Advocates for survivors of clergy sex abuse say they are disappointed the Southern Baptist Convention has elected a new president once accused of shielding a child molester.
“We’re disappointed that the Southern Baptist Convention just elected Bellevue Baptist pastor Steve Gaines as president,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “He covered up abuse by minister Paul Williams for at least six months.”
Gaines, elected by acclamation June 15 as president of the nation’s largest faith group behind Roman Catholics, nearly lost his pulpit 10 years ago for not telling his church that a longtime staff member had confessed in counseling to sexually abusing a family member 17 years earlier.
Gaines kept the secret for six months until details of the incident appeared in a blog.
Bellevue Baptist Church fired Paul Williams, minister of prayer and special projects who served at the church 34 years, in January 2007 after an investigation into a “moral failure” he had confessed to Gaines six months earlier.
Gaines said he agreed to confidentiality because he mistakenly believed the matter was settled within the family and since the man had repented and asked God to forgive his sin, there was no point in dredging it up after nearly two decades. Gaines later said he should have alerted church leaders immediately, but he had never encountered a situation like that before.
One of Williams’ responsibilities at the church was to counsel potential nursery workers who answered affirmatively to a question about whether they had experienced abuse in their own backgrounds.
“No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Baptist churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours,” Clohessy said. “This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.”
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global