Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baptists threw kids a rattlesnake

I can’t stop thinking about those kids at the Waco Center for Youth -- the ones who encountered Baptist pastor Matt Baker when he worked as a chaplain there.

The Waco Center for Youth is a psychiatric residential treatment facility that serves emotionally disturbed teens between ages 13 and 17.

Matt Baker is the “murdering minister” who, according to prosecutors, had also sexually abused or assaulted at least 13 other young females, including four minors. Texas Monthly magazine reported on the specifics of some of those ugly allegations, and other details came out in court testimony.

Do you think those 13 that prosecutors rounded up were Matt Baker’s only abuse and assault victims?

I don’t. Not by a long shot.

According to investigators, Matt Baker led a “secret life as a sexual predator” during the whole course of his career. We’ll probably never know how many more he may have abused while wearing his ministerial mask of trust.

But for me, it’s those kids at the Waco Center for Youth that I can’t stop thinking about.

There you have a group of kids who are already so emotionally disturbed that they’re confined in a residential treatment facility, and then Baptists throw a rattlesnake in among them.

Horrible harm is virtually inevitable. It makes me weep to even think about it.

The Waco Center for Youth was one of Matt Baker’s last stints. By then, he had been through a half-dozen Baptist churches in the Waco area alone -- all of them affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. By then, there had been several known reports of sexual abuse and assault logged against him with Baptist leaders, including one at Baptists’ Baylor University in Waco and a couple at the historic First Baptist Church of Waco.

And of course, there may have been other informal reports that we don’t know about. Perhaps that’s why he went through so many churches so fast.

Yet, apparently no one said a word when Matt Baker got a job working as a chaplain at the Waco Center for Youth.

I’d guess that someone may have even recommended him. On another blog, another chaplain commented about this case and spoke of how the Baptist General Convention of Texas had taken over the “endorsing responsibilities for chaplains.”

Does that mean the Baptist General Convention of Texas endorsed Baker as a chaplain despite the abuse and assault reports in its own affiliated institutions?

I confess I don’t know much about the chaplain credentialing process, and if any of you would like to educate me, I’d appreciate it. What I do know is this: Chaplains are clergy, and Matt Baker was Baptist clergy.

Other Baptist leaders are the ones who gave Matt Baker the aura of trust that a clergyman holds. They’re the ones who ordained him; they’re the ones who admitted him to seminary (even though he had been reported for sexual assault at the same school); and they’re the ones who allowed him to continue in ministry even after multiple reports of sexual assault and abuse.

Because Matt Baker was still a Baptist minister in apparent good-standing, he was able to get a job working as a chaplain with those troubled kids at the Waco Center for Youth.

Think about those kids. They may have been emotionally disturbed, but I imagine they were savvy enough to know that no one would be likely to believe a kid in a psychiatric treatment facility over a Baptist preacher.

The Waco Center for Youth was the perfect sort of place for a predator. Who would ever listen to those kids?

I figure some of those kids are probably spread to the four corners of the country by now. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are living on the street somewhere . . . probably as far from Waco as they could possibly get. Or maybe they're addicted to drugs and alcohol. That's not uncommon in clergy sex abuse survivors.

Do you think any of those Baptist officials who kept quiet about Matt Baker’s reported abuses and assaults feel any concern for those kids who were at the Waco Center for Youth?

Why haven’t we seen some public statement from officials at Baylor, or First Baptist of Waco, or the Baptist General Convention of Texas? Why haven’t they offered some expression of compassion and care?

If they wanted to take responsibility for their failures of the past, wouldn’t they make some effort to reach out to the wounded now?

I keep imagining that we’ll see some nationwide press release from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, with some statement like this:
“We are horrified and heartbroken by all that we have learned about one of our Baptist ministers, the murder of his wife, and the harm inflicted on so many. We are also deeply troubled by what we have learned of our own past failures and by the realization that there were those in Baptist leadership who knew about the risk posed by this minister. Please, if you’re someone who was wounded by Baptist pastor Matt Baker, let us try to help you. We would like to provide you with independent counseling and we promise to keep your name confidential. Please contact us.”

I can’t believe I even still imagine such things.

After all, if a murder won’t shake Baptist leaders from their stupor, why should I think they might care about those kids at the Waco Center for Youth?

In my more rational moments, I figure Baptist leaders are far more likely to simply hope that anyone else who was hurt by Matt Baker will remain invisible. They don’t want to know about them. They don’t want to help them.

If they did, they would behave differently.

In most other organizations, an institutional failure of this magnitude would lead to a lot of questions. Leaders would try to understand how things went so wrong. They would try to assess the damage. They would try to figure out what to do to assure that it wouldn’t happen again. They would try to find out how many were wounded.

But that doesn’t happen in Baptistland. Instead, the leaders just hunker down and stay silent . . . as though it simply wasn’t their problem.

It’s a very dangerous head-in-the-sand sort of approach.

In fact, it’s deadly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Complicity of Baptist leaders

Over the weekend, pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Oklahoma, considered the recent case of Baptist pastor Matt Baker, who was convicted of murdering his wife, Kari. The investigation and trial of the murder case brought to light evidence that pastor Baker had, for many years, lived “a secret life as a sexual predator.” He lived that secret life -- and lived it quite easily -- in Baptistland.

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?”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It shouldn't take a murder

Today in Waco, Texas, a jury sentenced former Baptist pastor Matt Baker to 65 years in prison for murdering his wife, Kari Baker. Kari Baker’s mother, Linda Dulin, delivered a victim impact statement in which she said this: “You took her from us, Matt. You discarded her like she was yesterday’s trash. You murdered the mother of your children. . . . You spent your life preying on innocent people. . . .” So there it is: After a lifetime of “preying on innocent people,” and after always getting away with it, Matt Baker murdered the mother of his children. I guess he thought he could get away with that too. In today’s sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutors presented some of the evidence about Baker’s lifetime of “preying on innocent people.” They couldn’t present all of it because, as they explained, some people were out of town for today’s hearing. But prosecutors had already given official notice that they had evidence of at least 13 young women, including 4 minors, toward whom Matt Baker had made inappropriate “advances” and assaults. Though some of the allegations had been previously reported to various Baptist officials, none of them had prevented Matt from continuing as a Baptist minister. In fact, the sexual abuse and assault allegations didn’t see the light of day until Matt Baker was brought up on a murder charge. Is that what it takes in Baptistland? Does it take a murder charge before people in the pews can learn about such ugly clergy conduct as sexual abuse and assaults? Lora was among those who testified at today’s sentencing hearing. Back in 1991, she was the freshman girl who reported Baker to Baylor University officials for what was a sexual assault. But according to her testimony, “Baylor officials told her there was no need to contact the police because they would handle it.” Baylor University is the largest Baptist University in the world. So how did they “handle it”? As reported by Texas Monthly magazine, Baylor University “administrators did type up a report, but they took no action.” A few years later, Baylor even admitted Matt Baker into its renowned Truett Seminary on the Baylor campus. Did Baylor officials not see the report in their own file? Or did they just not care? And why didn’t they find out about some of the other sexual abuse allegations that had been made against Matt by then? After all, at First Baptist Church of Waco alone, there had already been two sexual abuse allegations against Matt. The pastor and another minister received separate reports. In one, Matt was reported to have grabbed a female custodian, and in the other, he cornered a teenage girl. With the assault report at Baylor and the two abuse reports at First Baptist, you’d think someone would have put a stop to Matt Baker’s ministerial career then and there. But no . . . in Baptistland, no one bothers to look into such things, and an accused pastor simply moves on to greener pastures. Matt Baker moved on to one of the most prestigious churches in Waco, Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. From there, his career continued through a string of other Baptist churches and organizations . . . and still more allegations arose. But no one ever stopped him. Here are the places Matt Baker worked:
  • Baylor University
  • First Baptist Church of Waco
  • Columbus Avenue Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church of Robinson
  • the YMCA (which reportedly fired him)
  • Truett Seminary at Baylor (as a student)
  • Pecan Grove Baptist Church
  • Williams Creek Baptist Church
  • First Baptist Church of Riesel
  • Northlake Baptist Church in Dallas
  • Waco Center for Youth (where his clergy credentials allowed him to work as a chaplain with emotionally disturbed youth!!!)
  • Crossroads Baptist Church
  • Baptist Student Union at Schreiner College

With the exception of the YMCA (where he had multiple abuse allegations) and the Waco Center for Youth, all of those churches, schools and organizations are affiliated with the same umbrella organization -- the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Wouldn’t you think they could have some system for keeping track of abuse allegations? Wouldn’t you think their affiliated entities could communicate with one another? But apparently they don’t. Even at the end of his career -- and even after so many abuse and assault allegations -- Matt Baker got a job working with college kids at a Baptist Student Union. It was a position funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas itself. Investigative journalist Skip Hollandsworth offered an explanation for this huge institutional failure. He pointed out that, among Baptists, “there are no rules” requiring a church to inform others about a minister accused of abuse. “In fact,” he explained, “to avoid defamation lawsuits, leaders of a church have an incentive to keep their mouths shut when it comes to questionable behavior among clergy, which is perhaps why First Baptist officials said nothing about the allegations when other churches later called, interested in hiring Matt.” So that’s how it works in Baptistland. Church leaders just “keep their mouths shut,” and predatory ministers simply move on. This closed-mouth system is flat-out dangerous. It shouldn’t take a murder to bring to light a pastor’s career history of “preying on innocent people.”


For more on the history of abuse and assault allegations against Matt Baker, see my prior postings, “Baptist leaders silent at the start of trial” and “Why didn’t Baptists bust him?” For links to all of my 12 columns on the Matt Baker case, see the bottom of this posting.

1/25/10: The list of places Matt Baker worked is derived from information gathered and reported by Texas Monthly magazine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guilty! Jury says pastor murdered wife.

This evening in Waco, Texas, a jury found former Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker guilty of murdering his wife, Kari Baker.

She was a vivacious 31-year-old mother and a school teacher. Her life was taken by her preacher-husband, and he nearly got away with it. Thank God for the perseverance of Kari Baker’s mother, investigators, prosecutors, and others who sought justice for Kari.

According to testimony at trial, Matt Baker drugged his wife and smothered her with a pillow until she died.

The investigation also brought to light evidence that Matt Baker had spent years leading “a secret life as a sexual predator.” Prosecutors said that he had made advances and assaults on at least 13 young women, including 4 minors. Yet, despite multiple reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault, Matt Baker was always able to continue his career through churches, schools, and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

No one stopped him. No one removed him from ministry. No one held him accountable.

Some experts say that sexual predators can become emboldened by a lack of consequences.

Did too many people in Baptistland allow Matt Baker to get away with too much for too long?

Updates 1/21/10:
From BaptistPlanet: "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."

Excerpts from the Matt Baker murder trial

In the murder trial of Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker, the prosecution rested its case yesterday. The defense begins putting on its part today. Matt Baker denies all charges.

I know many of you have followed this case, but for those who haven’t, it’s about “a Texas minister whose ex-mistress testified that he drugged his wife, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, then smothered her with a pillow until she died.”

This is a minister who, despite multiple sexual abuse and assault allegations, was able to advance his career through churches, schools, and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Despite the many troubling reports, no one stopped him. He continued for 16 years . . . until he was finally brought up on murder charges.

Whatever else this trial may eventually show, it has already brought to light the horror in how easily ministers with sexual abuse allegations can church-hop through Baptistland. Investigators claim to have discovered that minister Matt Baker spent years leading “a secret life as a sexual predator.”

The Waco Tribune-Herald has been blogging the trial as it progresses, and you can read the entirety of it there. I’m going to give you just a few excerpts, mainly from the testimony of Vanessa Bulls, who is shown on the witness stand. Her testimony is revealing of some of the common patterns of preacher-predators.

From the Waco Tribune-Herald’s blog of the trial:
January 19
9:03 a.m. — The state calls its 27th witness, Vanessa Bulls. . . . Bulls says she is a teacher at a school. Bulls says she was raised “strict Southern Baptist” and went to University of Mary Hardin Baylor. . . . Her father is a minister in music. He worked at Crossroads Baptist Church, where Matt Baker was pastor. She says her father took the position at Crossroads in September of 2005. She says that’s how she got to know Matt and Kari Baker. In September of 2005, she says that she was sitting in the church by herself and asked, casually, about Matt Baker. He told her, “whoever finds you is going to be a lucky man.”

9:06 a.m. — Vanessa Bulls says that she was going through a divorce in December of 2005. Matt Baker told her not to date other guys and to “just date your pastor,” she says. He asked her at a church potluck whether she would date her pastor. She says that he told her that he had a vasectomy, so he can’t give her any more children, but that he does not have any sexually transmitted diseases.

9:09 a.m. — Matt Baker started calling Vanessa Bulls “regularly,” she says. He asked her, she says, whether she needed counseling from her recent divorce. “God can get you through anything,” he told her, she says.

9:15 a.m. — Vanessa Bulls says that Matt Baker took the divorce counseling to a new level. He started saying she was beautiful and asked her to come over. … In late February of 2006, Matt Baker told Bulls, she says, that he and Kari didn’t have sex anymore because she was so depressed. In March, Bulls says, she went to the Baker home while Kari Baker was at work and the daughters were at school. Bulls says that she didn’t know this was “arranged” at the time. “That was a point in my life when I wasn’t thinking straight.” . . . At the Baker home, Bulls says they were going through the counseling sessions. “He asked if he could hold my hands to pray, and after that he kissed me,” Bulls says. This was in early March of 2006. Shafer asks whether she kissed him back. She says no. But, then he took her hand, Bulls says, and led her into Matt and Kari’s bedroom and they had sex. Bulls says he told her, “that God is such a forgiving God. I don’t think that God believes that a person can be with just one person for the rest of their life.”

9:20 a.m. — Matt Baker told Vanessa Bulls that, when the Baker’s lived in either Riesel or Axtell, Kari had tried to kill herself. “I was buying into everything. He is a complete, and still is, a manipulative liar. He made me believe everything he was saying. And at my most vulnerable state.” Bulls raised her voice when she said this.

9:26 a.m. — … He had told her that he was going to kill his wife that night, she says. The next morning, Bulls says her mother woke her up and told her that Kari Baker had died. . . . Bulls says she and her family went to the Baker home to see if the pastor was OK. She looked at Matt Baker, she says, and he winked at her.

9:33 a.m. — Vanessa Bulls attended Kari Baker’s funeral, she says. Two days later, he told her that no one would believe her if she told anyone what he did because he was a preacher. . . .

9:39 a.m. — …. After Kari Baker’s death, Bulls says that she was “more worried about herself then…. In truth, who would believe me? He was a preacher. I didn’t want to be in love anymore. I just wanted to be safe. … I wasn’t attracted to (Baker), I just wanted to be safe.” She says that she felt safe with Matt Baker because he was a preacher.

9:50 a.m. — On August 3, 2006, Vanessa Bulls says that she was interviewed by Det. Ben Toombs of the Hewitt Police Department and denied everything. “I still didn’t think anyone would believe me,” Bulls says. She says she was also afraid that people would find out about the affair. …. Bulls says that she had the “creepiest conversation of my life” with Matt Baker, who was calling from a cell phone. She says she started having a panic attack. At this point, Bulls says that she had found out from police “other things that (Baker) had lied to her about. Bulls says that, in a very “normal” voice he asked how she was. Bulls told Baker to turn himself in and he told her “God has forgiven me.”

11:20 a.m. — After Kari Baker’s death, Vanessa Bulls says again that she continued her affair with him because he had “warped” her mind and says that she was “afraid for” her life and her daughter’s life. “I knew what he was capable of,” Bulls says. . . . “It’s obvious that he’s a master manipulator and I believe you know that, too,” Bulls shot at Gray…. He victimized me, he victimized Kari, he victimized his girls…and he thinks he can do it again. He thinks he can do it again.”

11:48 a.m. — In August of 2009, Vanessa Bulls asked Hewitt police whether they were looking for an admission from Matt Baker. She says she knew he would never admit to guilt.

1:55 p.m. — . . . . She says, again, that she didn’t tell the truth because she was scared and didn’t want any repercussions. “It’s not easy to admit that you had an affair, especially in circumstances like this,” Bulls says. Looking right at the jury, Bulls says, again, that Matt had told her that no one would believe her because he was a preacher.

January 20
8:30 a.m. — … Matt Baker, 38, is wearing a tie that has “Faith” written on it several times.
Updates: See the KXXV video of Vanessa Bulls' testimony. Read the Associated Baptist Press report.
BaptistPlanet aptly called this "a predator's phrase dictionary" and said: "When a Waco, Texas, jury found Matt Baker guilty Wednesday, it by implication indicted Southern Baptist failure to act forcefully to stop clerical predators in its midst."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Moderates are more disappointing

From a Birmingham jail cell, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to the “moderate” religious leaders of his day. He told of how “gravely disappointed” he was in them.

Of course, King had always known better than to expect support from men such as Bull Connor, but for a time, King apparently held some hope that “moderates” would stand with him and other black Americans in their struggle for justice. However, in his letter from the Birmingham jail, King said that he had almost reached the conclusion that the greatest stumbling block was “not the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will,” wrote King.

As I have struggled to bring to light the injustice in how clergy abuse survivors are treated in Baptistland, I have often pondered the words of King’s letter. I too have grown to the conclusion that the “moderates” may be the most frustrating of all.

Any fool will know that someone who denounces clergy molestation survivors as “evil-doers” isn’t going to be someone who will extend much help. Of course, that’s “any fool” except countless other Baptist leaders who remain content to keep a man of such hateful words in high leadership. Nevertheless, for us mere mortals, the heartless cruelty of Baptist men such as that -- and there are many of them -- is at least transparent. So we don’t get our hopes up.

But it has taken me much longer to understand the reality of what King wrote about in his letter -- the reality that, with only rare exceptions, “moderates” are equally unhelpful. They are “more cautious than courageous,” and they remain “silent behind the anesthetizing security” of their status-quo do-nothingness.

In fact, the “moderates” maintain the same status-quo as the other Baptists.

In his letter, King complained of those “moderate” leaders who constantly said: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods….”

I have often heard virtually identical words from “moderate” Baptist leaders.

But as with King, I have seen that, though “moderates” may say they agree, they will not take steps toward actually implementing change because to do so would upset their status-quo power structures.

And the “moderates” put forward the exact same excuse as those other Baptists who call us ugly names. It’s the “because we have no bishops” excuse. It’s the “all Baptist churches are autonomous” excuse.

Then they say that I’m too impatient and that, with time, change will come.

Martin Luther King called this a “mythical concept of time.” It’s a concept that imagines the flow of time alone will somehow change things. But of course, it won’t. Advancing the good requires action. But when it comes to clergy sex abuse, action is exactly what “moderates” reject.

Sometimes I really wonder about some of these “moderate” Baptist leaders. Do you think they actually believe the words they speak?

Do they actually believe that “because there are no bishops,” Baptist leaders are powerless to do anything about clergy who are credibly accused of molesting kids? Or do they simply spout the Baptist party-line to avoid rocking the boat, to protect their own careers, or to preserve the false-peace of the status-quo?

Do they really believe that the New Testament prescribes the parameters of “local church autonomy” so precisely that it allows churches to cooperate for funding ministers’ retirements, for international missions, for keeping historical records, and even for investigating churches with gays in their membership . . . but NOT for responsibly assessing reports about clergy who molest kids?

How do intelligent “moderate” people arrive at actually believing such a thing?

If they can come up with such a contrived “autonomy” definition as that, why do they not go ahead and come up with a definition that will serve for the protection of kids and for ministry to the wounded? It’s obvious they’re defining it how they themselves choose, and so why don’t they choose a definition more functional for the welfare of others?

How do intelligent “moderate” people convince themselves that providing critical information to churches -- information about ministers credibly accused of sexual abuse -- will somehow take away the autonomy of churches to decide what to do with that information?

How do they not see the self-serving hypocrisy in such a radicalized view of “local church autonomy”?

And how can they possibly imagine that this abstraction of “autonomy” -- an abstraction that they themselves have defined for their own ends -- could possibly be more important than protecting real kids against clergy who molest and rape them?

I’ll never understand it.

Weighed against the reality of predatory clergy who church-hop through the porous network of Baptistland, the excuse-making of “moderate” Baptist leaders sounds hollow indeed.

In the words of Martin Luther King, moderate Baptist leaders “stand on the sideline” mouthing “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”

The fact that they call themselves “moderates” doesn’t make their “sideline” approach to clergy sex abuse any less appalling.

(Anyone who doubts that “moderates” have a serious problem should consider the current case of Matt Baker who, despite multiple sex abuse allegations, church-hopped his way through the “moderate” Baptist General Convention of Texas and its affiliated entities.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

NEWDradio Interview - Pulpit Predators

The first part of the program was given to discussion of the devastation in Haiti. Click the "play" arrow, and the "Pulpit Predators" program picks up at about the 40 minute mark.

You can leave comments on the NEWDRadio site here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NewdRadio Interview

Upcoming Episode
1/17/2010 3:00 P.M. EST - Pulpit Predators

Guest Interview:
While many have been silenced by shame and the false instructions of religious leaders, hear the words of Christa Brown - sex abuse survivor and Baptist Outreach Director of (SNAP) Survivors Network of Those abused by Priests.

Airing live in the New York City area and South Florida
Sunday, January 17, AT 3 P.M. EST
Call-in and join the conversation: 646-727-1706

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baptist leaders silent at start of murder trial

The murder trial of former Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker began today, January 12, in Waco, Texas.

Baker is accused of having killed his wife, allegedly so that he could more easily pursue “his latest conquest” -- a young woman in his church.

In anticipation of trial, prosecutors recently gave notice that they intend to present evidence that, during the course of his career, Matt Baker made sexual “advances,” “assaults,” and “approaches” on at least 13 young females, including 4 minors.

The prosecutors’ notice comes as no surprise because private investigators had previously made known their own conclusion that Matt Baker spent years leading “a secret life as a sexual predator,” “harassing, and groping unsuspecting teenage girls and women.”

At every stage of Matt Baker’s ministerial career -- during those many years when he was allegedly groping and assaulting teen girls and women -- Matt Baker was working in churches, schools and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Yet, from that Baptist organization, we hear only a deafening silence.

Some of the allegations were reported to Baptist leaders, but no one warned anyone else. Matt Baker moved with ease from church to church, and no one ever stopped him.

This is something that Baptist officials should explain.

How could a man with so many reported abuse allegations nevertheless remain as a Baptist minister?

It’s a question that probably won’t be answered by the murder trial. But it’s a question that does deserve an answer.

Look at this recap of Matt Baker’s career, and ask yourself: Doesn’t the Baptist General Convention of Texas owe some explanation?

Matt started out as a ministerial student at Baylor University, which is 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, 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 simply allowed Matt to move on and “said nothing about the allegations when other churches later called, interested in hiring Matt.”

“I didn’t want to be known as the man who ruined his career,” explained the pastor to a Texas Monthly reporter. (Incidentally, this career recap is gleaned from information gathered and reported by Texas Monthly, not from any information provided by any Baptist officials.)

In fact, Matt’s career moved upward after the allegations. He got a job at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, one of the most prestigious churches in Waco. It’s a church that is also affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Next, Matt got a job at First Baptist Church of Robinson. Yes, it’s also affiliated with 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, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. But even though Truett seminary is under the same Baptist umbrella organization as First Baptist of Waco, where Matt was twice-reported for sexual abuse, and even though Truett seminary is part of Baylor, where Matt was reported for sexual assault, no one connected the dots. The fact that they were all affiliated with the same Baptist General Convention of Texas made no difference. Apparently, the information wasn’t shared. Matt Baker was admitted into the Baptist seminary.

Next, Matt got a job as pastor at Pecan Grove Baptist Church, which is 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 also became 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. His position was funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Thus, 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.

Didn’t anyone check his background? How could they have overlooked so many accusations?

Why couldn’t the Baptist General Convention of Texas find out about the string of sexual abuse allegations in its own affiliated churches and its own affiliated university (or about the fact that he was fired from the YMCA)?

An ordinary person might look at this obvious institutional failure and ask the obvious question: “With such a string of sordid allegations, how could Matt Baker keep getting new jobs?”

But with Baptist ministers, it’s easy. Baptists have no effective system for even keeping records on clergy abuse allegations, much less for telling anyone about them. And they sure as heck don’t have any system for actually doing anything about them.

Many experts say that a sexual predator can become emboldened by a lack of consequences. Maybe. Maybe not. Matt Baker denies all allegations.

But wholly apart from the murder trial, doesn’t the Baptist General Convention of Texas owe some explanation to the young women and girls who made reports about Matt Baker? To the young women and girls who may have unduly suffered even after others had reported Matt Baker? To the families in the many churches where Matt Baker worked -- families whose teens and young women were left at risk by the do-nothing system of the Baptist General Convention of Texas?

For a CBS “48 Hours” video on this story, see my prior posting: “Baptist leaders must consider possible consequences.”
Update 1/20/2010: “Ex-mistress says Texas minister admitted killing wife,” Associated Press, 1/19/2010 ("He was and still is a manipulative liar who took me in my vulnerable state and made me believe everything he said.")
Additional info 3/28/2010: According to the First Baptist Church of Waco's website, every president of Baylor University has been a member of the church. Yet, despite 3 abuse and assault reports in these 2 institutions, both of which are also affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Matt Baker was allowed to go on his way to other churches.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Essence of the Problem

Last week on the BaptistLife forum, a bare handful of comments captured the essence of the Baptist clergy abuse problem . . . and the essence of a partial solution.

Too bad no one paid much attention.

Timothy Bonney got the ball rolling. He’s a pastor with the American Baptists, not the Southern Baptists. American Baptists are a much smaller group, but like all Baptists, local church autonomy is central to their polity. However, for American Baptists, autonomy doesn’t automatically displace accountability.

I have long thought that American Baptists might be able to teach the Southern Baptists something on this. So when I saw Bonney’s comment, I held my breath, wondering if others would pick up on it.

But of course, as fast as the light bulb flickered, it then went dim.

Here’s how the dialogue proceeded. (You can see its entirety on the BaptistLife forum.)

Timothy Bonney (an American Baptist pastor):
“I'll wait for the collective gasps after I say this. But autonomy is not the be all and end all of the Christian faith. In the ABC [American Baptist Convention] our churches are quite autonomous. But we have a system for the denomination to recognize the ordination of clergy. This system allows us to be able to hold clergy accountable both on the local level (the church) and on the regional level. If a pastor commits some ethical misconduct his/her ABC recognition can be suspended or removed. If that happens there are very very few ABC churches that would consider their resume and they can no longer circulate their information in the ABC system. I believe this is one area where the greater good (preventing clergy abuse of church folk) should out way the good of autonomy. Unfortunately bad actors in Baptist life can and do use autonomy as a shield from accountability to the church and the gospel.”

David Flick (previously a Southern Baptist pastor and now an American Baptist pastor):
“The recognition of credentials by a ministry counsel was a surprise to me when I moved into the ABC. Frankly, I’m impressed with the idea of credentials being recognized by the denomination. Among Southern Baptists, almost anybody can get ordained sans any educational background. The statement on my recognition certificate grants eligibility (with accountability) to my participation in ABC church life. It can be withdrawn if I misbehave ethically or morally...

Timothy Bonney:
“… I think it is a good compromise between autonomy and interdependence . . . . The local church still ordains and the local church still choose to accept or ignore the recognition issues. But by having the system the ABC can warn churches of unethical pastors. Then the church has to take matters in its own hands at that point."

William Thornton (a Southern Baptist pastor):
“The ABC is not the model for this, sorry. I am unwilling to allow any denominational bureaucrat to evaluate and approve of my credentials before I can serve a church. Let each church set their standards. It is a waste of time to even discuss it. The SBC would never have a system like this.”

Bruce Gourley (Baptist historian with Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):
“Am I am hearing you correctly? You support the right of SBC bureaucrats to tell you what you must believe as a Southern Baptist…, but would not allow the same bureaucrats to evaluate your ministerial credentials?”

William Thornton:
“… All the arguments for having SBC-wide ministerial standards, credentials, approval utterly fail when you imagine some group of denominational bureaucrats making such decisions. Like I said, it's a waste of time to discuss it. . . ."

Timothy Bonney:
"’Bureaucrats’ aren't involved. Each Region has a committee made up of laity and clergy that create ordination standards, deal with ethical misconduct issues etc. I happen to be the chair of that committee in Iowa. So I guess I'm your ‘bureaucrat.’ The ABC believes in both autonomy and interdependence. We believe that when a local church ordains someone that this means that they are making a statement that not only is this person fit for their congregation but that they believe they are generally fit for ministry. But without standards that basically means that the church with the least expectations gets to ordain the least qualified folks for all of our churches.”

Sandy (Southern Baptist):
“. . . It is not always very easy to get information out of a pastor's former church. We're 18 months into a pastor search, and I've made a lot of phone calls to cotton-padded stone walls….”

Big Daddy Weave (Southern Baptist and Cooperative Baptist?):
“… Can victims of sex abuse in ABC congregations report that abuse directly to some ABC official? Will an investigation follow?”

Timothy Bonney:
“We do have a system whereby an accusation can be brought to our committee, an investigation will follow, and the committee can and will take appropriate action within the limits of our polity. This action can include censure, suspension of recognition, or even removal of recognition. Such actions are shared with all ABC regions so that someone can't skip out of Mid-ABC and go somewhere else continuing abusive behavior. Such an individual cannot circulate an ABC profile, the main means of looking for a new church in the ABC.”

That was the end of it.

I was disheartened by William Thornton’s twice-repeated “waste of time to discuss it” remark. I believe Thornton to be a good man, but his remark encapsulates the typical view of Southern Baptist pastors and captures the essence of why clergy are not held accountable in this denomination.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer. Other professionals are subject to ethics review boards -- doctors, lawyers, nurses, police, psychologists, etc. Other clergy are subject to ethics review boards. But not Southern Baptist clergy.

Instead, the “autonomy above all” attitude prevails. It’s a knee-jerk sort of self-serving “autonomy” that makes very little sense in the context of all the other ways in which Southern Baptist churches cooperate. To me, it looks as though the Southern Baptist autonomy doctrine has been twisted to focus more on the autonomy of the pastors rather than the autonomy of the congregations.

You can see an example of how the American Baptist system worked in actual practice here. A review board considered a report of clergy sex abuse (a report that was too old for criminal prosecution, as most are). The review board’s determination gave reporters something they could write about, and that in turn provided a way to warn people in the community. Even though the church still supported their pastor (as churches almost always do), and even though the review board exercised no authority over the church, the process provided a means to get the information into the light of day.

That sort of process is exactly what is lacking for Southern Baptists, and as a result, people in the pews never find out about most of the preacher-predators. Even when molestation victims try to report ministers, no one pays any attention. The ministers simply stay in their pulpits, or else they move on to some other church and find new prey.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Emerywood Baptist in North Carolina

I got an email yesterday from senior pastor Bob Ferguson of Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, North Carolina. He’s just learned that the StopBaptistPredators.org website has links to news articles about a former Emerywood deacon named Guy Ellis Carr, Jr., who pled guilty last month on multiple child sex abuse charges. (That’s Carr in the photo.)

Pastor Ferguson goes on at some length, but I’ll just give you the highlights. He basically brags that his church “acted in a very appropriate manner,” and he wants me to “correct the information” on the site.

So . . . let’s review this case a bit. Maybe it deserves more attention than I initially gave it. The truth is that I can’t even get headlines posted for all the Baptist predator stories that cross my desk, and I sure as heck can’t blog about all of them. But now that pastor Ferguson has directed my attention to this one . . . .

The only stuff I previously posted about this case were links to 3 news articles: the High Point Enterprise and News-Record articles when Carr was charged, and the High Point Enterprise article when Carr pled guilty. But pastor Ferguson doesn’t like seeing even this bare-bones amount of information on the website because he doesn’t want to be “linked” to “those who would deny or sweep this under the rug.”

Uhhhh . . . here’s a wake-up call, pastor Ferguson: You already are “linked.”

Pastor Ferguson’s church shows itself as being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, an organization whose highest leaders have publicly said that, among Baptist church officials, there have been only “several incidents”. . . or “a couple” . . . or at most, as one official proudly suggested, just “40 in 15 years” This constitutes institutional “denial” because, in reality, there have been hundreds and thousands of such cases, and that’s counting only those that get publicly reported in the media and through insurance data. That’s exactly why I post headlines like the ones that bothered pastor Ferguson, because if nothing else, they show how wrong Baptist leaders have been in so egregiously minimizing the extent of problem.

In his email to me, pastor Ferguson emphasizes that “these allegations did not occur on our property, did not occur while he was a deacon of our church or while he was attending any event of our church.”

Yeah. I got that. Pastor Ferguson made exactly the same point when he talked to the High Point Enterprise and said this: "None of these things happened anywhere near our church… our church is not directly involved.”

Now that he’s hammered on that same point in his email, I remember the dismay I felt when I first read that remark of his in the press. Guy Carr was a deacon -- a designated leader at Emerywood Baptist -- and yet the church’s senior pastor was making mealy-mouthed public remarks about how the events didn’t happen “anywhere near our church.” It was obvious the pastor was more concerned with protecting the church’s image than with reaching out to other possible victims.

And why in the world is pastor Ferguson still describing them as mere “allegations” in his email to me? The guy pled guilty.

At the time of Carr’s grand jury indictment, I also noticed how pastor Ferguson effectively cast doubt on the “allegations” by telling the press that “those charged with crimes must be proven guilty” and "we don't need to have a rush to judgment."

Yet, in yesterday’s email to me, he states that he realized “there was truth to these allegations” after talking with the victim, her mother, her aunt and a Carr co-worker. But even though he realized the “truth to these allegations,” pastor Ferguson also plainly states that, since it “happened 28 years ago, we took no formal action until his recent decision to plead guilty.”

And that’s what pastor Ferguson calls acting “in a very appropriate manner”???

Perhaps it would be more “appropriate” if, rather than making excuses about the fact that it “happened 28 years ago,” pastor Ferguson would instead concern himself with how many more kids may have been wounded during those intervening 28 years.

I thought I would retch when I saw the part in his email where he whined that the perpetrator had lied to him and said it wasn’t true “and staunchly maintained that lie.”

Uhhh . . . here’s another wake-up call, pastor Ferguson: Child molesters lie.

Then pastor Ferguson said: “When Mr. Carr pled guilty the entire arena changed. We now had admitted guilt upon which we could act.”

I consider pastor Ferguson’s excuse about the perpetrator’s lie to be just another illustration of why Baptistland is so dangerous for kids. If Baptist leaders won’t take action until a predator admits his guilt, then many more kids are going to be molested and raped. Experts will tell you that most child molesters admit guilt only when it will buy them a lighter sentence.

Finally, pastor Ferguson’s email seemed to suggest that there was only a singular victim. I doubt that.

As reported by the High Point Enterprise, the victim in the prosecuted case confronted deacon Carr and talked about wanting to find a way to forgive him.

His response to her was this: “Most people just get over it.”

Chilling, huh?

Who are the “most people” he’s talking about?

Despite pastor Ferguson’s insistence that nothing occurred at his church, maybe there were indeed other victims who were abused at Emerywood. How would pastor Ferguson know for sure one way or the other?

The High Point Enterprise reported that Carr grew up attending Emerywood Baptist, and then according to pastor Ferguson’s email, Carr moved to some other church in the same town, and then Carr went back to Emerywood and became a deacon there.

Whether at Emerywood or some other church, who are those “most people” -- the ones whom deacon Carr said “just get over it”?

Maybe they’re people who are still keeping quiet, in part, because they saw pastor Ferguson’s mealy-mouth remarks when Carr was first arrested.

On the church website, “Dr. Bob” (i.e., pastor Bob Ferguson) says that Emerywood has been described as a “thinking person’s church.”

Uhhh . . . I don’t think so. Not if pastor Ferguson’s remarks on the Carr case are any indication.

Incidentally, Emerywood shows itself as being affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"We have been aware . . ."

In Odessa, Texas, a grand jury has indicted a Southern Baptist youth pastor on nine counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Robert John Weber, 44, was youth pastor at Second Baptist Church of Odessa, and allegedly, he had been counseling the girl at the church. The indictment details three sexual encounters Weber reportedly had with the girl in August and October.

It’s another case that shows the typical Baptist pattern: So long as a Baptist minister isn’t in jail, he can remain in ministry. It’s an appallingly low standard for people who occupy positions of high trust.

Excerpts and quotes below are taken from the Odessa American.

The senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, the Rev. Randy S. Duckett, issued a typed statement, saying this:

“We have been aware of the situation from the beginning and have re-assigned Mr. Weber to a different ministry within our church.”
The 15-year-old’s mother said she was “happy to learn of the indictment but unsatisfied with the church’s reaction.”

“The mother… said Weber harassed her daughter with text messages and led her to believe he would divorce his wife and marry her.”

“’She’s 15, but she still plays with toys and plastic animals,’ the mother said of her daughter.”

“Church members meanwhile have expressed disbelief over the charges and pledged to support Weber through the legal process, said Dena Ward, who attends Second Baptist….”

“’Everybody was shocked, and nobody believed it,” Ward said …. ‘Everybody that I have talked to is 100 percent standing behind him.’”

So . . . can you even begin to imagine all that must be going through the head of that 15-year-old? She is almost certainly filled with plenty of confusion and self-doubt already . . . and now she watches while 100 percent of her faith community stands with the minister.

And what if there were other kids who might have been considering speaking up? How likely do you think that is now?

Photo by KWES News West 9.

Update: Awaiting DNA results in sexual abuse case, Odessa American, 3/4/2010.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Compassion for Southern Baptist leaders

“It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.”
-- Mary Oliver, poet

The core teaching of Christian faith is love. But for Southern Baptist clergy abuse survivors, what we consistently see from this denomination is anything but love.

It’s shaming. It’s wall-building. It’s institutional inertia. It’s institutional self-protection. It’s arrogance. It’s greed. It’s image-building and appearances. In short, it’s something that makes the whole faith group look like a fraud.

Collectively, Baptists fail miserably in dealing with clergy sex abuse.

I struggle to find compassion for their leaders who allow such a systemic failure.

How should I feel compassion for Baptist leaders who refuse to lead on such a desperate issue and who instead twist religion into an excuse for do-nothingness?

How should I feel compassion for Baptist leaders who hold the power to protect kids against clergy who molest and rape them, but who choose instead to piously mouth their mantra of “autonomy.”

How should I feel compassion for Baptist leaders who have so radicalized the Baptist doctrine of church autonomy that they refuse to facilitate the cooperation of churches for the ferreting out of clergy predators?

How should I feel compassion for Baptist leaders who persistently turn a blind eye in the face of such monstrous ministerial deeds?

This is something I struggle with.

I often think that Baptist leaders just can’t help themselves. Our stories remind them of parts of themselves that they don’t want to see. We remind them of their own failures, dark deeds and cover-ups. We remind them of a time, perhaps years ago, when they realized that a fellow-minister was engaged in “inappropriate behavior” with an underage teen, and rather than look into it too closely, they minimized it and allowed the perpetrator to move on to another church.

Once upon a time, they convinced themselves that this stuff wasn’t really such a big deal. They convinced themselves that the kid would forget about it. They convinced themselves that it was just a one-time aberration for the perpetrator and that he would never do it again. They may have even convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing by not hurting his career. Or perhaps they told themselves that the girl came from a “white trash” family. She must have brought it on herself. And besides, the minister said that they didn’t really “have sex” – he “just touched her a little.”

So it was really no big deal. Right? Right?

Oh sure. . . they were a little troubled by it at first. And they know they probably should have done more. But with all their self-convincings, they eventually grew comfortable with their failure.

They thought they left those memories of their failure behind . . . and now here we are. . . reminding them.

How dare we? How dare we disrupt their comfort?

They would rather shove all their cover-ups into a dark corner, and assume that it all turned out okay. But we’re the ones who bring them to the verge of seeing how they themselves were complicit with child molestation and child rape. And they don’t want to see that.

So, rather than owning up to their own past failures and working toward healing, they engage the easy devise of denial. And they choose to keep slamming the victims instead. It’s a lot easier than looking at themselves.

They take the easy road. And they take it with an air of confidence.

So many Baptist leaders seem so certain of their rightness in all that they do and say. I often look at them in wonder. How can anyone be so certain of themselves? Is their self-certainty authentic or is it just a mask? What must such self-certainty feel like? I can’t imagine. Were they born with that level of self-confidence or did they acquire it through years of watching others listen attentively while they stood in the pulpit? It’s a mystery to me.

But I don’t necessarily think their self-certainty is such a good thing.

I think it limits them.

They wear their religion as a sort of armor against uncertainty. But uncertainty is the nature of life. If you shield yourself too surely against it, then you shield yourself against life itself.

Their self-certainty separates them from humanity.

And for that loss -- a loss they probably don’t even see because they’re so armored up -- I feel compassion for them.

They have isolated themselves behind an illusion.

Men who are so certain they’re right are usually the very ones who act so wrong.

Meanwhile, clergy abuse survivors struggle to see the truth. We fail. We back-step. We stumble. We pry open our eyes. We force ourselves to see. And we keep struggling.


Because we know the importance of truth and the ease of deception that can rest in words of religion.

It’s a lot more than a lot of Baptist leaders know.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Clergy sex abuse is a top Baptist story

Clergy sex abuse was the top Southern Baptist story of the decade on the BaptistLife forum.

Bruce Gourley, site administrator, reports that there were 9,373 views of the forum’s discussion on clergy sex abuse in the fall of 2006. That was over 1,800 more views than for any other topic on the forum during the entire decade.

Some of you participated in that 2006 discussion on the BaptistLife forum. You shared pieces of your clergy abuse stories and you tried to engage a dialogue with Baptist ministers on the forum. I know it was painful for many of you at the time. The cold callousness of some of the posted responses was very hurtful. The hateful pettiness of some was downright bone-chilling.

Yet, for many of us, we made that effort to engage Baptists in a dialogue on clergy sex abuse because we held the vague hope that it might help to open hearts and to eventually bring about change within the denomination.

That’s why I’m letting you know about this. You deserve to know. That discussion wound up being the most-viewed discussion of the decade on the BaptistLife forum. This was before the first big Associated Press article on Baptist clergy sex abuse, before the 20/20 show, before the published insurance data and the comparative analysis of it, and before countless other stories made their way into the public light. On the BaptistLife forum, and on many other Baptist blogs as well, many of you were there . . . trying to tell them . . . trying to help them understand.

Give yourselves a huge pat on the back for that. The fact that most of these men won’t hear -- and the fact that they sure as heck won’t actually do anything -- is not our shame. It’s theirs.

We put ourselves on the line by even talking about something so profoundly painful. They put nothing on the line.

In the Associated Baptist Press, clergy sex abuse also made the list of top-10 Baptist news stories for 2009.

So . . . the topic continues to garner attention. But of course, what’s needed is action.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Baptist Badlands

"I believe in the hope
And I pray that someday
It may raise me above these
Badlands . . . . "

"We'll keep pushin' til it's understood
And these Badlands start treating us good."

Warm wishes and a heart of gratitude to all who read this blog. Happy New Year!