On his blog, Wade Burleson asked this question:
“You wonder if those of us in a position to do something to stop people like this from advancing in the SBC, but don't do anything… if we become accomplices to murder.”It’s a good question.
After all, there were plenty of prior opportunities when Baptist leaders could have put a stop to Matt Baker’s ministerial career. There were plenty of times when Matt Baker could have been made to face consequences for his conduct. But instead, what Matt Baker learned in Baptistland was that he could get away with anything.
That belief worked for him for over 16 years as he floated through the porous sieve of Baptistland, leading “a life of duplicity and predatory behavior,” and never being held accountable.
As far back as 1991, Matt Baker had been reported for sexual assault. That was when a young freshman girl reported him to officials at Baylor University, the largest Baptist school in the country. (That's Baylor shown in the photo.) According to her sworn testimony, “Baylor officials told her there was no need to contact the police because they would handle it.”
The way they handled it was reported by Texas Monthly magazine: Baylor administrators typed up a report, but they took no action.
Then Matt Baker was twice reported for sexual abuse at one of his first stints, the First Baptist Church of Waco. He could have been stopped then and there. The senior pastor and another minister at the time both knew about the abuse reports against Baker. But they simply allowed Matt Baker to move on.
And so he did -- through a whole slew of Baptist churches, schools and organizations.
In fact, Matt Baker even managed to go right back to Baylor University – the Baptist institution where he had previously been reported for sexual assault -- and he got admitted into Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary. So not only did Baylor fail to do anything about the known assault allegation, but it actually advanced Baker in his ministerial career.
Years later, by the time of his murder trial, Baker had been through many more churches and organizations; and prosecutors said that many more young women and girls were abused by Baker.
That brings us back to pastor Burleson’s question: “If those of us in a position to stop people like this from advancing in the SBC, but don’t do anything… if we become accomplices . . . .”
Bill Webb, editor of the Baptist publication Word & Way, provided an answer to this question about six months ago in speaking of other reports of clergy abuse. He said this:
“Quietly dismissing a suspected perpetrator or recommending that person to another church may well contribute to the abuse of others somewhere else sometime later. Churches and church leaders who do that are accomplices to the next crime committed in another congregation.”The BaptistPlanet blogger also provided an answer:
“When a Waco, Texas, jury found Matt Baker guilty… it by implication indicted Southern Baptist failure to act forcefully to stop clerical predators in its midst.”But perhaps the best answer was provided on this blog by a commenter who knew Kari, and she put it quite simply:
“Kari might be with us had Matt been stopped long ago.”So what do you think the answer to pastor Wade Burleson’s question should be?
Are Baylor officials, FBC-Waco officials, and other Baptist officials morally complicit in the murder of Kari Baker?
Update: See also Wade Burleson's 1/27/10 post, “Are we Southern Baptist leaders indirect accomplices to Matt Baker’s murder of his wife?”