep the sexual abuse a secret, but after therapy he realized he needed to come forward.

Alabama is one of 27 states that specifically name clergy among professions required to report the known or suspected abuse of children, according to a 2012 report by the National District Attorneys Association.

The Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions denouncing the sexual abuse of children in 2002, 2007 and 2013. The most recent resolution reminded “all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any accusations of child abuse to authorities in addition to implementing any appropriate church discipline or internal restoration processes.”

Guffey told the Birmingham News that when Davis was forced to retire, the church honored him.

"They threw a party for Mack when they let him go," Guffey said. "They gave him a love offering. I think it was a fair amount of money."

At the recent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore, McLemore was elected a trustee of the North American Mission Board.

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