Southern Baptist Predator Pastors Still on Convention Web Site

Originally posted 06/20/2008

This article is courtesy of theTennessean.com. I’ve only included the first half of the article since the remainder was largely a rehash of what has already been said, but if you want to read the whole thing, follow the link.

I think this doesn’t need any additional commentary by me – it speaks for itself, loud and clear. Remind me again, how committed is the SBC to protecting its members from clergy abusers?

~~~

By Bob Smietana

Southern Baptist Convention leaders are railing against sexual predators, calling upon local churches to drive out anyone accused of sex crimes against children, but a quick Internet search shows the organization has not cleansed its own Web site.

An online minister search directory on the Southern Baptist Convention Web site contains the names of at least 10 Baptist ministers convicted of, or indicted on charges related to, sex crimes involving minors — including three in Tennessee.

Allowing those preachers to remain on the ministers’ directory angers Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who has pushed the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee to weed out church leaders accused of sexual misconduct.

“This is embarrassing,” he said. “… At least we should have a way to get people off the list.”

Sing Oldham, vice president for convention relations, said the online minister search is simply a list of Southern Baptist preachers and not an endorsement of any pastor.

Any church that considers hiring a pastor from that list should do intensive background checks, Oldham said. The executive committee has removed some pastors with criminal convictions from the online directory in the past and will do so again, he said.

Oldham said that when convention leaders first realized accused sex offenders were showing up on the minister directory they decided not to remove the preachers’ names because they feared the public would misconstrue that decision as an attempted cover-up.

But after ABC’s 20/20 program discovered convicted sexual predators on the Web site last year, the committee decided to begin removing names, Oldham said.

“The decision was made that if a convicted sexual predator became known, then just quietly the name would be removed,” he said.

While the office of convention policy maintains the minister directory, no staff person has been assigned to police it, Oldham said.

At least one Tennessee preacher on the minister list has been convicted but his name has not been removed.

Mark Woodson Mangrum, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Parsons, Tenn., has pleaded guilty to one federal count of distributing child pornography to a minor. In February, he was sentenced to 70 months in prison.

Two other Tennessee preachers on the list have been indicted but not convicted of any crime. Tim Byars, former youth pastor at Springhill Baptist Church in Dyersburg, Tenn., was indicted in Knox County on charges of rape and sexual battery by an authority figure. He is charged with fondling a 14-year-old student he was driving to a Knoxville track meet in 2006. He was indicted in Davidson County on charges of fondling another student in Nashville on that trip. Both cases are pending.

Steve Haney, former pastor of Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., was indicted in Shelby County last year on charges of rape and sexual battery by an authority figure. He also faces federal charges of sexual exploitation of a child and child pornography. His case also is pending.

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