2 Samuel 16:9,11 - "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head...let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

Matthew 7:15 - “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 - “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seminary Trustee, Lawyer, Tells Church Leaders to Not Speak to Police About Meetings They Had With Molester

As further evidence of the institutional problems within the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to reporting child abusers, we look at the latest article by Bob Allen at the Associated Baptist Press in the John Langworthy case.

Attorney Philip Gunn, who is also a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a Republican state legislator, is advising the elders of Morris Heights Baptist Church to NOT discuss with police investigators details of their internal investigation into accused child molester John Langworthy (click here for links at New BBC Open Forum regarding Langworthy case).

Yes, you heard right. Gunn is claiming some sort of "priest-penitent" privilege that binds the church leaders to secrecy regarding THEIR discussions with Langworthy.

The church leaders/elders aren't priests. Then men aren't pastors. The men are lay people who are "elders". And they may have important information that could help prosecute a child molester but they won't talk to the investigators.

How much more of this nonsense are Baptists going to have to endure? So now the church elders are "men of God" and apparently are above having to answer questions from the police and prosecutors about a molester going on trial next spring ? Isn't this the entire problem - men in a church who think they are the ones to investigate molesters and who don't willingly hand over information to the police?

Bob Allen quotes Amy Smith of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who sums it up quite well:

“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May."

“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police. It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”

Good question. What are they trying to hide?

Again, as I wrote several days ago, until Christians are as disgusted over these actions by Morris Heights Baptist Church and Prestonwood Baptist Church in the John Langworthy case and stay away from these churches, it will be just more of the same, in Jesu's name and for his sake. Sick.

Watch this news report for more information on this case:


Anonymous said...

I have not gone to look at Gunn's statements. Seems like a stretch to me.

I believe that if children are involved there is a legal duty to report to the police.

This does present an interesting issue. I am an elder, and at our church the elders are considered "regular ministers" under state law according to our resolutions. Our duties are pretty broad and inclusive. Elders can perform ordinances, solemnize marriages etc. And we have passed a resolution that says we can't be made to testify about what people tell us when they come for prayer etc. We want people to come and talk to us and say what is going on, and not have that turn into, for example, our receiving subpoenas in a divorce proceeding to testify about what one spouse said to us as a prayer concern at an elders meeting.

But having said that, if a member confessed to child molestation to us and we had the details, we would have to report that to police and we would do that.

If they reported that they had struggled in the past, at other places, and gave no victim names or places, I am not sure we would report that because I don't know what we would report. If it was ongoing, we would report what we could.

We would NOT conduct an investigation. That is what the police are for. We are not competent in that area. Experts with authority - that is what is needed. Not a bunch of church people trying to do something they are not competent to do.

So, while I understand the confessional and the privileges that come with that, it is not a blanket protection that seems to be implied here.


Anonymous said...

When the elders and pastor knew of the abuse they should have immediately called the police, and if not, then they should be prosecuted. That's the law.

The same holds true for Catholic priests, but oh wait, they are the ones doing the abusing so why would they want to call the police.

As bad as you may think it is in the SBC, it can't hold a light to what regularly goes on in the Catholic church.

Singer said...

Hey, Dog...It's Morrison (not Morris) Heights Baptist Church.

Anonymous said...

The Elders & Pastor who keep their mouths shut knowlingly are as guilty as the molester. Disgusting!

Anonymous said...

Oh, this thinking is in quite a few places. Check out the comments in this thread over at William Thornton's blog:


Even Louis' comment shows us how arrogant elders can be and how highly they think of themselves. They misunderstand the true meaning of 'elder' in the scriptures.

Anonymous said...

So Louis, are you going to speak out officially about Gunn being a trustee at SBTS? You are on the foundation board, right? (Even though you told us a while back you had no involvement in any capacity with the SBC)

Seems Louis plays the fence a lot.

And to make it worse, Gunn is a republican and running for office?

Anonymous said...

Uh Oh. How do Gunn's actions here as a Trustee at SBTS line up with Mohler's latest article about child molestation? Or, in Mohler's mind are the Penn state molestations different from church ones?

You gotta watch these guys close. They have different rules for themselves.

Of course, Mohler is a big public supporter of CJ Mahaney whose SGM churches systematically tell victims not to call the police. And the sgmsurvivors blogs have been writing about these instances for over 4 years. Evidently Mohler knew this because they he rebuked the bloggers in a public newspaper, the Courier Journal.

Mohler is a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Fact is, it is going to take the little people nobodies to change this thinking by withholding money from our churches and the SBC.

Guys like Louis will always make the chain of command and "autonomy" agruments over protecting children. They will always make a nebulous (but slick) claim that elders and leaders are appointed by God....instead of by other 'like thinking' humans. And sadly, many believe them.

David said...

Dear ANON 8:43 As for your comment “As bad as you may think it is in the SBC, it can't hold a light to what regularly goes on in the Catholic church”; you couldn’t be more wrong! You are just in denial or you would like to think what you said was true.

I get so tired of hearing this argument as if somehow the SBC is better at protecting our children than the Catholic Church. The truth is they are worse. At least the Catholic Church keeps very detailed “secret” records on their priests. The SBC won’t even start a database. And the actions you are seeing in the MHBC situation goes on all over the SBC. Steve Gaines at Bellevue Baptist Church here in Memphis is just one example of a Pastor being a CEO instead of a Pastor. And wow the excuses he used to remain silent were something else.

Do your homework, ANON 8:43, just google Baptist Pedophiles. Better yet visit Christa Brown’s Blog about all the abuse in the SBC. It isn’t a pretty picture for sure.

As for Mr. Gunn and Pastor Belcher it is time for them to step aside. I would encourage folks in Mississippi that are fed up with this type of behavior to write both chairman’s of the Republican and Democratic party for their state and urge them not to vote for Gunn as leader of anything.

Oh for the record, I am a former Catholic that was raped and sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a teen but I am now a Southern Baptist and a Republican as well so don’t give me that crap that I am some bleeding liberal that wants to destroy the Church. That is the furthest thing on my mind; I am trying to save it. Come on folks in Mississippi rise up and let your voices be heard. Let’s protect our children.

David Brown
SNAP Director of Tennessee/Memphis & West Tennessee

Anonymous said...

Yep, Gunn has disqualified himself from any public office. He is actually claiming the church has the right to decide whether to protect children or not. One law for others and another law for Christians?

He sounds like a Dominionist.

I am also SBC and a conservative. And I hope Gunn's public career crashes. And I hope the convention will step up to the plate and remove him as a trustee. But they won't.

Anonymous said...

You could take all the abuse cases in the SBC and they don't even begin to approach the huge numbers of abuse in the Catholic Church. I am not justifying SBC abuse by Catholic abuse but there are thousands of SBC churches who have no problems at all with abuse. Every Catholic church I have ever come into contact with has problems with abuse.

Interesting that you would say the Catholics keep a "secret" file on their priests. If that is so, then they should be arrested and charged for not immediately reporting it to the police.

BTW, the pastor's name is Greg Belser in case you wanted to get it right.

Anonymous said...

Whenever someone brings up the Catholic church in relation to SBC corruption, I know they are out to protect the ones who don't report or worse.

The fact is that most predators have many victims and since the SBC tends to hide it (and Gunn wants no legal documentation...anyone catch that?) we have NO IDEA how bad it is in the SBC. We only hear about the ones reported or caught. And usually that is from bloggers or a news source.

You might actually be lying to yourself and not know it out of sheer ignorance because you want to protect the image of the SBC instead of kids.

So the Catholics fnally fessed up and we have Gunn...a trustee of SBTS and edler of an SBC church refusing to talk to authorities about a predator they know and coddled.

Anonymous said...

This is pure Roman Catholicism thinking in the SBC churches. God has ordained governments, and the church people should, in this case, should regard the good laws concerning the protection of children.

But Southern Baptist long ago discarded their Bibles, and looked to their scholars and "wise" men instead of God in His words.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure not out to protect anyone but the Catholic Church is the poster child for sex abuse. Priests are outed all the time and have literally hundreds of victims so I think we can honestly say they are way ahead of the SBC in this area.

There are literally thousands of SBC churches and even a liberal estimate would say they have discovered 75-100 abusers in the past 5 years.

David said...

Dear ANON 1:41 Where are your facts. You are only making comments or opinions. I love your tact, deflect and blame someone else and say they are worst. Does that make you feel any better?

How does the victim of a SBC minster feel? Does the fact that you say Catholics are worst somehow make them feel better. You have NO idea how a victim feels. Just like Gunn and Besler. They should be fired and immediately.

But you are one of their defenders so not much we will say will change your opinion.

As for saying if the Catholic Church has these secret files they should be arrested. You know what I totally agree with you. But what about the investigation good ole Gunn and Besler did; do they have notes, recording, tapes, etc.? If I use your argument to arrest the Catholic Church leaders same is true for your good ole boys, Gunn and Belser. Put the bums in jail along with JL.

Good try but you know sometimes you just can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This is one on those times. God bless you for trying but as you can see from some of the other posters, you failed. As they often say in Mississippi, “that dog just won’t hunt.” I am sure you have heard it before.

Belser will split his congregation and as for Gunn well he is an attorney.

David Brown

David said...

OK Anon enough of the games and you’re made up stats. Please allow me to give you some real stats, very real stats. There are three web sites you should visit before you say another word; if you don’t you will continue to make a fool of yourself as you already have.

The first site is darkness2light. There you will find some real stats to ponder. 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18. 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the turn 18. Please note those are not old stats but very real stats in today’s time. There are over 39 million victims of child sexual abuse. So please ANON get past the hundreds of victims.

The second website is one that I am connected with, SNAP. You will find the numbers of victims of Catholic priests are close to 100,000 rather than the hundreds you speak of. Once again you show your ignorance and foolish and it is getting boring. Oh let you give you a fact, SNAP started out working almost exclusively as working with Catholic victims but we quickly found that victims of almost every denomination were and are contacting us for help. The Southern Baptist Conventions is by far the worst protestant denomination, Once again those are real facts.

The last website is hosted by a giant as an advocate in protecting our children; Christa Brown. Her website is Stop Baptist Predators. When you visit her site, please go there not as the good ole boy you are but as someone that is truly concerned about protecting our children. You will find over hundreds of pedophile ministers. Christa simply can't keep up with all the pedophile Baptist ministers she is aware of. There are simply too many. And you should know by now those pedophile ministers don’t just have one victim. Christa has fought so much BS from good ole boys like you and that is not right. You guys get off on attacking her. I get sick and tired of reading the BS folks you’ll do to justify not taking any real action to protect our children. Your tact is to blame someone else or say it isn’t too bad. Hot flash Anon, just one victim is too much.

Maybe this will come as some relief to you but this is my last response to you. Way too much time has been wasted on you. Yet, somehow I just hope that maybe you will take some real facts to heart instead of giving a knee-jerk response out of emotions. You have seen my contact information; feel free to contact me to discuss this further. As long as you continue to be in denial of real facts, real children are in trouble, maybe even you own. That scares me.

David Brown

Anonymous said...

I can say Catholics are worse because I have lived around them all my life and seen priest after priest abuse boys.

Don't be so condescending in saying that I have no way of knowing how a victim of a Southern Baptist minister feels since I was molested by one when I was 15. Trust me, I know how they feel probably as much or more than you do.

The vast majority of Southern Baptists know exactly what to do with abusers and are doing it. They immediately call the police. Just because a few pastors might have done it wrong doesn't make them all guilty. Besides, you don't even begin to know all the facts surrounding Greg Belser and his situation.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of guys in the ministry who think they have reached a point in their spiritual understanding where God no longer looks at their heart.


Dee said...

Sad but necessary post. Thank you for keeping on the pressure . Churches must be made aware that business as usual, protecting the abuser, is a terrible sin. Unfortunately, many churches seem unable to police themselves. And that is why God will use the civil authorities and the media to bring this stuff to light.

I am shocked how some try to obfuscate and protect the SBC in this matter. There is no excuse for this stuff-none.How deceived can some people be? Thank you for this post!

Amy Smith said...

Thank you for shining the light of truth to give these brave survivors a voice and to protect kids. Until those who enable predators and endanger kids by covering for predators are held accountable, the culture of arrogance and elitism among those in positions of trust will continue. There is a blogger in MS that has picked up this story this week and has begun to raise questions and serious concerns:
What we already know about John Langworthy and Morrison Heights presents serious questions

Amy Smith said...

A Facade of Goodness: response to Penn State on Focus on the Family

Anonymous said...

They did go to the police. Just because you don't know that, doesn't mean it did not happen. Know more facts before saying things that aren't true.

Amy Smith said...

at anonymous 12/6 11:20: when did they go to the police? I assume you are talking about Belser and the elders? Was it after the news began airing Langworthy's public confession? After one MS victim, that they had talked with already, went to the police? If they did go to the police, why are they refusing to talk with the police now about what John said to them? On April 11, Belser and the elders called me on a conference call to tell me the results of their "investigation" and why they felt "safe" in keeping Langworthy on staff.

This conclusion by Morrison Heights leadership is what set in motion a victim from MS coming forward to warn them, launching them into ANOTHER internal, private "investigation" on their own without going to the police and handing this over the professional law enforcement authorities who have the experience in criminal matters and whose job it is to conduct an investigation into confessed criminal behavior, assessing the risk this man posed to kids who was actively working with kids all around him.

There are those of us who do know the facts about the stunningly reckless behavior of the men at Morrison Heights who covered for a pedophile and actively tried to make this all go away to keep Langworthy on staff. I know because I am one of them that they tried to make be quiet. Belser told a past victim to tell me to "cease and desist" in March 2011.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Shouldn't that be "Attorney Philip Gunn, Speaker of the Assembly and the SBC's Friend in High Places"?

"One Hand Washes the Other..."

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Oh let you give you a fact, SNAP started out working almost exclusively as working with Catholic victims but we quickly found that victims of almost every denomination were and are contacting us for help. The Southern Baptist Conventions is by far the worst protestant denomination, Once again those are real facts. -- David Brown

I was always worried that SNAP would tunnel vision on the Catholic angle to the exclusion/ignorance of the others, and that the emphasis on Catholic Pedophile Priest scandal would be a godsend for Protestant Pedophile Ministers.

As in "I thank thee, LORD, that I am NOT like that Romish Papist over there..." while they diddle their SBC kids.