Sunday school worker charged with abuse

A Southern Baptist church in Tennessee is in the news for alleged sexual abuse by an authority figure for the second time in four years.

By Bob Allen

Christopher Ryan Crossno, 22, a former Sunday school teacher at Spring Creek Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., was indicted by the January 2013 Montgomery County Grand Jury on one count of aggravated sexual battery.

christopher crossnoA press release said the Clarksville Police Department received a Department of Children’s Services referral Nov. 19 alleging that a day before, a Sunday school teacher had had inappropriate contact with a 6-year-old female while on the church property.

It’s the same church where 24-year-old Jonathan Tyler Giles served as a youth pastor before his arrest in June 2009 on three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, two counts of solicitation of minor and sexual battery by an authority figure involving three teenage girls who attended Spring Creek Baptist Church.

Giles pleaded guilty in January 2011 in a plea bargain reached to keep victims from having to testify in court. He was sentenced to two years in prison and placed on a post-trial diversion allowing him to avoid jail time if he completed 240 hours of public service, lived with his parents out of town and stayed in school.

After his indictment, Crossno was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on Jan. 10 with a $10,000 bond.

Spring Creek Baptist Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Tennessee Baptist Convention and Cumberland Baptist Association. The Tennessee legislature passed a resolution on the church’s 200th anniversary that described Spring Creek Baptist Church as “a shining example to all churches.”

The Tennessee Baptist Convention newspaper Baptist and Reflector featured the congregation in a 2010 story about its sports-based ministry to children of military families at nearby Fort Campbell.

Spring Creek Baptist Church is the second Tennessee Baptist congregation in recent weeks to receive unwanted publicity about alleged clergy sexual misconduct with youth. The youth director at North Fork Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tenn., 36-year-old Joseph Todd Neill, was arrested Jan. 3 on charges of statutory rape and sexual abuse by an authority figure involving a 17-year-old female member of the church youth group.

A Shelbyville Times-Gazette story published Jan. 8 said Neill texted the girl for several months and became close to her family before seducing her around the first of the year. The newspaper also published a letter to the editor Jan. 10 that questioned the police investigation.

“Sorry, but there are too many unknowns here, I think, to run with a story like this about a guy who has by all accounts shown great character his entire life and volunteered so much of his time, money and self to benefit kids and the community,” wrote John Barber of Knoxville. “I have witnessed firsthand the selfless benevolence Todd has given of his life -- through building houses in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans to feeding and meeting with homeless folks at area soup kitchens.

“The real story is how Tennessee statutes do not differentiate between a girl who is 13 years and one day old and a girl who is four months from being 18, and how an allegation by a possibly love-sick near-18-year-old woman can cause a good man to immediately forfeit $10,000 to the [court system] in order to pay bond. Ten grand. [For] allegations that may through the judicial process be proven completely false (or, at worst, overly-exaggerated),” said Barber.