Monday, May 19, 2008

Prestonwood hit by sex sting arrest


No church is immune from the scourge of clergy sex abuse.

A minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas has been charged with online solicitation of sex from a kid.

This is one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the nation. It’s the church pastored by former Southern Baptist president Jack Graham.

It’s a church with a highly-affluent and highly-educated congregation. It’s a church with ample resources.

The arrested minister, Joe Barron, was previously the pastor at Northrich Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, and before that, he was at the First Baptist Church of Lewisville, Texas.

Barron had two weeks’ worth of sexually explicit conversations with a person he believed to be a 13-year old girl. She turned out to be a police officer.

According to police, Barron was arrested when he drove three hours to meet with his intended child-victim. He had a box of 10 condoms in his car, along with a web-camera and headset that police believe he was going to give to the girl.

Police are now investigating whether Barron may have previously engaged in sexual contact with minors.

Meanwhile, pastor Jack Graham told church members, “We want to put this in our rearview mirror.”

Sad, isn’t it? Rather than focusing on the perceived need of his church to move on, Graham should instead be focusing on the needs of children who may have been hurt.

Instead of talking about putting it in the “rearview mirror,” Graham could do a lot more good if he would use his powerful voice to reach out to other possible victims and to urge anyone with any information to bring it forward to police.

Instead of putting it in the “rearview mirror,” Graham himself should seek to learn from this tragedy. If Graham would begin to understand how easily a child predator can infiltrate a church’s ministerial staff, then perhaps he could also use his powerful voice to urge change within the denomination so that ALL Southern Baptist kids might be made safer.

But I doubt that’s going to happen.

The tendency to hastily put clergy sex abuse in the “rearview mirror” is deeply entrenched in this denomination.

Religion writer Terry Mattingly picked up on the Prestonwood story and pointed to it as providing a clue to the scope of the larger story about clergy sex abuse among Southern Baptists and about why it is so difficult to bring much-needed attention to the Southern Baptist abuse story.

“This is an important – although frustrating – story worthy of more coverage,” he says.

Mattingly should know. Five years ago, Mattingly was one of the first journalists to write about the difficulty that Southern Baptists have in cracking down on clergy sex abuse. Mattingly recognized how unrealistic it was to think that a Southern Baptist church could investigate and discipline its own pastor, and he also saw the easy shield that the “free-wheeling and autonomous” polity provided to Baptist leaders.

Where does the buck stop?” he asked. For Southern Baptists, the buck seems to stop nowhere.

37 comments:

gmommy said...

Not surprised they want this one in the rearview mirror...isn't that where they all go?

Christa,
Missed your blog presence! :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jon L. Estes said...

Dr. Graham stated:

We will handle anything we need to handle in terms of our responsibility and obligation and any ongoing investigation or anything of that nature.

Our purpose, our prayer and our priority will be to continue to be to lift up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.To do it in a responsible and accountable way.


Your allegations towards Dr. Graham and Prestonwood are unfounded. They do not have to announce the steps they are taking to anyone but the proper authorities and state that they are going to do such and will continue to do such in an accountable and responsible way.

His message is clear and the working through this with the body he is called to lead is in progress.

You need to apologize for your attack attitude towards those who are being responsible and accountable. They are not responsible to you in any form but you can be assured that there is a work in progress to uncover all that needs to be uncovered. With the proper authorities and people.

You should be ashamed of yourself for criticizing those who are working to do right. and join them instead of assault them.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Thank you for being the voice of reason.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 8:20 - Thanks for your correction.

Athena said...

According the Dallas News article, Prestonwood is being allowed to conduct its own internal investigation of its computers, and if they find anything they will notify the proper authorities. This seems like quite an extraordinary arrangement. I wonder if Prestonwood will do a better job of disclosing criminal activity than the Catholic church did.

Lin said...

"Instead of putting it in the “rearview mirror,” Graham himself should seek to learn from this tragedy. If Graham would begin to understand how easily a child predator can infiltrate a church’s ministerial staff, then perhaps he could also use his powerful voice to urge change within the denomination so that ALL Southern Baptist kids might be made safer."

Christa, you are so right. He is missing his leadership moment in the name of expediency. He is overlooking the 'least of these' to get an embarassing hire out of peoples minds. He wants this put behind them asap. This sends a powerful message to ANY victims out there.

YOu can't put something this big and heinous into the rear view mirror so quickly. There is a reason why a sexual predator felt safe on staff there. Could be a ton of reasons...it is so big who would know? It is quite easy to live a double life on staff at a mega. A lack of accoutability. Preaching/teaching on sin is shallow. Jack Graham's sermons that I have heard on the radio have usually been about culture, marriage, anti-homosexual, anti evolution type stuff, etc. Typical feel good formula sermons which have made him quite popular and build huge seeker churches. (I am always amazed that churches have to preach against homosexuality. Wouldn't a Born Again person know it is sin? But then, most churches are filled with those who are not regenerated...including some ministers like Barron)

I say this as someone who has worked with quite a few seeker megas in my time and have seen things that would curl your hair. I know the drill: Image is EVERYTHING. Get past it as soon as possible.

That fact they would not turn over this man's computer to the police says a lot to me. They want to keep this internal. We all know how that works. I have sat in too many meetings not to know how it works.

And, It is NOT of Christ.

And those that think it can be, need to read Revelations 21.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI...

From the Dallas Morning News article:

"...Prestonwood church staff also gave police officials access to his computer at the church, authorities said..."

Christa Brown said...

Here's the rest of that portion of the Dallas News article:

"Prestonwood church staff also gave police officials access to his computer at church...Police did not seize the computer because church officials told police the church had software on the computer that would not allow a person to go into a chat room...But she said church officials were going to have the computer checked to make sure 'there's no inappropriate material' on it."

Like Athena, I too find this to be a rather extraordinary arrangement for a criminal investigation. There's a difference between "access" and seizure. And why is it that church officials are the ones who are doing the job of checking the computer for inappropriate material?

Athena said...

Why am I not surprised that an anonymous Prestonwood apologist would selectively quote a text?

Below is the full context of the Dallas Morning News reporting regarding why the police did not seize Barron's work computers.

...Prestonwood church staff also gave police officials access to his computer at the church, authorities said. Police did not seize the computer because church officials told police the church had software on the computer that would not allow a person to go into a chat room, Officer Malinak said.

But she said church officials were going to have the computer checked to make sure "there's no inappropriate material" on it, she said.


So, the church "granted access," but then assured the police that there was no need to look further. ("These aren't the droids you're looking for...")

And, as I stated above, the church is being allowed to conduct its own investigation of the computers.

Your selective quote of a sentence fragment from the news story doesn't change the facts.

Lin said...

jack graham also said something strange in his address to the church on Sunday. He made a reference to the secular media and how 'restrained' they were in reporting this. He made it sound like the media was almost apologetic about reporting this.

After my stints with a few mega's I know the time and energy involved in courting the local media. It most certainly comes in handy at a time like this!

I am having a hard time with the fact that the authorites did not insist on taking his work computer. Unbelievable.

Christa Brown said...

More News:
Police affidavit provides more details on sex sting (with embedded links to the affidavit itself and a video)
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/052108dnmetbarron.ffca44b.html

You can leave comments about this on the Dallas News religion blog.
http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/05/police-affidavit-prestonwood-m.html

Something I failed to notice earlier: Prior Dallas News article (linked in original posting) reported that police say there is "evidence he had online conversations with more than a dozen girls"

[Sorry guys - I couldn't get the links to load on this, but you can cut & paste them.)

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed at how quickly you guys jump all over the pastors. I think Jack Graham did a great job in handling this. I know him personally and know he will do the right thing in all of this. His primary responsibility is his church and he's doing the right thing.

I wonder why there isn't more outrage toward the parents of these kids in the chat rooms. Surely a parent can be smart enough to check the history on a child's computer and find out where they have been. If I had a 13 year old girl I would sure be watching closely (and by the way, I did have one and I did pay attention.)

Anonymous said...

Well, we know that there are millions of young girls out there who don't have decent parents. So, lets just hate them. Serves them right, huh? How dare us not be angry at them and angry at the predators and those that hire them! I mean, here are young kids who get no parental guidance looking for attetion in all the wrong places and we should be angry at them and their negligent parents. Go figure. Did you learn this thinking at Prestonwood?

Christians should be so mad at the parents that they should not be concerned for the victims.

I thought pastor graham was very concerned for 'his' church. I would have been more comfortable if he had shown some (even if he faked it) concern for victims. I would have been much more comfortable if he had told the church that if there are any predators on staff or in the audience they are NOT saved and will be found out. If they can have one Joe Barron out of 26,000 people, you think it is impossible there is not another?


We are talking about the same Jack Graham who shared a pulpit with TD Jakes (does not believe in the Trinity) and Luis Palau, (party your way to Jesus), right?

gmommy said...

I remember well that finger of guilt and shame that was pointed back at me...the once young and vulnerable.
SOMEHOW....we are responsible.... NOT the adult, supposedly spiriturally mature person that does the crime against the other.

Amazing grace is what we get from these nice church people! Warms the heart.

Jeri said...

Anonymous said...

"I am always amazed at how quickly you guys jump all over the pastors. I think Jack Graham did a great job in handling this."

Maybe it's because some of us have seen dozens of these cases and have watched slick Baptist Pastors get themselves and their cronies out of trouble without a thought for their victims, the glory and reputation of Jesus Christ, and the simple question of right vs wrong.

In some churches, the discovery that a pastor or elder has been committing gross unspeakable sin (like child molesting) will evoke a week of prayer, mourning, and repentance. But the Baptists just want to put it in the rear view mirror. If God gives them these warnings to wake them up, and they ignore Him, then more severe chastisement will come.

These guys are kidding themselves about putting these events "in the rear view mirror." We take what we are with us, in our hearts, where ever we go. What restrains our lusts is the presence of Jesus Christ. These silly, self satisfied Baptist pastors better remember that before God calls them to account in ways they cannot ignore.

Anonymous said...

Your responses were about what I expected. With attitudes like yours you won't see much progress I can assure you.

By the way, I never said hate the victims. I just pointed out that we should do something about the kids on the internet chat rooms and their parents who don't care enough to find out.

I don't think there is any action Jack Graham could have taken that would have appeased you. And then you wonder why pastors turn a deaf ear to your rantings.

Wake up and learn to communicate without attacking.

Christa Brown said...

"Wake up and learn to communicate without attacking."

Words spoken by a guy who suggests "more outrage toward the parents" and who, in the face of tragedy, brags about his own parenting skills... and who communicates all this anonymously. Uh-huh.

Lin said...

here is something to consider. Jesus Christ WILL present a pure and spotless Bride to Himself one day. We have to ask ourselves what are we missing that these predators are right at home in our churches until caught?

Our churches are rich, bright and shiney with the lastest technology and blow dried preachers with nice suits. We think numbers equal success. We brag about 'professions of faith' and Baptisms while predators roam our halls and are on staff.

What have we missed when even ministers are so far off the narrow road they look to be totally unregenerate?

Have we really dumbed down sin that much? Lets just move on.

We are building huge churches on the dead bones of unbelievers. (See Ezekial) That is what is going on.

Christa Brown said...

"...whited sepulchres"

Jeri said...

A big Amen to lin! As for anonymous who wrote these words: "I don't think there is any action Jack Graham could have taken that would have appeased you. And then you wonder why pastors turn a deaf ear to your rantings," I answer this:

Yes, if Jack Graham had preached repentance, to himself and his church, I would have taken his side and lamented with him in prayer, even from North Carolina.

If he had declared that from now on the church was going to get rid of its shiney clean image of prosperity and political influence and mourn over sin and be poor in spirit as Christ decreed and hunger and thirst for righteousness instead of an appearance of Republican conservative Family Values, I would have praised him for his faithfulness, praised God for the testimony of a contrite heart, and prayed for him and that church to be blessed. Now I pray for its chastisement, because you have to love either God or the mega churches, and I love God. So when the mega churches discredit Him by their pride and self righteousness in the very face of His rebuke, I pray for Him to glorify Himself, not them.

Anonymous said...

And you actually wonder why the BGCT and most pastors don't listen to you. Read your posts.

Anonymous said...

They don't listen because they don't want to change their comfortable worldly prosperity. A minister has been charged with acting on a lust towards an adolescent. God covers them with shame and they still insist they are fine.

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with the pastor's lifestyle and/or prosperity. It has to do with the way they are approached with a problem. Jack Graham responded appropriately and swiftly and still you criticize him. The issue of his "repentance" is not for you to decide.

Christa Brown said...

I'm not sure exactly who Anon 10:13 is directing his remark to, but I for one no longer wonder why the BGCT doesn't listen. Once upon a time, I wondered about that quite a lot, but it's no longer any mystery. I have observed their actions over the course of the past several years and have seen their dreadful treatment of far too many clergy abuse survivors. Despite all their double-talk on the issue, their deeds have made transparent the reasons for they don't listen. Their deeds reveal that they are more concerned with institutional protection than with kid protection... and more concerned with institutional image than with Christ-like ministry to the wounded.

Jeri said...

Anonymous wrote: "The issue of his "repentance" is not for you to decide."

Oh yes it is. Repentance is the heart of Christian conversion and Christian living. Whoever dispenses with repentance dispenses with Christianity. The very FIRST Beatitude is that God blesses the poor in spirit. The Publican was justified for one reason only: he repented. And the Pharisee went on his way to self deception. The revealing of sin is a call to repentance, and holding that call in contempt brings about God's chastisement.

Lin said...

"Anonymous wrote: "The issue of his "repentance" is not for you to decide."

The reason why we are seeing these types of reactions is because people do not know scripture and are not being taught the deep truths of scripture.

Listen to how Paul responded to the CHURCH that disciplined a sexual pervert who eventually REPENTED:

2 Corin 7

8For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

10For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13Therefore we are comforted."




Paul did not just rebuke the sinner but the entire church for the sexual sin of one person. How worldly must a church become for a predator to not be convicted of such sin within the Body of Christ? It is astounding to wonder why we must ask this. This is what Paul was telling them in 1 Corin 5!!

The entire Body repented with godly sorrow. Worldy sorrow brings death (hell) but godly sorrow brings repentence, a cleaning house, an indignation over sin, fear of God's Wrath and a zeal for God.

This is not something to take lightly and quickly put behind us as has been done at Prestonwood. There is a reason why these predators are so comfortable in our churches until they are caught. And that is what we should be asking ourselves. Why would a minister predator be comfortable with his sin day in and day out within the Body of Christ. Why is there so little fear of God within the Body of Christ?

spiffin said...

lin: "Why is there so little fear of God within the Body of Christ?"

That's what I'd like to know. The bible warns us about cultures where men commit unspeakable sins. And here we have this unspeakable sin right in a church, right in the leadership. And all that glib man can say is that it needs to be put in the rear view mirror?

It's time for that church to re-evaluate everything from the ground up and make sure they really are a Christian entity in practice. Discovering gross, perverted, unmentionable sin in the office of a pastor is something that ought to rock a church back on its heels. That is, if anybody in the church has a conscience that is still intact.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked the pastor is supposed to preach what the Lord lays on his heart. If the Father says preach on repentance then I'm sure Jack Graham will--and not because Christa thinks he should.

I'm still waiting to see you come up with something to combat the problem of inattentive parents not watching their kids in chat rooms.

Maybe we could ask the Lord and He would tell Jack to preach on that subject...

Jeri said...

Please direct me to any verse in the Bible that says the preacher is supposed to preach what God lays on his heart, as though God were arbitrary and right and wrong suddenly became arbitrary just because a man is a preacher.

The preacher is to proclaim Jesus Christ and His salvation, which is a far cry from this rear view window nonsense of men who have no fear of God.

Anonymous said...

I'd sure hate to be your preacher... There is a lot more to the whole counsel of God than just salvation and its quite presumptious of you to assume that preachers don't have a "fear of God" just because you don't agree with them.

And what do you think a shepherd is to do? Proclaim the Word that the Lord has laid upon his heart to share with the flock that He has entrusted to him.

Sounds to me like you have an issue with preachers...

Jeri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeri said...

ust show me where the Bible ever says that the preacher is to preach "what God lays on his heart." For that, in fact, is not what the Bible charges a preacher to preach.

Go read I Corinthians 5:2. It is time for that church to mourn. But you can bet their preachers will insist God never laid THAT on their hearts. What a handy way to avoid one's duty to the Word of God!

Christa Brown said...

Anon asks: "What do you think a shepherd is to do?"

A true shepherd will protect the sheep. But what we see in Southern Baptist circles are "shepherds" who are content to allow wolves within the flock while they stand by and do nothing, even though there is a high likelihood that other sheep will be savaged.

It is long past time for Southern Baptist leaders to behave as true shepherds and to use their powerful voices for propelling change within the denomination so that protection of the sheep will be the priority rather than protection of the institution or protection of the image or protection of the power-brokers.

Jeri said...

By the way, Christa, got this in my visit log files today:

WHOIS
216.62.217.# (Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, TX)

Lin said...

"Last time I checked the pastor is supposed to preach what the Lord lays on his heart. If the Father says preach on repentance then I'm sure Jack Graham will--and not because Christa thinks he should."

You are making assumptions. Wonder how many sermons are planned 6 mos in advance? In most mega's they are. You would be surprised at how it works.

Jesus' first sermon was REPENT. JTB preached: REPENT.

Spiffin is right: Discovering gross, perverted, unmentionable sin in the office of a pastor is something that ought to rock a church back on its heels. That is, if anybody in the church has a conscience that is still intact.


There is NO fear of God anymore. Image is everything. Church of Laodicea

Jeri said...

Quite honestly, the Bible never does say anywhere, that the pastor is supposed to preach what "the Lord lays on his heart". That's one more Baptist Fundamentalist grab for God's signature of approval. The Bible says to teach the Gospel and preach Christ. Preaching should be systematic and methodical, and it should meet the current needs (or catastrophes) within a church. Nobody needs a second revelation. Open up that first revelation and apply it obediently to its precepts.