Ex-Kirksville pastor endures nightmarish incident, seeks to restore a smeared reputation, ministry
By Bob Baysinger
July 20, 2004
KIRKSVILLE – Most nightmares last only a short time during one night of sleep.
For Ben Teague, former pastor at First Baptist Church, Kirksville, the nightmare has continued for about one year. And it appears there is more to come.
The bad dream began for Teague in July 2003 when Adair County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Williams filed a deviant sexual assault charge against the pastor. The situation was complicated when Williams filed two more charges against Teague on Sept. 3, 2003.
Teague pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
The alleged victim – a 24-year-old student at Truman State University – told police she was seeing Teague for pastoral counseling at both his church office and home when the alleged incidents occurred.
Teague, a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was finally given a preliminary hearing last October. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence to conduct a trial, not to hear Teague’s side of the story.
The weakness of the case became evident at the hearing when the Adair County judge dismissed two of the charges. Teague, however, was bound over to Circuit Court for trial on the remaining charge.
Five months later – on March 31 – Williams announced that he was dropping all charges against Teague.
“There were a lot of people who were affected by this case,” the prosecutor told the Truman State student newspaper. “The victim. Don’t ever forget about the defendant – he’s been impacted. The community of the church. His family. Her family. I’m not going to drag these out just because. That’s not my job. You’ve got to make a decision, whether it’s popular or not.”
Williams added that he did not think he could continue to pursue the case because it would be difficult to prove the element of force in the charge against Teague.
Although he is no longer facing charges, Teague is still dealing with the after-effects of the case.
Because the plaintiff was a student , the school newspaper provided front-page coverage of the incident. A bold, banner headline on page 1 of the Truman State University Index – “Pastor charged with assaulting student” – announced the alleged misdoing.
The Index used a small headline at the bottom of page 1 to announce the dismissal.
“The problem is that people seem to remember the charges, but they don’t remember that the charges were dropped,” said Jim Wyrsch, the Kansas City attorney representing Teague. “Ben Teague is a wonderful guy, a wonderful pastor and he didn’t commit any crime.”
But to the public, Teague says, it didn’t seem that way.
“Every hour on the hour, the first thing we heard was a 30-second radio “bite” about the case,” he said. “It went on for several weeks. It has been very painful on my wife and our three grown children.”
Teague was required to resign the pastorate at First Baptist in 2003, months before the case was dismissed. He was replaced by Wade Paris, who had been serving as the local director of missions for Macon Baptist Association.
“I’ve never had my day in court,” Teague said. “Until that day comes, there are some things about the case that will not be divulged until I have that day in court. In court, we will have to deal with it.”
Danny Decker, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) men’s ministry specialist, has been friends with Teague since their seminary days at Midwestern.
“Ben has never had a problem with doing anything like this before,” Decker said. “It has not been a pattern of his life. His witness and testimony is not that way. He’s doing everything he can to clear his name.”
The only thing Decker thinks Teague is guilty of is “poor judgment” in when and where he counseled the young woman.
“I know how easy it can happen,” Decker said. “I was in my office one day when a woman walked in, shut the door and locked it. I was between a rock and a hard place. I asked her to unlock the door, but she wouldn’t do it.
“I called one of the trustees and told him what was going on. There are times when you get in situations you can’t do anything. That incident was enough to scare the socks off me. She could have said anything, and I would have had to prove my innocence.”
Teague said The Pathway is not large enough to contain all the advice he has for other pastors after the Kirksville incident.
“I take full responsibility for what happened in that circumstance,” Teague said. “I broke some cardinal rules my wife and I had set down. One cardinal rule is that the pastor should never be alone with a female. We broke that rule.
“The second cardinal rule is that a pastor should never become extremely close to the person who is being counseled. The young lady became a part of our family. She called me ‘papa’ and my wife ‘mama.’
“And there are some things in counseling sessions that should never be kept confidential from the wife. There are things the counselees should be allowed to say without the wife knowing about it. And the counselee should never come to the home of the pastor or become a part of the home.
“I do not blame the young lady. There is not a day that we don’t pray for her and First Baptist at Kirksville.”
Teague describes First Baptist as a “good church.”
“There is pain but no animosity,” he said. “There are people at First Baptist of Kirksville who are the jewels of the world.”
In spite of the nightmarish situation, it appears God may have opened another door for the Missouri Baptist College graduate. Teague preached at First Baptist Church, Louisiana, on July 11 in view of a call as associate pastor. Indeed he was called – following a 91% approval vote by the congregation.
“Earl Wood is a pastor who is willing to hear from God even when it seems to be a difficult situation,” Teague said. “Earl is a wonderful gentleman. They have treated my wife and I with very great respect. That church is an awesome church.”