Former Minister of Music Antony Phillips Denton Pleads Guilty to Child Molestation

Former music minister Antony Phillips Denton pleaded guilty last Tuesday to 13 charges of taking indecent liberties with a child and entered an Alford plea on three additional charges. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction. Denton was on staff at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, when the incidents took place 30 years ago. He has been accused, and stands convicted, of molesting three girls who were church members between 1977 and 1981.

Denton was given three, 3-year sentences, all of which were suspended. He must register as a sex offender.

Now for commentary — I find this sentence to be remarkably short-sighted. Pedophiles do not have isolated incidents of child sex abuse! While there may presently be no evidence of other crimes, the facts that these crimes were committed 30 years ago, no other crimes are presently known, and the guilty party has seemingly lived an otherwise virtuous life of service do not justify throwing away his sentence.

I am going to repeat something I wrote the other day about another pedophile. In virtually every case of clergy sex abuse I see, the accused, family, friends and church members plead for minimal or commuted sentences based on the wonderful acts and invaluable service the guilty party has devoted his life to in the balance of his existence. They say we must forgive because God forgives, and they say the man is not a monster, implying he is not to be compared to “truly evil doers” like perhaps Ted Bundy.

What is a monster anyway? Is the measure of a monster determined by physical appearance, tone of voice, career choices and the relative number of hours in one’s life that are spent in positive pursuits compared to the number of hours spent in active destructive evil? Or can a single act or two, which do incalculable damage to the life of another, be quite simply enough?

It is not what is outside a man which determines who he is. It is who he is inside. Who he is inside is what drives a man (or woman) to molest and sexually assault children. “Only one or two” is one or two entire lives too many.

Is Satan a monster or an angel? Of course, he cannot be redeemed, but he was created an angel.

There is a fundamental truth people are overlooking. God does not give people a free pass on their consequences because they have been “more good than bad” according to some people’s standard of measure. Pedophiles have, in just one moment, done more harm than they can ever do good in an entire lifetime of stellar service, period. God can redeem, God can forgive – but God does not give a free pass on the consequences — for either the victims or the offender. Victims serve a “life sentence” of consequences for what may occur in a moment’s time. Why does anyone think the offender has any right to a commuted sentence because “it happened so long ago” or “it was just once or twice” or “he’s really a wonderful man” or “he’s not a monster.”

And when God’s people say otherwise they are guilty of violating God’s direct Word on this subject. This is not acceptable As long as this state exists in the church, and to the extent to which it remains, the church is crippled.

Another issue relevant to this incident which I want to point out — Denton was on staff at another haven for sexual abusers at the time he “disappeared” from view and then this charge surfaced. He was serving at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL, home of the now-infamous, and conveniently deceased, pastor Bob Gray and his co-conspirator(s) and partner(s)-in-cover-ups who successfully hid his predilictions for children for many years.

I will note again, this is something I have seen happen many times. When the leader of a church has a “secret sexual sin,” especially when other leaders are in collusion and covering for it, that church becomes a haven for sexual predators. It will happen again and again and again. Anyone sitting in that church today can bank on it – there are more in the woodwork. That is my personal opinion based on many years of observation. The root has never been correctly addressed, so the haven still exists. I can also guarantee, if anyone in authority there reads this, there will be complete, and probably heated, denial and attack against me for saying so – which is generally a sign I’ve hit a nerve. I get some really interesting e-mail sometimes. 😉