Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Indicted Southern Baptist minister in Kentucky

In June, when the Southern Baptist Convention was having its annual hoopla in Louisville, Kentucky, a former Southern Baptist minister was indicted just down the road in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

That minister, Gordon H. Lunceford, now faces thirteen charges of sex crimes, including rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. He is accused of “using his position as a youth minister to have sex with two juveniles.” (See WKYT video.)

The victims were both under 16 years of age. That’s just the victims who are identified by initials in the indictment. No telling how many more child-victims may be identified before this case is over. And no telling how many more there may be who will remain silent, mired in undue shame, while no one in Southern Baptist leadership even bothers to reach out to try to help them.

According to the news reports, Lunceford church-hopped through First Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Rosedale Baptist Church in Richmond, and Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort. All of these Kentucky churches are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

So picture this. Even while the mighty Southern Baptist boys were whooping it up in Louisville, it was coming to light that four of their nearby churches had harbored a minister who was being indicted on child sex charges.

And even while the mighty Southern Baptist boys were preaching about “actions speak louder than words,” they weren’t actually taking any actions to prevent predator-church-hopping scenarios in the future.

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Richmond said that Lunceford was their youth minister “for a very short time” and that “there were no complaints or accusations against Lunceford during the brief time he worked” there.

Based on what I’ve seen in other Baptist clergy abuse stories, I can’t help but wonder if what that pastor really means is that there were no complaints or accusations that anyone kept a record of. That’s the great beauty of Baptist-land for predators. No one keeps systematic records of complaints. That way, no one ever has to take ownership of knowing anything.

If someone in the church suspects something, or if people get uncomfortable with a minister, they can just quietly let him go. Problem ended. They wash their hands of him, and the minister moves on to become some other church’s problem.

At Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, a church representative who declined to be identified said that “because of turnover, none of the current staff had worked with Lunceford.” “It’s been years since he was here,” she said.

So there it is again -- that minimizing “not my problem” hand-washing that goes on in Baptist-land. It’s a land where everyone is able to neatly distance themselves -- everyone except the kids who get molested and raped.

Baptist-land: It’s an endless porous sieve of church-hopping predators and cover-uppers. It’s a land where no one ever seems to know anything.

Baptist-land: It’s the perfect faith group for the unaccountable and the irresponsible. And because everyone in Baptist-land can so easily turn a blind eye, it’s also a perfect paradise for predators.


Richard said...

Thou shalt not blog about SBC pastors

"Last month I received a letter from the lawyer of an SBC mega church pastor, an SWBTS graduate, who claims I defamed this mega church pastor on my blog in 2008. He accused me of "unlawful conduct" because of my blog post, demanded that I immediately take down the offending posts, else will face a lawsuit with massive damages and legal costs. Even said I would have to pay the mega church pastor's legal costs, which would be "substantial"."

Anonymous said...

I have never understood moral compass in the SBC in terms of internal justice among false brethren. It could not do with the slave issue and somehow it can't do it with this issue. Wonder what J Frank Norris would do with these punks?

Anonymous said...

There is a policewoman in my SS class who told us that churches are the perfect place for pedophiles to operate.

Yes, not our problem. Not good for business...pass on the problem...who cares about other little kids.

Can you imagine a pastor finding out that a pervert had worked there before and asking the congregation if anyone was abused during that time? Won't happen. they do NOT care about that. Just keep giving.

john said...

Their actions" do "speak louder than words"! For they talk a lot but do nothing which says a lot.

Christa Brown said...

"I have never understood moral compass in the SBC in terms of internal justice among false brethren."

Me neither. I believe it is an organization that has utterly lost its moral compass... if indeed it ever had one to start with.

"Can you imagine a pastor finding out that a pervert had worked there before and asking the congregation if anyone was abused during that time?"

Nope. That would require basic pastoral care and concern, which has become almost impossible to imagine in this context. We simply don't see it. Isn't that sad?

Anonymous said...


Just like I don't lump you in with all attorneys, please don't label all Baptist pastors the same as the leaders. Personally, I do not know any pastor who would tolerate a sex offender on their staff. Legally we are required to report it to the authorities as soon as we know it. All my friends can and would do that immediately.

Just because there are some bad apples in the box, let's not throw them all out.

Christa Brown said...

"Just because there are some bad apples in the box...."

That attitude is one of the main roots of the problem. People keep wanting to believe that it's just a few bad apples. But the problem is much, much bigger than that. The problem is about how the barrel itself enables the rot.

I know that all Baptist pastors are not predatory. The problem, however, is that the Baptist system provides no effective method for routing out clergy-predators, and so it becomes impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Anon thinks he doesn't know any pastor who would tolerate a sex offender on his staff. But in reality, he probably already does know some who have already tolerated a predator. EVERYONE likes to imagine that they will do the right thing if they know about abuse. But when actually confronted with suspicions of abuse, most people behave differently than what they like to imagine they would. Countless cases have shown that to be true. It's why there must be systems in place to facilitate the responsible and conscientious assessment of abuse reports. Otherwise, what happens in real life, is that clergy sex abuse is something so ugly that most people turn away and recoil from the reality of it. By and large, it's not so much a problem of what do people do when they know. It's a problem of what do people do when they DON'T know... when they simply suspect. And for the most part, because it's something so ugly, most people find ways NOT to know. They find ways to convince themselves that what they suspect may have happened didn't. And then they convince themselves that they don't have to worry about it. (Of course, we have also seen cases in which Baptist pastors, and even prominent Baptist pastors, actually knew about another minister's molestation of a child because the other minister admitted it... and the pastor still did nothing... even with actual knowledge.)

It's interesting that Anon mentions attorneys, because like most professionals, attorneys are subject to independent review boards who can assess complaints against them. An attorney doesn't have to be convicted of a crime before a review board may decide that he can no longer carry the high trust of being an attorney. Doctors, teachers, nurses, police officers, and all sorts of other professionals and occupations have independent review boards. Clergy in most other major faith groups are subject to outside review boards. But not Baptist pastors.

Without effective oversight mechanisms, the Baptist barrel enables the rot.

Anonymous said...

It may enable the rot but attacking all Baptist pastors and lumping them together isn't going to enchance your progress.

I probably know more Baptist pastors than anyone who posts on here and I will revise my previous statement to the following:

1. None of my close pastor friends would tolerate an offender and would immediately report them to the police.

2. Some of my Baptist pastor acquaintances might be guilty of this sin but not many. I had to add this because I know Steve Gaines, Paige Patterson, Darrell Gilyard, and a bunch of others.

I hope this helps clarify my previous statement. I also have attorney friends that I trust and some I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw them.

Christa Brown said...

"... and a bunch of others."

Anonymous said...

Agreed. At least I'm glad I'm on your side in this whole thing. I would not want you as an enemy.

Ramesh said...

That attitude is one of the main roots of the problem. People keep wanting to believe that it's just a few bad apples. But the problem is much, much bigger than that. The problem is about how the barrel itself enables the rot.

Anonymous said...

Thy Peace,

Out of the many thousands of Southern Baptist pastors how many do you think are child abusers or who harbor child abusers? I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Christa Brown said...

What we know, thanks to data gathered by the Associated Press and no thanks at all to the Southern Baptist Convention, is that there is good reason to think the incidence of clergy child molestation among Baptists is just as great as the incidence of clergy child molestation among Catholics. Or just as small, depending on how you look at it. But if people think it's a problem for Catholics, they should also think it's a problem for Baptists.
"Insurance companies shed light..."

"Three insurers shed light on Protestant church sex abuse"

"Child sex abuse by Protestant clergy difficult to document"

Of course, Catholic leadership at least cared enough to commit a couple million dollars for a 2-part study done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to try to at least begin to get a handle on the extent of the problem in their faith group. That's way more than Southern Baptists have done. They haven't even cared enough to even begin trying to assess the extent of the problem, much less to do anything effective about it.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. They said they receive 260 complaints a year about Protestant clergy.

Since that includes all Protestants and there are thousands of Southern Baptist pastors that should shed some valuable light on this subject.

No case is insignificant but its not the glaring problem you would have us to believe. That is not to say that I don't think we should castrate all the offenders and pitch them into prisons.

Christa Brown said...

According to the available data, the insurance companies receive an average of 260 clergy sex abuse reports per year involving Protestant clergy, and Baptists are the largest of the Protestant groups reported in the data. This compares to an average of 228 reports per year of "credible accusations" brought against Catholic priests. If the largest of the Protestant groups - Baptists - would bother to assess and keep track of "credible accusations" in the way that Catholics do, one can't help but wonder if the 260 per year number among Protestants would be even greater. As it is, the only number available for Baptists - because they don't even care enough to conduct a study assessing the problem - is the number of cases that get reported to their insurance companies -- i.e., cases that are likely on the verge of a lawsuit.

As I said... if people think it's a serious problem for Catholics, which I believe most people do, then they should also realize that it's a serious problem for Protestants, including Southern Baptists. The difference is that Southern Baptists aren't doing diddly-squat about it.

And if people want better data, then they ought to be demanding it of Southern Baptist leaders themselves. So far, Baptist leaders haven't even deemed it worthwhile to seriously assess the problem.

The Associated Press data gathered from the insurance companies

One comparison analysis of the data

Ramesh said...

God bless you Christa.