Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More child sex claims against British Baptist minister Robert Dando

Robert Dando
As reported last Sunday, seven additional men are alleging that they were raped as teenagers by prominent British Baptist minister Robert Dando. The assaults allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2008.

Sources say that the men’s legal action – reportedly the first of its kind against the Baptist church in Britain – could cost the church millions of pounds.

The accused minister, Robert Dando, is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Virginia. He was jailed there in 2011 for molesting two boys when Dando was in the U.S. on a missions trip.

In Britain, Dando was the senior minister at Worcester Park Baptist Church in southwest London, and previously at Orchard Baptist Church in Oxfordshire.

The allegations against Dando include “multiple rapes and serious sexual assaults.”

Dando was closely connected to the highest levels of Baptist worldwide leadership. He previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance.

One of Dando’s churches was previously involved in another child sex scandal when the leader of the church was convicted of serious sex offenses against a 14-year-old boy. At the time, Dando told the press, “All our youth work is carried out within proper guidelines.” Yet, we now know that Dando, too, was sexually abusing kids.

Dando had plenty of access to kids. His wife was a national vice-president of the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organization with more than 500,000 members in 60 countries. Dando also worked for a children’s charity in India. And he previously worked as a magistrate on a family court panel which dealt with child care and child access proceedings.

It’s terrible to imagine how many kids a wide-ranging pastor like Dando could have sexually traumatized. Baptists ought to be making a broad public outreach effort -- in India, in the U.S., in Britain, and anywhere else he traveled -- to try to minister to those kids, provide them with independent counseling, and help them. But of course, we haven’t seen anything like that. Instead, the Baptist way seems based on simply letting the children suffer and suffer and suffer.
Update: Jailed minister accused of abuse in UK, ABP, 5/1/2013 (naming other churches where Dando worked)

Related posts:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Baptist school teacher sentenced on child sex crimes; others prosecuted in cover-up

Terah Rawlings (top left); associate pastor Raymond Knight,
who is Rawlings' father (top right); senior pastor Franklin Knight,
who is Rawlings' uncle (bottom right); school principal Jan Ocvik (bottom left).
(El Paso County Sheriff's Office photo)

“A former teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student at a now-shuttered Baptist school in Colorado Springs will serve 90 days in jail and up to the rest of her life on intensive probation.”

Terah Rawlings, 33, taught at the Hilltop Baptist School, which was operated by Hilltop Baptist Church. The school belonged to the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools.

Kudos to the El Paso County sheriff’s office for also prosecuting three other school administrators in connection with a cover-up that involved failing to report the teacher’s crimes. Such “failure to report” prosecutions are rare.

Rawlings’ uncle, Franklin “Wayne” Knight was the senior pastor of Hilltop and formerly the school’s chief executive. He was accused of orchestrating a cover-up to protect Rawlings, and according to The Gazette, he pled guilty to being an accessory to sex abuse.

Rawlings’ father, Raymond “Allen” Knight, was an associate pastor and the school’s athletic director. He has pled guilty to failing to report child abuse.

The school’s former principal, Jan Orcvik, was also charged with failing to report the abuse and sentenced to probation in a plea agreement.

The abuse was allegedly ongoing for about two and a half years, and Rawlings’ conduct was described as an “open secret.” Other students, in their confusion, were left to keep Rawlings’ secret.

Other teachers and church-goers had reported concerns to school authorities and to the pastor. Laurie Sutton and Dustin Sutton, who were a math teacher and basketball coach at the school, claim they were fired in retaliation for reporting the information they had heard about Rawlings’ abuse of the boy. Another teacher, and two other church-goers, are also reported to have raised concerns, but each time, prosecutors say that the concerns were ignored and those who spoke out were discouraged from going forward.

So a young teen boy -- betrayed by church, school, and community – was left to be sexually abused for two-and-a half years.

Friday, April 26, 2013

P.S. to Ed

After I posted my open letter to Ed Stetzer last week, a reader directed me to another one of Ed’s articles about allegations of child sex abuse connected to the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. Ed’s words are so true – but so hollow -- that I decided to add this postscript.

“Truth must be known. Victims must be acknowledged. Protections must be in place.”

This is mighty fine talk, Ed. But where are the deeds? And again, why is your talk directed at others rather than at your own faith group, the Southern Baptist Convention?

So, Ed, I’m quoting some more of your words right back to you, along with the questions they raise for many of us who were sexually abused by Southern Baptist preachers.

“I think religious institutions, churches, and those that lead them have yet to come to grips with both the seriousness and frequency of this crime,” you say. I agree! But what about you, Ed? Have you come to grips with the seriousness and frequency of this crime in your own faith group – in the Southern Baptist Convention? I haven’t seen any indication that you have.

With respect to the investigation at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, you wrote that it was “another reminder of the pain of child abuse, the importance of honest disclosure… and the need for outside help (the police if it is a current crime or a credible investigation if it is a past allegation).”

“Honest disclosure.” Sounds great, Ed. How about working to implement that in your own faith group? But how can your denomination even hope to honestly disclose ministers with credible child sex abuse allegations when your denomination doesn’t even bother with systematic record-keeping on ministers?

I couldn’t agree more about the need for “outside help.” This is why clergy abuse survivors have been asking the Southern Baptist Convention to fund a panel of trained professionals who could responsibly review clergy abuse allegations – i.e., the more-than-90-percent that cannot be criminally prosecuted. For the truth to be known, outsiders are essential for oversight. Churches cannot – cannot – responsibly address abuse allegations against their own clergy, not only because they typically lack the expertise, but because they always lack the objectivity.

Concerning the investigation of abuse within the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, you state that you “have confidence in the organization doing the investigation, G.R.A.C.E.”

So, Ed, why don’t you call for a G.R.A.C.E. investigation of what happened at Prestonwood? People in the pews deserve to know how it came about that one of the most prominent churches of the Southern Baptist Convention – a church headed by two-term SBC president Jack Graham -- allowed one of their ministers to move on to another church even after he was accused of molesting church-boys. People in the pews deserve to know the extent to which their leaders covered up for the molesting-minister and allowed more kids to be placed at risk.

In connection with the Penn State scandal, you said you were “shocked” that leaders could receive a report of child sex abuse and not report it to the police. But Ed, a “failure to report” allegation is also being made about Prestonwood’s leaders. So call for an investigation! Or are you too afraid that Prestonwood could not withstand the scrutiny that an independent investigation would bring? Are you afraid that Prestonwood would suffer damage similar to what Penn State experienced?

“Protections must be in place,” you say. But, Ed, how do you imagine that people will be protected when Southern Baptists don’t have any system for doing anything at all about clergy-predators even when denominational leaders are specifically told about them? Unlike other major faith groups, Southern Baptists don’t offer even the possibility of a denominational office for hearing clergy abuse allegations, much less for doing anything about them.

Most child molesters have multiple victims, and so one of the best ways to protect against abuse in the future is to institutionally hear the voices of those who are trying to tell about abuse in the past. But Southern Baptists don’t bother. They keep telling abuse survivors to go to the church of the perpetrator – which is sort of like telling wounded sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It doesn’t work.

With respect to the ABWE, you claim that you are “watching this investigation” because “transparency is essential.”

But, Ed, how closely are you “watching?” Have you noticed that the ABWE fired the investigative team of G.R.A.C.E.? Even though the investigation had been ongoing for two years, ABWE fired G.R.A.C.E. just before G.R.A.C.E. was getting ready to release its final report. ABWE hired a new investigative team with a privacy condition so that the results of any report will be released only to ABWE.

So much for transparency, eh?

“Pray with me for those children who have been victimized,” you say. But Ed, I gotta tell you, for people like me who were abused by Baptist clergy, that “pray with me” line sounds like a cop-out. It comes across as little more than a cheap slogan that Southern Baptists use to avoid taking any meaningful action.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Ed, is that all you’ve got?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear Ed: Speak up!

Ed Stetzer
This is an open letter to Ed Stetzer, who is the president of LifeWay Research, a Baptist pastor, and a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. LifeWay is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and according to its website, provides data and research for “enlightening today’s churches with relevant insights.”
Dear Ed:

In the midst of all the news about the scandal involving Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas, I was reminded about how you took to task the Independent Fundamental Baptists for not speaking up about clergy sex abuse. And I keep wondering why you aren’t also taking members of your own Southern Baptist faith group to task.

There have been so many reports about Southern Baptist pastors committing sexual abuse and about Southern Baptist churches involved in clergy abuse cover-ups. In my spare time, I used to try to keep track of Baptist clergy abuse cases, but frankly, it was more than I could handle. And I was only trying to log the ones that had been publicly reported.

Since LifeWay provides research and data on so many other topics relevant to Baptist life, I often wondered why you yourself weren’t keeping track of Baptist clergy sex abuse cases. I imagine that most parents would find it “enlightening” to learn how widespread the problem really is – and how easy it is for clergy predators to simply church-hop their way to new prey.

But for now, I want to ask you about just one case: Prestonwood. Why aren’t you speaking up about what happened at Prestonwood?

Surely you’ve heard about it. With 32,000 members, Prestonwood is the fifth largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s headed by pastor Jack Graham, a two-term Southern Baptist Convention president. And it’s mired in a clergy sex abuse cover-up” scandal that just won't let go.
The scandal has been in the news for quite a while now, but in case you’ve missed it, let me bring you up to speed with the short version.

A longtime Prestonwood member, Chris Tynes, recently discovered that “a former music minister, John Langworthy, admitted to sexual misconduct with young boys while at Prestonwood” twenty years ago. Prestonwood officials dismissed Langworthy at the time, but they allowed him to simply move on to another Southern Baptist church in Mississippi, where he continued to work with kids. Langworthy was recently convicted of child sex crimes in Mississippi.

There is no indication that Prestonwood officials ever notified the police of Langworthy’s admission, and a woman who was a staff intern at the church says they didn’t. There are questions about whether Prestonwood officials tried to keep things “under wraps.”

Yet, when Tynes started inquiring about all this, Prestonwood officials called the cops on Tynes, labeling him as “a suspicious person, possibly violent.”

Did you get that? The Watchdog blogger summarized it this way: “Prestonwood Baptist doesn’t call the cops on the molester, but they call the cops on the church member who asks questions about the molester.” So, you’re there telling Independent Baptists to speak up, Ed, but in your own denomination, when a Southern Baptist does exactly that, the church calls the cops on him.

Tynes has now created a Facebook page, “People Against Prestonwood’s Silence on Allegations of Sexual Abuse.” And pastor Graham, who refused to comment when this story was first reported in 2011, still maintains that he’s doing the right thing by keeping silent -- “like a lamb” --  and by refusing to answer questions.

So here’s what I don’t understand, Ed. One of the most prominent churches of your own Southern Baptist denomination has done so much that’s so wrong and so dangerous. Yet, you and other Southern Baptist leaders stay silent.

You lose credibility when you take the easy road of pointing a finger at Independent Baptists without also speaking out about your own Southern Baptist abuse scandals.

So, Ed, I’m quoting your own words right back to you: “Speak up!” Your denomination “has had way too many scandals . . . so speak up now.” “Secrecy and circling the wagons breeds this kind of behavior and is destroying children. . . . Your young pastors are leaving and your children are in danger. It is abuse. It must stop. And it must stop now. Speak up.”

And Ed, it’s not only the morally right thing to do, but it would be the smart thing as well. Twenty-somethings will not be satisfied with the Southern Baptist status quo. They are a generation of young people who believe they can make things better, and who feel a responsibility to at least try. When so many other faith groups have begun implementing denominational safeguards against clergy abuse, young people will see the inanity of Southern Baptists’ self-serving denominational do-nothingness and the hypocrisy of Southern Baptists’ charade of powerlessness. Ultimately, they will reject the dysfunctionality of a denomination that refuses to protect its own children.

So Ed, heed your own words. Speak up!
For the love of kids, speak up!


Christa Brown

Update: P.S. to Ed, 4/26/2013

And take a look at this 4/10/2013 WatchKeep posting, “Of Questions and Cowards,” including its attached transcript of a phone conversation with what is reported to be a Prestonwood deacon, who asserts that Prestonwood tried to “handle it discreetly, as any church tries to do.”

Related posts on this blog:
Boots, biscuits and Prestonwood Baptist, March 18, 2013
People to remember in the Prestonwood/Morrison Heights scandal, February 9, 2013
Baptists should heed mother’s call for accountability, January 29, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Christian Right and Child Sex Abuse

In a column last Saturday on his widely-read "Talk to Action" blog, Frederick Clarkson asks,

"Can the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic Bishops be taken seriously on anything else when they cannot get it together to actively protect children from sex predators -- especially their own clergy?"

Clarkson outlines the differences between the blind-eyed responses of Southern Baptists and Catholics as contrasted against the "many other traditional religious denominations" that actively seek to prevent and address child sex abuse by clergy. Read more.

Related: "Blog shines light on abuse in SBC," ABP, April 18, 2013
More from Frederick Clarkson: "The Church Child Sex Abuse Scandal Widens and Deepens," 5/23/2013