November 18, 2002

Illinois pastor charged again with assault

OLNEY, Ill.--Leaders of the Illinois Baptist State Association didn't think their state Baptist newspaper should have reported last year that a politically active pastor had been charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault involving two teenage girls who attended his church.

Reporting that incident on the front page of the Illinois Baptist put Editor Michael Leathers in a confrontation with the convention's interim executive director, who was his supervisor, as well as other convention leadership. Tension over publication of the news story eventually led to the editor's forced resignation.

However, the criminal charges against the pastor have not gone away, even though they won't be reported in the state Baptist paper anymore. On Oct. 24, the Illinois Attorney General's office charged 35-year-old Leslie Mason with 10 additional counts of criminal sexual assault.

Mason had been pastor of Olney Southern Baptist Church in Olney, Ill., for seven years until church members unanimously voted to dismiss him Oct. 24, 2001.

Mason has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Ironically, the pastor would have been preaching the keynote sermon at this year's state convention annual meeting Nov. 7, if news of his legal troubles had not been published last year.

The first charges against the pastor last year were filed just days before he was to be nominated to bring the convention sermon this year. News of the charges prompted the convention's committee on order of business to switch nominees for the high-profile sermon.

Before his arrest, Mason's star had been on the rise in leadership among the state's Southern Baptists. He was vice chairman of the constitution-and-bylaws committee. He was also spokesman for a group of conservative pastors seeking inclusion of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message into the state convention's constitution. He was appointed to the national Southern Baptist Convention's committee on committees in 1997.

Since the Illinois Baptist reported the initial charges against the pastor last year, state convention officials have taken steps to limit the role of the newspaper and prevent it from reporting such matters in the future.



February 10, 2003

[scan down - "Illiniois pastor pleads guilty"]
Baptist Briefs

___bluebull Baptist-Anglican dialogue continues. Baptists and Anglicans continued their international conversations with meetings in Santiago, Chile, Jan. 22-24 and Nassau, Bahamas, Jan. 26-28. The Baptist World Alliance holds the conversations as part of its goal to encourage better understanding among believers of different Christian traditions. The current dialogue has brought together more participants from all continents than typical inter-church conversations. In Santiago, Baptists were hosted by Alfredo Monje of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile and the Anglican Bishop of Chile, Hector Zavala. Papers were presented on evangelism, proselytism and mission in Latin America, ministry of pastoral oversight, and on Baptist/Anglican identity. Anglican identity and Baptist identity, life in the Caribbean, and liberation and the mission of the church were among topics discussed in the Bahamas.
___bluebull Annuity Board offers tax help. The Southern Baptist Annuity Board has produced its annual Ministers' Tax Guide for 2002 tax return preparation. The guide gives special attention to the sections of each tax form most used by ministers. The booklet is available without charge by calling (800) 262-0511 or by visiting www.absbc.org.
___bluebull Causey to new role at WMU. Carol Causey has been named director of the missions resource center for national Woman's Missionary Union. Since joining the WMU staff in 1986, Causey has served in a variety of roles, most recently as director of the editorial department. A native of Amarillo, she holds degrees from West Texas State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
___bluebull China volunteers sought. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship seeks volunteers interested in teaching English in China this summer. "China Bound" is a three-week program conducted in partnership with Chinese universities June 30 through Aug. 3. It is designed to help Chinese middle and high school English teachers improve their conversational English. English teachers are able to attend church worship services and meet with local Chinese Christians. A student cultural exchange is scheduled July 16 through Aug. 5. Both programs have an estimated cost of $2,400. For more information, contact Ann and David Wilson at (989) 835-1536 or cen29529@centurytel.net.
___bluebull Church musicians to meet Dawn. The annual Church Music Workshop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 17-21 will feature a dialogue with Marva Dawn, author of "A Royal Waste of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World" and "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture." Dawn is a teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Other presenters include Ray Robinson, distinguished professor of choral studies at Palm Beach Atlantic College; Lyndel Vaught, associate professor of church music at Southwestern; and composer and clinician Bob Burroughs.
___bluebull WMU awards grants. The executive board of Woman's Missionary Union awarded $78,245 in Second Century Fund grants and $28,539 in scholarships during its board meeting Jan. 11-14. Of the 23 grants awarded this year, three were allocated to international projects and 20 went to projects in North America. The grants for international initiatives went to projects in Moldova, $2,000; Lebanon, $5,000; and Kenya, $3,500.
___bluebull Southwestern on Discovery. A five-minute video segment about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will appear on the Discovery Channel Feb. 18. The segment is part of a 30-minute program called "Champions of Industry" and will air at 6 a.m. Shot on the seminary's Fort Worth-campus and produced by Pat Summerall Productions, the segment includes interviews with Southwestern Seminary President Kenneth Hemphill and faculty members Richard Ross and James Spivey.
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___bluebull Illinois pastor pleads guilty. The pastor whose arrest made headlines in the Illinois Baptist newspaper pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to two counts of criminal sexual assault involving a teenage girl. Illinois Baptist Editor Michael Leathers was criticized and eventually forced to resign because he carried the story in the state Baptist newspaper. Leslie Mason, 35, former pastor of Olney Southern Baptist Church in Illinois, pleaded guilty to the two class-one felonies in exchange for dismissal of eight remaining counts. He faces a prison term of four to 30 years.