DALLAS — A seven-month investigation into sex abuse cases in the Southern Baptist Convention has been released, revealing what the report says was victims facing “stonewalling,” “resistance,” and “hostility.”
Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Senior Pastor at First Baptist Dallas, says his church is a part of that denomination. He had the chance to read over most of the 288 page report.
“I think the report is horrific, it’s heartbreaking,” Jeffress said.
A third party company, known as Guidepost Solutions, released their findings, showing instances where countless victims went forward to the SBC’s executive committee and left with no help.
“People are being victimized in the church, and I believe the church ought to be the safest place in the world,” Jeffress said.
The report even highlights a particular case that occurred at the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano in 1989. On pages 7, 70, and 178 of the full report, investigators say Pastor Jack Graham quietly dismissed a music director from the church accused of abusing a young boy. In that instance, the church did not notify local authorities about the case. The former music director, John Langworthy, later confessed to a Mississippi church congregation and was charged and arrested.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to Prestonwood Baptist Church about the report. We received an email with a statement from Executive Pastor Mike Buster, saying, “Prestonwood categorically denies the way the report characterizes the incident 33 years ago. Prestonwood has never protected or supported abusers, in 1989 or since.”
Jeffress says his church has long-standing policies and a thorough background check to prevent things like this from happening. He also ensures the congregation leaves no child alone with one person.
“Unfortunately, the Southern Baptist has no mechanism to do that. There’s no denominational authority that can remove a pastor or abusive staff member. The local church has to make that decision,” Jeffress said.
It’s why Jeffress says his church has a zero-tolerance policy as well, stating he wants to ensure his congregation feels safe.
With this scathing report, Jeffress says it’s time for each Southern Baptist church to reassess the way they approach leadership and ensure they’re truly protecting their congregation.
“There’s just no excuse for this, and too many times it’s been swept under the rug,” Jeffress said.