Missouri case shows Southern Baptist patterns
in failing to protect kids

Victim says: "I went back to the church afterwards and I couldn't get any response from anybody. I didn't know who to turn to."

Dad says:  "They stood by and did nothing. They stopped the cancer in their own church, but they did nothing to see to it that it didn't happen in ANY church."

Detective says:  "We know he was given the O.K. from a church that had allegations against him."

Investigative reporter says: "If the churches had not stayed silent years ago, 8 young men may never have had to suffer sexual abuse in Greenwood." (KCTV-5 9/21/2006)

This tragic case illustrates many of the common patterns in how Southern Baptist churches are failing to protect kids against clergy predators. Minister Shawn Davies, First Baptist Church of Greenwood, ultimately pled guilty to 21 counts of child molestation. But before that, "he was allowed to move unchecked from one Baptist church to another, sexually assaulting young boys at almost every stop along the way." (KCTV-5 9/21/2006)

  • Davies "had no problem continuing to get church jobs" even though other church leaders had serious concerns about him.

  • He moved from church to church in several different states and no one stopped him.

  • He had multiple victims, ranging in age from 13 to 16.

  • Reportedly, even after allegations of Davies' sexual misconduct surfaced, senior pastor Mike Roy kept quiet and allowed Davies to continue working around children... and two more kids wound up being abused. (KCTV-5, 7/7/2006)

  • Police say associate pastor Bobby Albers also knew of the allegations and did nothing. (KCTV-5, 7/7/2006)

  • The church justified keeping things quiet by saying it was to protect the victims. (This oft-heard excuse is insulting to people's intelligence. It is fully possible to remove a minister from duties pending investigation, to protect other kids against the possibility of harm, while also protecting the identity of victims who report abuse.)

  • A church leader talks about the tragedy for Davies' family and the church, without mentioning the tragedy of the horrible harm that was done to so many kids.

  • Davies was hired at First Baptist Church of Greenwood despite the fact that his prior churches had serious concerns about him.

  • The Greenwood church did two background checks before hiring Davies. (Only 3 percent of child molesters are ever prosecuted. So background checks aren't nearly enough, and churches make a grave mistake in allowing background checks to lull them into a false sense of safety.)

  • The Missouri statewide convention has no policies and procedures for dealing with clergy sex abuse.

  • Missouri Baptist Convention throws out the tired self-serving statement that it provides churches with information on how to run background checks. (That's not nearly enough! Until Baptist leaders understand that, kids will remain at risk of serious harm.)

  • Perhaps most telling of all is this statement: "...several of the churches where Davies worked...were open about his sexual problems." It never should have reached the point of having "several" churches with such knowledge. The first time even a single church had any reason for concern about his work with children, the matter should have been investigated and the minister should have been removed from a position of trust.

There were obviously many missed opportunities when this man should have been stopped sooner. Because he wasn't, we now know of at least 13 children in 3 different states whose lives have been forever altered. The detective says, "I'm sure there are still other victims...out there."

This case reveals the flaws in the Baptist system and how it fails to protect kids. "The nation's second-largest faith group needs a centralized office that keeps track of reported clergy perpetrators, investigates reported incidents and provides objective information readily to churches," SNAP says. "If that sort of centralized resource had existed, it is much more likely that the horror of what happened to these kids could have been prevented." [Read SNAP's requests]

"Congregational autonomy" is the often-recited excuse for why Baptists cannot establish this sort of review board. However, the Missouri Baptist Convention maintains a permanent "credentials" committee that investigates churches to see if they are aligned with more moderate Baptist groups rather than solely with the Southern Baptist Convention. Recently, that committee disaffiliated 19 churches for that reason. So, if denominational leaders can investigate autonomous churches for this reason, why can't they investigate reports about clergy child molesters in the churches?

Where there's a will there's a way. Why don't Southern Baptist leaders have the will to find a way to rid their ranks of clergy predators and better protect kids?

See and hear more about this case on KCTV-5 in Missouri. [9/21/2006; 8/23/2006; 7/7/2006]