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Texas Baptists step up fight against clergy sexual abuse - Odessa American: News

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Texas Baptists step up fight against clergy sexual abuse

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Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2007 12:00 am

DALLAS The Baptist General Convention of Texas has begun posting on its website the names of convicted sex offenders who’ve worked as ministers in affiliated churches as part of new efforts to stop clergy sexual misconduct.

The convention posted the names of eight convicted sex offenders last week.

“The BGCT is concerned about the problem of clergy sexual misconduct, and we care deeply about its victims,” said Emily Prevost, a staff member of the Dallas-based convention.

While some of the listed offenders are in prison, the convention doesn’t have information on those who are free and can’t guarantee they’re not working at a church, Prevost said.

The convention also plans to cross-check a database of registered Texas sex offenders against staff lists from affiliated churches and add the names of any pastors with a background of sex offenses.

Prevost said the point is to give the churches a tool when they’re considering new hires.

The Rev. Clydel Chapman, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Odessa, said that while he doesn’t personally know any ministers convicted of sexual offenses, he is pleased that the problem is being dealt with.

“I don’t think it’s a proficient problem in the convention — I think it’s isolated cases, but it’s obviously true because of the reports that have come forth,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s being addressed and hopefully it can be stopped and eradicated.”

When any Baptist minister is convicted of such unlawful behavior, it raises suspicion and damages the public’s perception of ministry, Chapman said.

“It never helps when that kind of thing happens, that’s obvious,” he said.

About 2.5 million Texans belong to 5,600 congregations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest statewide Baptist convention in the nation. Its affiliated congregations are autonomous and free from convention control. The churches hire their own pastors.

Austin resident Christa Brown, who has worked on Baptist issues with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Baptists haven’t come to terms with the extent of the clergy abuse problem. The new steps are more than other conventions have taken but still aren’t enough, she said.

“These are very small and inadequate steps,” she said.

The Rev. Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, has urged Baptists to do more to protect children in its churches.

“I commend the Baptist General Convention of Texas for their proactive determination, and I pray that Baptists all across the country will follow suit,” he said.

The Texas convention also said it will make it easier for churches to report sexual misconduct by a pastor.

The convention keeps a list of pastors accused of sexual misconduct, such as adultery. Names are added to the list either through convictions, a confession or a report from a church.

The list is kept confidential, although churches can request confirmation of whether a particular job candidate is on the list. The nature of the offense is not released.

In the past, churches that reported names for the list were required to have “substantial evidence” reviewed by a lawyer. The convention has decided to waive that requirement and add pastors’ names if church officials are convinced of the misconduct.

OA staff writer Daniel Skolfield contributed to this report.

Odessa, TX

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