Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baptists at their best?

Matt Baker is a Baptist preacher who is accused of having killed his wife in order to pursue a relationship with a young woman in his church. Just before Christmas, the trial in the civil suit was postponed, and the criminal case is still under investigation.

I don't know whether he killed his wife or not. But here’s what I do know: Whatever else this murder investigation may eventually uncover, it has already revealed the dangerous reality of Baptists’ blind-eyed approach toward clergy sex abuse.

As reported in an earlier Texas Monthly article, investigators say Matt Baker “spent years in Waco leading… a secret life as a sexual predator.”

At every stage of that alleged “secret life,” he was in schools, churches and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Also known as the BGCT, it’s the largest state-wide Baptist organization in the country, and rather amazingly, it claims to do more than any other Baptist body toward preventing clergy sex abuse.

So, taking Texas Baptists’ brag at face value, let’s look at the best of what Baptists have to offer on this. (Quotes below are taken from the Texas Monthly article.)

Matt started out as a ministerial student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. It’s affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Matt was also a trainer for the football team. A freshman girl, who had a part-time job cleaning locker rooms, reported that “inside the locker room, he pinned her arms behind her back…spread her legs…forced her onto a bench….”

According to the girl’s account, Baylor officials “asked her not to contact police.” They “let him walk away.” They typed up a report and put it in a file.

The girl dropped out of school and moved away, but Matt continued to move up the Baptist ladder. He got a prized internship at First Baptist of Waco, a church affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He ran their summer youth camp and worked in the church’s recreation center.

A “minister at First Baptist received a report that Matt had grabbed a female custodian in the bathroom….”

“Around the same time, the pastor received a separate report that Matt had cornered a teenage girl in a small room where roller skates were stored.”

But the church didn’t fire Matt, and apparently, didn't even say much. So Matt was able to continue his upward climb.

He got a job at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, one of the most prestigious churches in Waco. It’s affiliated with – guess who? – the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Then he got a job at First Baptist Church of Robinson. It’s affiliated with – guess again – the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

To supplement his income, Matt ran an after-school youth program at the YMCA. The director received written statements from 4 young female employees, all of whom claimed Matt had sexually propositioned them,” and one said Matt “touched her pants near her genitalia and put her hands on his crotch.” The YMCA fired Matt.

After that, Matt was accepted into Baylor’s renowned Truett seminary. I guess even the Baylor seminary wasn’t able to find out about the sexual assault report that sat in its own file at the Baylor undergraduate school. Just like the university, Truett seminary is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Next, Matt got a job as pastor at Pecan Grove Baptist Church, also affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

A woman told Matt’s wife that her 16-year-old daughter said Matt had “grabbed her and kissed her” in a parking lot.

Matt then became the pastor at Williams Creek Baptist Church, and from there he went to First Baptist Church of Riesel, and to Northlake Baptist in Dallas. All are churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

In 2005, Matt moved his family back to Waco and accepted a job as chaplain for the Waco Center for Youth, a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed adolescents. He was also asked to be the pastor of Crossroads Baptist, a church affiliated with – guess who -- the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

In 2006, still more stories from teenage girls surfaced: “…a hand on a leg”… “his hand against her breast”… asking “if she was wearing panties.”

After his wife’s death, and as talk began to circulate in Waco, Matt moved to Kerrville to work as a director for the Baptist Student Union at Schreiner, a small West Texas college.

Guess who funded his position there? The Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Even with so many allegations of abuse and assault on teens and young women, Matt Baker was able to get still another job working with students. And the Baptist General Convention of Texas even paid for it.

After his arrest on murder charges, he was suspended from his BGCT-funded position “with pay.”

An ordinary person might look at this trail and ask, “How could he keep getting new jobs?” But with Baptists, it’s easy. Baptists have no effective system for even keeping records on abuse allegations against Baptist ministers, much less for doing anything about them.

And the Baptist leaders who claim to be doing the most – those at the Baptist General Convention of Texas – are no less blind than other Baptist leaders.

If the hiring personnel for a BGCT-funded position can't manage to find out about the string of prior sexual abuse allegations in the BGCT's own affiliated churches or in its own affiliated university (or about the fact that he was fired from the YMCA), why should anyone imagine that local churches will be able to find out?

And if this is the best of what Baptists have to offer on clergy sex abuse prevention, what would be the worst? I’d hate to guess.

Incidentally, Matt Baker denies all charges.

6 comments:

John said...

When religion becomes afraid of the truth, this type of corruption is inevitable. God help the future generations as their search for the truth will be limited.

gmommy said...

This is just another example of how no one should trust or feel safe at a Baptist church. They are down right notorious... famous even for ignoring and covering up for sexual perverts and predators.

If any of the Baptist leaders felt the least bit of shame....things would change. But they are bold and feel too powerful to be stopped.

They are frauds.
I hope in 2009 many will be brought down, exposed, stopped...in whatever way it takes to protect the vulnerable, innocent, and the wounded..

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the BGCT should hire Christa as their forensic watchdog and then most of this would stop. Sounds like this guy needs to be locked up forever more.

You do need to remember that he is only one of thousands of Baptist pastors (the vast vast majority of which are good, Godly men) and this problem sure isn't unique to Baptists. For those of you who hate Baptists so desperately perhaps it would be better if you just became a Methodist--but alas, you will find the same thing there. Just stay home and then you will have the perfect church since you are the only member. Oops, I forgot, we're all sinners so that took care of that option.

Christa Brown said...

Sadly, Anon, you blindly missed the point of the posting. The biggest part of the problem isn't about individuals like Matt Baker. It's about the blind-eyed do-nothingness of so many other Baptist leaders and about the lack of any denominational system of record-keeping. And while clergy sex abuse certainly isn't unique to Baptists, Baptists are nevertheless unusual in being a major faith groups that doesn't even bother with record-keeping on credibly-accused clergy.

Anonymous said...

You do need to remember that he is only one of thousands of Baptist pastors (the vast vast majority of which are good, Godly men) and this problem sure isn't unique to Baptists. For those of you who hate Baptists so desperately perhaps it would be better if you just became a Methodist--but alas, you will find the same thing there. Just stay home and then you will have the perfect church since you are the only member. Oops, I forgot, we're all sinners so that took care of that option.

December 31, 2008 1:12 PM

So what is your point? Do nothing? Say nothing?

Sounds to me like you expect sexual sin from pastors because they are 'sinners' as we all are. So we should all just expect this and accept it? Is that really your view of Christianity, Anon?

Martin

oc said...
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