SBC, Sex-Offenders, & Pastoral Leadership

It is no secret that most of the major denominations in our country have practically thrown out the scriptural instruction for who is and who is not qualified for pastoral leadership. (In the Beliefs section of my website, I briefly outline how 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 deal with the qualifications of an elder.)However, even knowing how the denominations and the majority of today’s professing church have disregarded these details could not have prepared me for this. Last night the ABC News program 20/20 reported their findings in a 6month investigation of ‘sex predators’ in the Southern Baptist Convention. Marty Duren at SBC Outpost apparently got the jump on this report. You can read an abbreviated copy of the transcript here, though I must warn you that some of it is fairly explicit.

It is not my desire to turn this into a gossip forum, but I do feel that more people need to know about this. Specifically, during an interview with Frank Paige, the current SBC President, ABC News told him that there were currently 6 sexual convicts listed in the ‘minister search‘ of available pastors on Not only that, but most surprisingly, there are currently 2 registered sex offenders attending Southern Seminary. We’re not talking about men who have say, visited a prostitute or something, we’re talking about purported homosexual pedophilia -no small offense if true. Imagine that these are only the men who have been caught!

This, my friends, is downright frightening. ABC wanted to know why the SBC hasn’t setup some sort of database to track these things, but obviously there is a much deeper problem than this. This is a spiritual issue. It speaks volumes to what kind of leadership has led them to this point. It speaks volumes to what kind of people are in these churches if even a portion of the leadership has sunken this far.

If you haven’t found a church with strong, biblically-qualified leadership, now is the time to do so. Pastors and elders are to be completely above reproach in every area of their lives. They are to be tested, watched, interviewed, considered, prayed-over, and scrutinized with what the Bible instructs as qualifications. For prospective elders, privately interview each member of their family, their friends, their professors, and their secular workplace colleagues. Pay close attention to their history and who they have worked with, what they have done, the reputation they have built. Be extremely cautious of those who do not have many close relationships with other qualified men, who do not seem to be privately accountable to other qualified men, and who seem somewhat distant in their private lives even when they seem to meet all the other qualifications. We may not uncover something as big as secret sexual sin, but there is no doubt that this will spill out in another, more visible area of their life.

Lastly, if we continue to promote leaders simply because they are great speakers with great personalities, who get results from the pulpit, who light up the crowd, who are witty, creative, innovative, etc., then there is no doubt that these kinds of problems will only continue to multiply on a large scale.

Lord, help us.

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23 Comments on “SBC, Sex-Offenders, & Pastoral Leadership”

  1. Timmy Says:


    I watched the piece yesterday with dropped jaw. It might interest you that Ben Cole and Wade Burleson have drafted a resolution to be submitted at San Antonio. Here it is:

    Burleson Motion Regarding the Development of a Convention Database of Sexual Predators

    “I move that the Southern Baptist Convention requests the Executive Committee to conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been convicted of sexual harrassment and abuse, and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches seeking to maintain the highest standards of sexual ethics for its ministry candidates.”

    Cole Resolution on Clergy Sexual Abuse

    WHEREAS, the Lord Jesus Christ has instructed his church to exercise attentive care and prioritized concern for the well-being of children (Mark 10:14-16; Matthew 18:5-7), and

    WHEREAS, millions of children are mistreated each year in the United States by those who have been entrusted by God to care for them, and

    WHEREAS, God has designed the family and founded the church to be a place of safety and security for children to grow in a nurturing environment of spiritual wisdom and moral purity, and

    WHEREAS, the Bible calls upon ministers — whether they are pastors, counselors, educators, missionaries, chaplains, or others — to preserve the witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ by maintaining the highest standards of personal conduct as it relates to children, and

    WHEREAS, the tender consciences of little children are irreparably scarred by the negligence of Southern Baptist churches who fail to examine carefully the moral integrity and ethical history of ministry candidates, and

    WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have not fully explored every option to protect our churches and our children from the threat of potential victimization and abuse at the hands of predatory clergy; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, call upon our member churches to pursue every possible avenue in determining the moral character and ethical conduct of ministry candidates; and be it further

    RESOLVED, that we urge our convention agencies, institutions, and commissions to take bold steps to educate Southern Baptists concerning the indications associated with and the reporting of child victimization; and be it further

    RESOLVED, that we appeal to all churches dealing with the tragedy of negligent care for the interests of those abused by predatory clergy to address the growing crisis of child victimization by implementing ministries of pastoral care for victims of clergy abuse; and be it further

    RESOLVED, that we pray for those who have been harmed physically, emotionally, and spiritually by ministers in our own convention who have violated their innocence through evil acts of sexual sin against them; and be it finally

    RESOLVED, that we acknowledge the immediate need for our convention churches, agencies, institutions, and commissions to act with sincerity and urgency in this matter, sparing no effort to preserve the integrity of our witness and the security of our children from the tragic consequences of our potential neglect.


  2. […] Nathan White’s post “SBC, Sex Offenders, and Pastoral Leadership“ […]

  3. Nathan White Says:

    Timmy, thanks for the update on that. I certainly applaud this resolution, and I pray that it goes through.

    However, I do have to question whether a resolution will fix the problem. Specifically, I see this as a fruit of the ‘CEO’ type of leadership, where one man is given free reign, and the nelgect for the scriptural blueprint for church government (elder-rule). In addition to this, the emphasis on numbers, growth, popularity, etc., causes people to promote spiritually unqualified men to leadership.

    One example in the 20/20 report was an SBC pastor who had a church building named after him, an assortment of other accolades, and had even received a $50,000 ‘love offering’ gift from his church for his retirement. When men are lifted up in these ways, what do we expect to happen? It doesn’t matter who he is or what he has done in the past, this is a recipe for disastor.

    This will continue to be a problem until the elder-rule, biblically-qualified, scriptural blueprint for church government is embraced. The only way to slow these types of sexual sins (in this digital age) is to surround each man with others who are equal in their authority, who can rebuke each other and take away the right to ministry, and who will hold each other accountable. We should be working towards this.

  4. This is, indeed, jaw-dropping. Especially when I checked for myself about the 2 seminary students and realized that I know those guys. Sat in classes, exchanged words, said hey in the bookstore, all that stuff. I’d want to be very careful about publishing their identities (if they haven’t already been broadcast); their lives have already been ruined once. Do we really have the right, as seminary brothers, to ruin it again? I would be very surprised if they stayed around after this.

    As much as we might (justifiably) want to start making people walk the plank, maybe we need to stop for a moment and pray for these fallen brothers. Without knowing what’s the real reason for their being here (beyond wanting to prepare for ministry), we don’t really have grounds to lump them in with guys like the active ones in the ABC segment.

  5. Barry Says:

    “walk the plank”…

    Interesting turn of phrase.

    I think that it is important to deal with this issue. The Catholic Church has been smacked with this and although they did try, in many cases, to sweep it under the rug they have brought it to the surface and are actively trying to deal with it now. They’ve had to. They have lost many members as a result, but they are trying to move forward. To suggest that it should be jaw-dropping for a conservative led movement to be immune from this type of thing goes right along with my own view of rampant credulity within the church. I often wonder what type of evangelist does the greater harm, someone like Haggard who gave the most pain to his wife, himself and the elders of the mega-church or someone like Robertson who makes the entire nation cringe by his comments. It is a tragedy when the victim is a child. And since the movement is not based on the “top-down” format it could be a nightmare to deal with as has already been intimated.

    I’m just curious as to why ABC has chosen now to look at the Protestant side. It is almost like there is a wierd segmentation thing going on here.

  6. Timmy Says:


    I understand your concern brother. But there is far more here than simply these two men. It is the lives of the children they confessed and have been convicted of abusing. It is their family who has to deal with this probably for the rest of their lives. It is the future spouses they hope to marry and their marriage which will be affected by this. It is the watching world who wants to know if we will take seriously the call to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to execute justice when justice calls for it. To me this is gospel. It is good news when God’s people know when and how to proclaim the truth, uphold the truth in justice, and at the same time show the love of Christ albeit in a very difficult way.

    I know the case in my life I often don’t realize the seriousness and sinfulness of sin. Many times we don’t feel the weight and consequence of our actions. I pray that through the events which have come to light God will bring to light the dark recesses of my own wicked heart and pursue holiness with all my might.

  7. Well, as it seems the cat is already out of the bag (according to local news), this might be a moot discussion of sorts. All I’m really trying to say is that until we know the details (and I hope none of us really want to), we shouldn’t jump on these guys and declare them “sick, homosexual pedophiles.” One of these guys was a kid when this horrible thing happened.

    It’s extremely easy for us to immediately think negatively when we see that someone is a sex offender. It’s a lot harder to stop and think, “how can I best love my brother who has offended?” Let’s at least try to think redemptively towards these guys instead of pointing fingers yelling “Unclean!” For all we know, they really might have been turned away from their acts by the Gospel.

  8. The question asked by the ABC news correspondent concerning the SBC regulating homosexuals in the pulpits but not pedophiles was very mcuh warranted. It makes no sense. It seems to me that the SBC needs to choose if they are going to be a denomination or a mission sending agency primarily and communicate that decision clearly.

  9. Nathan White Says:


    You do raise a good point. I certainly didn’t mean to label these 2 guys as specifically ‘sick pedophiles’, I only meant to convey that the accusations and the ones who are in jail are there for serious sex crimes, not something like prostitution or something. Shouting ‘unclean’ was the LAST thing I wanted to convey, so please forgive me for not clarifying. I have edited my post to better clarify.
    I’m not there on campus, but I trust that there are some Godly men there who will reach out and minister to these guys, no matter what the circumstances may be.


  10. Jeff Says:

    I agree with Stephen. To jump to conclusions because of a news story, in this day and age, is at the least unwise and at the most, insane. I know one of the guys and have to admit that I was shocked when I saw his name. But I do not want to sit in judgment of this guy until I know the details, we owe it to them, to ourselves and to the Lord we serve. Do we need to do something, indeed we do. But I would hope that cooler heads will prevail before these two (at Southern) are banned from the kingdom, which is what it sounds like most on this thread want to do. Man, I am so steamed about the response from Christian brothers on this I don’t know what to think or say! You guys should go ahead and pick your best rock, if you haven’t already!

  11. Nathan White Says:


    The post was not written to stone the offendors, but to rather point out how the Biblical model for church government is the only way to avoid such things, and that the SBC should consider that this issue is much deeper than a few bad apples and the lack of a database. Thus, if anyone is casting a stone, it is at the process setup to recruit pastors, not at these men who have sinned.


  12. Jeff,

    I agree with you brother. We do need those of cool heads to handle this matter in a biblical and redemptive way. But as you have confessed in your comment, you have not exemplified such, so are you concluding that you and your comments should not be excused because of the emotional investment you have shown? I mean this in all sincerity, because in the same comment you condemn those you think are casting stones, do you not realize that you are casting stones yourself?

    I have never blindly condemned these men nor referenced them with an slurs. I do not sit in judgment of what these men have done. If what they have done is confessed or proven true in the court of law, then that’s where the judgment lies. What I am attempting to bring to bear is how the Christian community responds or doesn’t respond will have direct bearing on the gospel. I am not thinking directly in reference with these two men but with a much broader perspective.


    I find it really hard to think that Christians and students at SBTS are going to memorize the names of these men and point fingers, denouncing them “Unclean!” Do you really think this is how your fellow seminarians will respond? If that is so, you have a really low view of your fellow Christian.

    Look it, we have to draw the line here where we point fingers and cast judgment from upholding righteousness and executing justice. It appears that anyone who mentions doing justly or upholding righteousness is lumped into an adrenal attack filled with pejoratives and slurs. I am all about being redemptive, and anyone who knows me (Stephen and Nathan you both do) knows that to be true. But being redemptive involves grace and truth and justice and mercy. The cross speaks as much to God’s holiness and justice as it does to God’s love and mercy, and if we are going to be redemptive here, we must remember this.

  13. Nathan,

    You are exactly right, if any stones need to be thrown it’s at the selection process. Currently it seems to be all about personality and preaching ability rather than character and doctrine. Maybe I’m just being naive, but wouldn’t personality and preaching come out of character and doctrine? If we looked first at a candidate’s character and doctrine, would we even be having this discussion? I think it would make it very clear that if there was any question specifically of character, the candidate need not apply.


    I’m not disagreeing with you, dude. All I’m trying to say is that we need to be careful how we approach these guys. I can’t imagine the world of hurt they must be going through right now with their names plastered in the media. Yes, they brought it on themselves. I pray, however, that their attendance at Southern would be an indicator that they know it’s their fault and that they are in the process of sanctification from those sins. Maybe I’m just being optimistic.

  14. Barry Says:

    I’m wondering if the various conventions will attempt to promote a more formal control over individual churches, or is that unlikely?

  15. It can be argued (and my pastor recently suggested as much) that the various conventions already behave as if they’re the boss. Even though the churches are the boss of the convention, it’s almost as if the conventions are saying “you’re not the boss of me unless you agree to this, this, and that.”

  16. Stephen,

    Agreed. Man, I am not trying to create a stink here. I am only trying to think through this from various points of view. For example, I know that one of the men lives on campus. If I was a father of a six-year-old daughter, would I want a registered sex offender living next door to me?

    Stuff like that is what is going through my mind. Yes, certainly I am thinking about the hurt and humiliation these men are going through, and that is terrible as it is, and we should really be praying for them. But thinking through this does not stop there.

    The repercussions are real. One of the questions that will be asked is if the church or seminary knew their minister/student was a sex offender, why was nothing done? Why was it kept secret? Did they not know it would eventually be found out?

  17. Jeff Says:

    In response to your comments, emotional investment is not, as you have portrayed, a negative thing. If I thought you had been unjustly set up, I would be emotionally invested in defending you since I consider you my friend as well. I am not talking about finding a solution to keep pedofiles away from our kids. That should be a priority. But you are wrong in this my friend and Stephen has it spot on. You can not think that the student body, once this story broke and they had the opportunity to pull out the student directory, didn’t find these guys to get a good long luck at them. They may not point their fingers at them and call out “unclean”, at least in public, but the blog, that is another animal. You said “Also, should not someone who committed sexual child abuse be disqualified from ministry? If that is the case, I am wondering what they are pursuing in seminary.”
    If this is not condeming then perhaps this illustrates the danger of the internet communication known as “blogging” since language is only one of 12 communication signals. But it sure “sounds” condemning to me. Do you honestly believe that there is no other reason to be at seminary than to be a “minister”? If in fact you believe that being at seminary is based on a “call from God”, and I don’t have any reason to believe you don’t have this understanding, then why should they not go to seminary if God has called them? Can they not be “ministers” in other settings other than a pulpit? How about being a minister in your work, a.k.a. Brother Lawerence, etc.
    Now to the matter of casting stones. If calling a spade a spade is casting stones, then so be it. If someone is found to be in error, are we not to correct them? These guys have been judged guilty by the courts and they have paid the penalty and continue to pay for the crimes they committed but as far as continuing to have folks “execute judgment” is beyond the realm of Christian responsibilities. As far as I know these guys are repentant and are trying to honor Christ with their lives, they are not “bad apples.” As to how the Christian community should respond, how about with love, compassion and understanding. Both of these guys have now appeared on a national news program and their lives shattered again, they need the support of their brothers not more condemnation.

    Do we as a convention need some type of accountability system in place to prevent what happened with the Roman Catholic church happening with us, sure we do. Look at what is happening at Bellevue. Is the CEO model for church leadership/governance a bad one? I believe it is or at least it has been corrupted to the point that it is no longer effective. But God help us all if we continue to hold people accountable for sins committed, confessed, repented from, paid for and forgiven by Christ. If that happens, none will be fit for ministry.

  18. This has nothing to do with anything, but I just love this blog’s graphics.

    I thought I had linked here, but apparently I didn’t. As an upgrade, I’ll add you guys to the Scum of hte Earth blogroll without a request for reciprocation …

  19. Jeff,

    You said,

    “You can not think that the student body, once this story broke and they had the opportunity to pull out the student directory, didn’t find these guys to get a good long luck at them.”

    Honestly, brother, that has never entered my mind. Did that enter the minds of other students? I cannot answer for them. But that option is now in their minds now that it has been stated.

    You said that I am wrong, and Stephen nailed it. Call me dense, but I still am trying to find out where I have erred.

    Regarding the question I posed whether they should be in seminary, I don’t know the men or their situation. What I do know is that they are registered sex offenders, and the Kentucky registry evidences that. My question is whether being such an offender disqualifies you from ministry such as marital infidelity. When I came to seminary, I was understanding that indeed all coming had a specific calling. I may be wrong in that assessment as I don’t know the reasons why people attend seminary.

    As you know, Jeff (now that I realize you know me), I value emotional investment. However, according to your own expectations, you want level-headed, cool thinking people to address this issue in the very comment you evidenced otherwise. Do you not see the contradiction here? If I have come across argumentative, condemning, or judgmental, then I apologize. I have only attempted to ask questions, considering the consequences of how something like this is being played out from different persepectives.

    Again, I don’t know the names of these brothers nor have I looked them up. And I won’t. Trust me, the worst sinner I know is the man typying these words right here, and he is nothing apart from the grace of God.

  20. Stephen Says:


    Please note that I am not disagreeing with Timmy, even though I am cautioning about a rush to judgment. I may agree with you that we need to be more level-headed about this — which is why I said what I did in the first place — but even a “level-headed” approach is not going to give a sex offender the benefit of the doubt. No, I think that wisdom would require exactly what Nathan, Timmy, Ben Cole, and others are suggesting.

    Ironically, I said what I said exactly because of Timmy’s last paragraph above — I’m a dirty rotten filthy stinkin’ sinner and I should not ever forget it. That’s the only benefit a sex offender should be extended, and in extending it to these guys I realized they quite possibly might be feeling lower than they have in a long while over this. In fact, they won’t ever be allowed to forget it. Our job as their brothers is first and foremost to hold them accountable. But it is also our job to walk alongside them in that process, helping their lives to be bearable and glorifying to God.

    Even so, it will be impossible to erase their particular sin from my mind, and I would be ever cautious with them from that point onward, even after restoration has been accomplished.

  21. […] Nathan White’s post SBC, Sex Offenders, and Pastoral Leadership […]

  22. Donna Says:

    I know that God forgives all sin. Just as Jesus confronted the woman in adultery saying, “You who are sinless, cast the first stone” we should not cast any negative words to a sinner saved by grace about their previous sins. All sin is equal under the eyes of God.

    I believe that SBTS would not allow anyone to enroll or be on campus without any accountibility for previous temptations. It is quite possible that these “convictions” occured prior to a conversion experience or before these persons were called by God to ministry.

    Look at all the ministers with Exodus International who have had a negative past but found a rebirth through Jesus Christ. These ministry leaders are living a victorious life because they have surrendered their life to Him. Some have had to deal with homosexual issues, gender identity issues, and others with pornography problems. It does not mean that all who struggle in the area of sexuality are pedophiles. The truth exists that people can change through the power of Jesus Christ.

    A current student of the female gender at SBTS,

  23. siny Says:


    Thanks for information about your site on SBC, Sex-Offenders, & Pastoral Leadership.We may not uncover something as big as secret sexual sin, but there is no doubt that this will spill out in another, more visible area of their life.The popularity of online dating has attracted an unwanted element.

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