Friday, November 23, 2012

Three allegations in three years, but church kept quiet

In Oklahoma, police arrested Southern Baptist youth pastor Dustin Ray Werneburg on multiple charges of child sex crimes. Werneburg, who was previously a pastor at First Baptist Church in Coalgate, now faces three counts of second degree rape and three counts of forcible sodomy along with charges of lewd molestation and lewd or indecent proposals to a child. Investigators say that all of the crimes were committed against a girl under the age of 16.

Jeff Self
(Savannah Morning News photo)
Jeff Self, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Coalgate, has admitted that he knew about prior allegations against Werneburg.

"We had three allegations over the course of three years,” said pastor Self in a statement to KXII News. “Two of them he had come to me and said you are going to hear this . . .  and it was a he said she said and we believed him . . . but once we had that third allegation that was really significant in August," Self said.

So what exactly did pastor Self do with the third allegation – the one that he finally viewed as being “really significant”?

He met with the leadership of the church, and they asked for Werneburg’s resignation.

So, even after three allegations, pastor Self still did not take appropriate action for the protection of kids.

Having resigned at the church, Werneburg was able to continue working as a teacher’s aide at a middle school, which is where he was when he was arrested last week. A parent reported Werneburg to the police after finding text messages and photos exchanged between his daughter and Werneburg.

Thanks to that parent, perhaps the justice system will be able to hold Werneburg accountable.

But what about accountability for the church’s senior pastor, Jeff Self, whose irresponsible do-nothingness betrayed kids and left them at risk for terrible harm?

In all probability, pastor Self will face no consequence whatsoever. Institutionally, the Southern Baptist Convention does nothing at all when pastors keep quiet about clergy sex abuse allegations in their churches. Indeed, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t even have the bare pretense of any process of denominational accountability for keep-it-quiet pastors such as Jeff Self.
Wondering how pastor Jeff Self can look at himself in the mirror? Wondering whether he's even cognizant of the soul-murdering harm that his do-nothingness allowed? Is Self even rethinking his conduct? For more insight into Self's way of thinking, read his column in the Savannah Morning News. His words purport to place high value on the younger generation; his deeds say otherwise.

Related posts:
Pastor accused of cover-up is featured speaker for Southern Baptist Convention, 6/16/2012
Dear Al, 12/8/2011

See also: Churches not typically first reporters of sexual abuse, ABP, 11/22/11