Friday, April 8, 2011

The Malignancy of Baptist Oblivion to Clergy Sex Abuse

In Somerville, Tennessee, the March 2011 newsletter for Warren Community Church featured Paul Williams. In fact, the newsletter announced that Paul Williams “has recently been asked to serve as a Trustee” for the church.

This is the same Paul Williams who admitted to sexually abusing a kid when he was a minister at the prominent Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.

This is the same Paul Williams for whom Bellevue’s senior pastor Steve Gaines kept quiet about his admission of child molestation and tried to sweep it under the rug.

This is the same Paul Williams whose wife kept the secret of his pedophilic behavior and for whom many others on Bellevue’s staff also kept quiet. (Incidentally, that’s Williams and his wife in the photo, which was in the church newsletter.)

For years, the people in Bellevue’s pews have acted as though all of this were no big deal. Despite the reality that pastor Steve Gaines knew about minister William’s sexual abuse of a kid, and kept quiet about it, Bellevue’s congregants have retained Gaines as their senior pastor, as if it were all a matter of little consequence. By keeping Gaines in the pulpit as senior pastor, this prominent church sends a clear message that, in Baptistland, a pastor’s cover-up of clergy sex abuse carries no significance to his purported role as a moral and spiritual leader.

All of that would be plenty disturbing enough, but now we see still another Southern Baptist church that is apparently willing to turn a blind eye with respect to Paul Williams.

Despite the lack of “Baptist” in its name, Warren Community Church is indeed a Southern Baptist church. It’s Southern Baptist affiliation is shown on the sbc.net website. (Lately, quite a few Baptist churches have been dropping the “Baptist” name – as though they’re ashamed of it – and yet they still retain the Baptist affiliation. E.g., Two Rivers Baptist Church rebranded to become the Fellowship at Two Rivers.”)

So, despite all the publicity that surrounded the Paul Williams/Steve Gaines scandal at Bellevue Baptist Church, Paul Williams had no trouble moving to another Southern Baptist church, where he is now being made a Trustee and is being presented in the newsletter as though he were a good Christian example to follow. If it’s this easy for an admitted clergy child molester like Williams to be accepted as a leader in another Southern Baptist church, can you imagine how much easier still it is in the average case? The case in which there was little or no publicity? The case in which the molester never admitted it but was simply allowed to move on with no one bothering to look into it?

The newsletter of Warren Community Church even shows a picture of Williams surrounded by children, and holding a child in his lap. Any parent or kid in that congregation would likely look at that newsletter and believe that Paul Williams is someone they can trust. In effect, the newsletter sets them up. It sets them up to trust a man who has already shown that he cannot safely be trusted with kids.

The newsletter also points out that Williams has made seven trips to help renovate a kindergarten classroom in Albania. His seventh trip was just a few weeks ago, March 19-27.

Should Baptists be sending an admitted child molester to renovate a kindergarten classroom in Albania? Why is there no one in Baptist leadership who sees the problem with this, and who will do anything about it?

Here’s why. A pervasive malignancy has enmeshed itself in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is the malignancy of oblivion to clergy sex abuse. It is the malignancy of a “no big deal” attitude toward clergy sex abuse. It is the malignancy of blind-eyed do-nothingness in the face of clergy sex abuse.

It is a malignancy that promotes the reputations of men rather than prioritizing the protection of kids.

23 comments:

Richard said...

Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

"Straight Path" wrote: "Thanks for sharing this sad horrible news.... I taught preschoolers at Bellevue Baptist for about a year. I even spoke with Paul Williams a couple of times for counseling on the phone. He was very conservative sounding and I never dreamed that he would have molested anyone....

"How can he even live with himself much less work in another church again? What kind of church would even hire this man IF THEY WERE KNOWLEDGABLE ABOUT HIS PAST OF CHILD MOLESTING? If I had a membership at Warren Community Church I would cancel it if he was kept on Staff. Paul Williams SHOULD BE IN PRISON not WORKING AT A CHURCH AGAIN!

"Paul's wife, Claudia, must be as evil as he is. They are parents from the deepest and darkest PIT OF HELL!"

["Straight Path" - thanks for your comment. I know this case has been widely publicized, but I still did not want to identify the victim, and so that's why I deleted part of your comment. Of course, the very fact that this case was so widely publicized makes it almost impossible to imagine that church leaders at Warren did not know about Paul Williams' past. Yet, you would never guess that from the way they promoted him in that newsletter. cb]

Ruth said...

The pastor of this church was well aware of PW's confession of molesting a child. An email was sent to the pastor back when a parent observed PW's presence at some boys sporting events. The pastor defended the child molester. Now PW is praised for being a part of a "ministry" involving young children. I wonder if the parents of these vulnerable kids know this "missionary" is a sexual predator?
How many victims have had this same kind of support. He is rewarded for being a criminal.

Christa Brown said...

Yes, I don't doubt but that the leadership at Warren Community Church know about Paul Williams, but I too keep wondering about how much the parents in the pews know. Certainly that newsletter did nothing to inform them. And then, I think about those moms and dads in Albania, and wonder whether anyone has given them even the tiniest of warning that this man who arrives among them as if he's doing good, and who posts pictures of their kids in his church's newsletter back home, is actually an admitted child molester.

Ruth said...

It is the children in Albania that trouble me so much. They boast of how many times he has been back. It's not the first time a Baptist clergy predator has gone over seas after molesting children in the states.
If he really desires to do over seas ministry work why does it have to involve children? Who pays for these trips? His wife knows what he is yet she travels with him. He just couldn't stay away from kids even after getting a job in another field. Are people crazy?? How bold he must feel to be back around vulnerable children.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Thanks so much for sharing this and for putting it on FB. I just wonder if this church (WCC) has a FB page. These creeps might continue to live life as though nothing ever happened -- fine. But it's also your/our right and responsibility to let the world know who they really are.

Take care.

Christa Brown said...

"How bold he must feel to be back around vulnerable children."

And imagine . . . if a minister like Williams can feel so bold and so certain that no one in Baptistland will stop him, despite all the prior publicity, there are surely hundreds more such ministers whose deeds never got such publicity and who feel even MORE emboldened.

Dragonfly said...

Here is a link to the WCC Childcare center's facebook page. I don't see any way to contact them without liking them first, but I Strongly recommend doing what you can. Raise awareness for these kids' parents.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Warren-Church-Community-Childcare/165863220123898?sk=wall

Phyllis Gregory said...

Christa, I just sent this blog
to the CONTACT person on WCC's website and I alsio sent it via FB to Vivian England, the woman who wrote the article about Paul Williams for their newsletter. If I could I would post it on the doors of their church. I just asked them if they knew he was a pedophile and that I hope they were protecting their children from him.

Ruth said...

There is a discussion going on about this predator on FB today. A "review" about Paul Williams has been placed on Yelp and the church contact info on the website. A phone number has been posted for CPS for anyone who knows who the children are on his lap in the picture.

valarie said...

I realize this article is very uncomfortable to read for many people who know this predator. However I will not be shamed for caring more about victims and truth than I do about this sexual predator in the form of a missionary to children over seas.
It boggles my mind that I should be ashamed before the abuser feels enough shame and repentance to remove himself from being around vulnerable women and children. It is posted on my FB page. I regularly post articles about sexual abuse and clergy
predators. This one just happened to affect me personally.

Anonymous said...

works for Met Life

Agent: Paul Williams


All Agents in the Southern Branch

And their Motto is:

Ethics and Integrity

For more than a century, MetLife has built a reputation as a company that believes in fair dealing, integrity, and trustworthiness. We firmly believe that adherence to the highest standards of ethical conduct is the only acceptable way of doing business and is the personal responsibility of every one of our associates. The company's well-known name and good reputation are reinforced by our pledge to deliver value and world class service to all who do business with us, always keeping in mind what is best for our customers.

The importance of ethics and compliance to the Company is demonstrated by the Company’s extensive efforts and resources directed to this area. We are committed to our compliance vision of having MetLife be the world's most trusted company.

Supporting these efforts are the MetLife core values of integrity and honesty, the fundamental building blocks of our long and successful history, that shape the way we do business. These values are central to our efforts to achieve the MetLife vision — to build financial freedom for everyone — and emphasize our outward focus on customers and their needs. We recognize that our ongoing success will spring from these values and, as we look to the future, we remain committed to the highest standards of ethics, integrity and trustworthiness, while continuing to pursue a strategy of building financial freedom for everyone. This defines who we are.

Renae C said...

It's interesting to me that former pastors who retire or are forced to remove themselves from the pulpit - especially for reasons of sexual abuse - end up selling insurance or financial instruments. It goes to show you where their real skill sets are. They are slick salesmen, convincing us to buy into an insurance policy that we probably don't even need - both before and after they quit preaching.

I wish 20/20 hadn't stopped with the IFB. It's not an isolated cult - it's a huge culture of devaluation of women and children, led by slick salesmen who have convinced themselves they are gods.

Anonymous said...

Not only did the article say
"Paul ( Williams ) has recently been asked to serve as a Trustee at ( WARREN COMMUNITY CHURCH )"

He also has the position of leadership by teaching a Wednesday Night Bible Study

"....this time they are taking five couples from their Wednesday night small group Bible study."


now in a leadership position:(just like the Roman Catholics = move them around)

Anyone rememeber what Paul Williams' previous boss (Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church)
said about leadership postions?

"You have to have certain standards for leadership"

"Leadership is not a right. Leadership is a privilege"

"We cannot, in good conscience, put that person in a leadership position,"

"So, that's the decision, and why it was made."( ie: not allowing a Gay to Coach a softball team on Bellevue Baptist soil)

Christa Brown said...

Anon 5:44 - Thanks for reminding me about that bit of nincompoop nonsense concerning Steve Gaines' "stand" on leadership for a softball team coach.

Christa Brown said...

Renae: I agree. The Southern Baptist Convention also has "a huge culture of devaluation of women and children...." It's a culture that fosters, enables and covers up abuse by clergy, and that religiously conditions the victims.

For those wondering about the 20/20 show that Renae references, here's a posting on it with additional links.

BlissLaw said...

I read this this morning, and my blood has been boiling all day. This is unconscionable.

stephanie said...

I have called my two U.S. senators to ask that they contact the state department, in hopes that the state department would contact the Albanian embassy re: Paul Williams. I realize that it's a long shot, but I have more faith in the Albanian govt than I do the
SBC, since the SBC refuses to protect the children for whom they claim to love.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the reasons such abuse can continue is largly because the victim is a female, and the abuser is a male. I have had people say to my face, "Well at least he isn't a homo."

Christa Brown said...

Anon 1:36 -- I've heard the same sort of thing, and it always grieves me greatly. From the kid's perspective, whether it's a 14-yr-old girl or a 14-yr-old boy, the trauma inflicted by clergy sex abuse is terrible. Besides, Baptists have also had plenty of cases (including this one) in which Baptist ministers have sexually abused boys. And sadly, in those cases also, I've seen remarks that blame the kid -- i.e., that blame a 14-year-old boy (whom they label as gay) for trying to seduce and corrupt a married man of God. So, whether it's a 14-year-old "slut" who wore her skirts too short, or a 14-year-old boy who gets tagged as "homo," it seems a lot of Baptists are more than willing to blame and stigmatize the child-victim in these cases rather than to see the reality of what a so-called man of God can get away with.

Cos McOldDude said...

Christa,
This is Dennis again. I just read your book. Hated it. I read it in one sitting and was enraged the entire time. It is a travesty.

Having been raised a Baptist, I was enrolled in cradle roll the day I was born, a Sunday, I cannot believe the lack of integrity in these men. I was taught to fear Judgment Day and always act in a manner that would keep my slate clean. I wouldn't want to be around when these guys show up.

I'd say "Lord, have mercy!" but in this case not.

You left out a Baptist church in Farmer's Branch. ValleyView Baptist. I was Baptised in ValleyView in 1960. We moved our membership to First Baptist a few years later because it was bigger and had a better youth program. Go figure. I left in '65 when we moved to Corpus Christi. I was only 11 when we left but I recall never really trusting Glenn Hayden. He never really seemed genuine to me the way our pastor at ValleyView had seemed. First Baptist was a business, ValleyView was a church.

I wonder if we didn't hit the Baptist scene when it was transitioning from churches to businesses. The small country churches displaced by larger more modern churches. Until we have the freaking huge Las Vegas Churches of today. The last time I went to a Baptist church, 16 years ago or so, they were selling tapes and books on how to raise you children on the Lords Supper table right under the Pulpit. I thought, What would Jesus do?, got up and left. The Jesus I know would have made a scene but I didn't figure I could get away with it like He could.

The people you describe as running the Convention today do not exhibit the values of Baptists, Christians, or even human beings. They are a disgrace. Absolute disgrace.

So, as a former member of First Baptist, before your assault however, as a former Baptist, as a current Christian (meaning one who's best friend is Jesus H. Christ but doesn't follow any particular denomination or faith, he just likes having an invisible friend), as a human being, I cannot express my sorrow at your suffering. Totally incomprehensible. I don't know who to be more disgusted with? The perp, of course, but that music director that I hope I never knew, and Glen Hayden. Baptist preacher or hobo the sick bastard should have been horse whipped and then punished severely at the first hint of misconduct.

It is true what you say in your book about former Baptists still identifying with Bapstists. I have been to a Baptist church once in 35 years or more but I still think of myself as a Baptist and I don't think of it as a negative thing although I have parted ways from all the BS long ago. Don't be drinking. Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine! Splain that! You know what they say, Baptists don't believe in making love standing up for fear it might lead to dancing.

I guess I have beat this to death. Sorry. I just wanted to let you know I know what a raw deal you were handed and just how aghast I am.

There is one little tiny thing about the book, your Dad kind of comes across as a psycho in chapter two and I don't think that is really fair. I knew your dad. I liked you dad. I have raised one teenage daughter, he had four. There were many occasions when I would have gladly removed my teenage daughter's head from her shoulders. Later in the book you describe him as a much more decent kind of fellow which is how I remember him. I really hope that chapter two doesn't reflect your remembrances of your father.

We're not all bad.

Christa Brown said...

Dennis,
Thanks for your thoughts. As for my father, I loved him and I miss him. Here's part of what I wrote about him in a prior Memorial Day blog post:

"My father was far from perfect, but he was more honest, hard-working, courageous and decent than any Southern Baptist leader I have yet encountered. I honor the memory of my father in continuing to speak truth about Baptist clergy sex abuse and about the horror in how this denomination handles it."

New BBC Open Forum said...

Just curious. Did anyone who contacted Warren Community Church or the person who was going to contact their senators to try to alert the state department ever get a reply? Did anyone find their children's ministry Facebook page and leave a comment, and if so, was it allowed to remain?

Several others have picked up on your article, Christa, but the silence from the "conservative" SBC blogs and publications has been deafening.

And finally, can anyone go here and try to provide a "biblically-based" answer to "confused"? Once again we hear about the lives of the abusers being "ruined" by their names and photos being posted on a registry but seemingly little, if any, concern over the victims. I need to step back because if I try to respond my head is going to explode, and I'm all out of duct tape right now.