It's broken my heart for the victims of the crimes.
It's broken my heart for the parents of the victims of the crimes.
And it has broken my heart because a number of wonderful people--friends of mine--now find themselves in an exploding minefield that is not of their own making.
The people, staff and leaders of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi are the ones for whom I feel the most sorrow next to the victims and their families.
John Langworthy was their worship pastor until he was forced to resign May 29, 2011 (Update: After reading a transcript provided by BBC, it looks like John may have not been forced to resign from Morrison Heights) . The church was not informed at the time as to why he was forced to resign, and John only told them the reason was "mental and emotional anguish." A reception was given for John and Kathy Langworthy recognizing their years of faithful service at the church.
Unfortunately, Morrison Heights' members began learning of the sordid details of the crimes of their worship pastor on a blog that holds church leaders accountable for their actions. The information on the blog came from a former staff member at Prestonwood who worked with John at the time he sexually abused the boys in Texas. This staff member, a female, had already performed her due diligence in contacting all the leaders responsible for reporting John Lanworthy's actions to law enforcement. Feeling as if nothing was being done to hold John accountable for his actions, this former staff member went public.
Thus, the WFAA television report.
This past Sunday, August 7, 2011, ex-worship pastor John Langworthy stood before Morrison Heights Baptist Church and confessed to his past "mistakes." The WFAA television report was broadcast in Dallas the next day, Monday, August 8, 2011.
The crimes of John Langworthy in Dallas, Texas were never prosecuted because charges were never filed. John, at the time of his predatorial sexual abuse of boys, was on staff at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Leadership at Prestonwood, for reasons not yet clear, chose not report to report John Langworthy's sexual crimes to law enforcement. Worse, leadership at Prestonwood did not publicly reveal to church members why John Langworthy was being released from staff. As a result, another Southern Baptist Church, Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi eventually hired John Langworthy as their worship pastor and immediately put their entire church into a minefield of another's making.
The unknown and unseen mines surrounded parents of teenage boys in Clinton, Mississippi.
The unknown and unseen mines surrounded administrators of the Clinton Public School System.
The unknown and unseen mines surrounded the people, staff and leadership of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississsippi.
The mines are now exploding.
A Data Base for Sexual Predators Is Needed in the SBC
In June 2007 at the Southern Baptist Convention, I stepped to a microphone and said:
"I move that the Southern Baptist Convention requests the Executive Committee to conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harrassment or abuse, and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches in order to assist in preventing any future sexual abuse or harrassment."
The next year, in 2008, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the establishment of any proposed database to track sexual abusers or predators in the SBC.
this decision of the Executive Committee as one of the top 10 of most under-reported stories in the United States for 2008.
It's time for the Executive Committee of the SBC to reconsider.
I know the people of Morrison Heights. They are some of the finest, kindest, warm-hearted individuals on earth. I have had the pleasure of preaching there in 2004 when I served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. John Langworthy was their worship pastor at that time.
Philip Gunn is now John Langworthy's attorney. I consider Phillip Gunn one of the finest Christian men I've ever met. He is a member of Morrison Heights and served as chairman of the Pulpit Committee when they called their current pastor. I am sure Philip Gunn would much rather be working at the state capital of Mississippi, or volunteering his services at Morrison Heights, or going out to dinner with his wife Lisa rather than being called upon to publicly defend his former worship pastor. I am also positive he would much prefer that his pastor not have to deal with the pain and heartache taking place all over their church because of the actions of John Langworthy in Texas.
Philip would much rather have had a worship pastor who had never molested boys. Morrison Heights Church would much rather have called a worship pastor who had never molested boys. The people of Morrison Heights would much rather have preferred to never pick up the phone and call now grown children and ask them if anything inappropriate ever happened on Morrison Heights choir trips with their worship leader.
Everything about this is painful.
But it all could have been stopped had forced reporting been instituted in the SBC, had a SBC sexual abuse data base been in existence, and had Morrison Heights made one phone call to the SBC headquarters in Nashville and asked the question of the date base employee, "Has John Langworthy ever been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harrassment or abuse?"
In a perfect world, the answer would have been "Yes."
When the world of Southern Baptist Convention church work is imperfect, as it is today, it is important to take steps to make it better.
It is high time for a sexual abuse data base in the SBC.