HOUSTON, Texas – In a 6000-word report released on Feb. 10, The Houston Chronicle investigated instances of abuse by Southern Baptist ministers, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, deacons and church volunteers.
Alongside the report, The Chronicle published an online database listing 220 individuals around the nation who have been convicted of or pled guilty to sexual abuse crimes. The database included eight individuals connected with Missouri.
The Chronicle said its investigation revealed approximately 380 instances nationwide since 1998 — including more than 250 since 2008 — of “those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.” The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.
“Our hearts are heavy with lament for those who are the victims of sexual and physical abuse. Using the cloak of religiosity makes the crime all the more repulsive,” said John Yeats, Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention. “While we have no possible way to compile a database of non-convicted people accused of inappropriate immoral behavior, we do have some limited professional programming in place through our Missouri Baptist Children’s Home (MBCH) for those who are being victimized. Through the MBCH, we also have a church engagement initiative that equips church ministry leaders to create places where people and especially children are safe.”
The SBC Executive Committee has a longstanding resource page focused on preventing sexual abuse in churches, available at http://www.sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp. The webpage includes a link to the National Database of Sex Offenders at https://www.nsopw.gov.
In a 2018 resolution at the SBC annual meeting in June, messengers renounced “all abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful” and called for decisive action to report abuse allegations to law enforcement authorities. It also offered compassion to abuse victims, “being careful to remind the abused that such injustice is undeserved and not a result of personal guilt or fault.”
The Chronicle’s database can be accessed at https://projects.houstonchronicle.com/2019/southern-baptist-abuse. The following information is listed verbatim in The Chronicle about each of the cases connected with Missouri:
• Joseph Edmund Conger – Church position: pastor; Court of conviction: Camden County, Mo. 2009; Outcome: Convicted in 2009 of statutory sodomy for incidents with teen in 2003. Pleaded guilty and sentenced to prison for seven years in 2009, Missouri court records show. Subsequently died.
• Michael Alan Crippen – Church position: pastor; Court of conviction: Jasper and Greene counties, Mo., 2012; Outcome: Registered as a sex offender in Missouri for offenses of possession of child pornography.
• Robert Michael Black – Church position: pastor; Court of conviction: Clay County (7th Judicial Circuit), Mo., 2011; Outcome: Pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted enticement of a child. Sentenced in 2011 to five years in prison. Released, according to Missouri court records.
• Terry L. McDowell Sr. – Church position: pastor; Court of conviction: St. Louis County, Mo., 2012; Outcome: Registered sex offender in Missouri. Convicted in 2012 of child molestation of a 3-year-old victim. Under a probation provision of Missouri law, his 10-year sentence was suspended and he was released after four months in jail and put on five years probation, according to court and sex offender records.
• Travis Ray Smith – Church position: pastor; Court of conviction: Laclede and Moniteau County and Camden County, Mo., 2016; Outcome: Sentenced to prison for four years in 2016 after being convicted of statutory rape, sexual abuse and statutory sodomy for offenses that occurred in 1998, 2000 and 2005 in criminal cases that involved three victims in three different counties, Missouri court and prison records show. Defendant had been acquitted of sexual abuse allegations pertaining to a different victim in 2011.
• Dale Gregory Johnson – Church position: youth director; Court of conviction: Boone County (13th judicial district), Mo., 2016; Outcome: Pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory sodomy and one count of possession of child pornography, court records show. Incarcerated in Missouri state prison.
• Shawn D. Davies – Church position: youth pastor; Court of conviction: Jackson County, Mo. (16th Judicial Circuit)/previously Ky., 2007; Outcome: Convicted of sex crimes in both Missouri and in Kentucky. Received 20-year, concurrent sentences. In custody in Missouri state prison for 18 charges, including sodomy, child abuse and sexual misconduct.
• John Henry Stone – Church position: deacon, youth group leader; Court of conviction: Jackson County, Mo., 2015; Outcome: Registered sex offender in Missouri with a conviction for child molestation. His victims were a 10 and 12-year-old girl. Received five years probation in 2015.