12 December, 2007

Too High a Degree of Spiritual Sensitivity?

The article below was taken from Stop Baptist Predators. I am publishing it here because you need to read all of it. Our SBC leaders have lost their sense of justice...of basic right and wrong. Some believe this man's career and bank account are of more importance than a child's innocence. I doubt that our Lord would agree His blood came that cheap. There is forgiveness for any sin but that does not erase the consequences. This is just more proof that our children are no longer safe in our churches. This is happening way too often and being swept under the rug because our leaders do not want bad media. They should take a lesson from the Catholics. It is not going away.

Christa Brown writes:

Fifty people showed up at a North Carolina courthouse to support a church youth leader who plead guilty to child molestation. Among the supporters were numerous other ministers, who urged the judge to be lenient in his sentencing of the child molester.This recent news brought to mind lots of similar cases, but the one I couldn't’t stop thinking about was the Leslie Mason case.

That's his prison mugshot. Not that long ago, Mason was a prominent pastor and “a star” on the rise among Southern Baptist leaders. Just days before he was scheduled to preach the keynote sermon at the Illinois Baptist State Association’s annual convention, Mason was charged with multiple counts of child molestation.Ultimately, Mason struck a deal. He plead guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault involving a teen girl in exchange for the prosecutor’s dismissal of eight additional counts involving another girl at Mason’s church.At the sentencing hearing, Mason’s lawyer entered into evidence 32 letters of support for Mason. Many were from other Southern Baptist ministers and deacons in the community.

The one that really caught my eye was this one that has a child’s hand as part of its logo. It’s from Doug Devore, the Executive Director of Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services. He asks for leniency and urges that Mason should receive no prison time.You got that? The Illinois director of Southern Baptist children’s home services said “it would serve nothing to imprison” a minister who sexually abused teen girls.

This wasn’t just some personal letter on Devore’s part. He wrote it on Baptist Children’s Home letterhead and pointed out that he had “30 years of experience in working with children and families with similar issues.”Take a look at this guy Doug Devore. Even with 30 years of experience in Baptist Children’s Home services, Devore still doesn’t seem to have a clue about the horrific harm that is caused to children when a trusted minister sexually abuses them.

It’s deeply disturbing that a Baptist leader with 30 years worth of children’s home experience would so minimize this terrible crime. And it’s a betrayal to Illinois Baptists that this man would so misuse the “Baptist Children’s Home” name as to turn it into a support system for a child molester.Obviously, Mason’s attorney thought those “30 years” worth of experience from the director of the Baptist Children’s Home might carry some weight with the judge. He made Devore’s letter “Defendant’s Exhibit 1” and placed it at the top of the pile.

Thank God the judge cared more about kids than Devore. The judge sentenced Mason to 7 years.

It’s no wonder Southern Baptists have such a serious problem with blind-eyed responses to clergy child molestation when even their children’s home director urges NO prison time … as though this crime wasn’t even a matter of serious consequence.

Ironically, the stated mission of the Illinois Baptist Children’s Home is “to care for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected or are otherwise in crisis.”But how much “care” does it show for abused children when a high official like Devore thinks it’s of so little consequence that he urges no prison time for a child molester? Devore sold out “care for children” to try to protect a crony from prison.

You might imagine that some higher-ups at the Illinois Baptist State Association would have called Devore to task for that letter. But you would be mistaken. Devore is still the statewide executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services.The person who was called to task wasn’t Devore, but was instead the editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, Michael Leathers, who dared to publish the news about Mason’s child molestation charges. Leathers was forced to resign.

Glen Akins, the executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, explained by saying it was “God’s will” for Leathers’ tenure there to end and that Leathers would be happier in a position that didn’t require a “high degree of spiritual sensitivity.”

Huh? It looks to me as though Leathers may have been the only person connected to this saga who demonstrated “spiritual sensitivity.”But of course, in spiritual matters, people often view things differently. After invoking “God’s will” to oust Leathers, Illinois Southern Baptist officials then took additional steps to restrict the newspaper’s independence and to assure that reporting like the sex-abuse story wouldn’t happen again.

I guess hushing up clergy sex abuse is THEIR notion of “spiritual sensitivity.”

My notation: Mr. Weathers, I know this does not help you directly, but you did the right thing no matter what the cost. They cannot shut down our blogs.


Bob Cleveland said...

I wonder what part of all this, for Mr. Mason, was worse than having a millstone tied around his neck, and being thrown into the deep. That's what God seems to have promised for such people doing such things.


Scott said...

While I appreciate the hubris of the post, something else caught my eye in your introduction that I think is more problematic than the non-disciplinarian mindset you have wonderfully brought out into the open.

You said: "Our SBC leaders have lost their sense of justice...of basic right and wrong."

Leaders are leaders because people follow them. In the SBC there is a very strong emphasis on autonomy of the local church. The SBC exists for the sole reason (at least in original intent) to give local churches a better way to enter mission fields. That's it. When did we allow the SBC to become the protestant version of the RCC? If we have SBC leaders its because we follow them!

So who is to blame for the inactions of the Illinois Baptists specifically? Baptists living in Illinois! The churches need to exercise discipline! Who is to blame for the the inactions of the SBC? The churches who comprise the SBC!

Well, I could go on and on...

You and I have enough of the same mindset. LOL


Lin said...

Scott, I could not agree more. I have to wonder how many Illnois Baptists even know about it?

I have to wonder if they knew about the letter from the Children's Home Director if there would be an outcry? He said in the letter he does not believe this pastor to be a threat to children anymore. Wonder if he would let him babysit his young daughters?

His letter had nothing to do with the autonomy of the local church written on the Home's letterhead. What caught my attention is that he felt quite comfortable writing this letter to the judge on that letterhead, seemingly representing Illinois Baptists who pay his salary.

But since the Baptist reporter was gagged and forced to resign, we must rely on blogs and the secular media to get the word out because those in power surely won't and I understand why! It is embarrassing for those who were grooming him as a rising star to give the sermon at the annual convention!

This kind of thing is never admitted or discussed at the conventions. It is swept under the rug. Can you imagine what would happen if there as a call for a vote by the local churches to discipline the leaders who excused this? Things might change pretty quick. The message would be sent: We do not tolerate this in our churches or IBC entities.

The bottom line is that we have invested way too much power in the leaders and too much power corrupts and blinds.

As my mom used to say, 'You get what you allow'. And when we are not outraged by this and allow those who make excuses for this behavior to continue in their roles, our children really are not safe at church.

Doesn't anyone read Hebrews 10 or 1 John anymore?

Lin said...

Bob, you bring up another aspect of this...the millstone. The way these things are handled anymore are not the way to restor an erring brother. (Even if he is a pastor)

Strange...we want our civil authorites to protect us and then we go and beg for leniency for a molester. It is even worse because the molesting pastor professes Christ all the while being molester.

The irony is that the secular judge did not listen to the Christians and gave him the prison sentence.

Corrie said...

"About 50 people turned out in support of Smith, and six ministers and three others testified in support of mercy in sentencing him. The other side of the courtroom, where the Clement family sat, was nearly empty.

“We have been ostracized,” Clement said. “Not one church leader has reached out to us.”"


This really makes me sad! The victim is ostracized and not reached out to and the perpetrator is coddled, cuddled and cuckolded.

This is a typical scenario in the church concerning sexual abuse. Somehow the abused becomes the abuser and the abuser becomes the abused.

Corrie said...

"I have to wonder if they knew about the letter from the Children's Home Director if there would be an outcry? He said in the letter he does not believe this pastor to be a threat to children anymore. Wonder if he would let him babysit his young daughters?"

ARgh! Same old thing. Yes, church leaders harbor and give succor to molesters and assert that the pedophile is not a danger or threat but they turn around and then say that they would never allow their own children to go over to the perpetrator's home or be alone with him.

And then you ask them about the rest of the unsuspecting congregation who does not know that this man is a danger and they get a blank look on their face. It would be "gossip" to warn others, they say.

What I have learned is that those in leadership who know about these sorts of things are among the privileged few who get to protect their own children but the unsuspecting parents who allow their child to be alone with the perpetrator don't deserve the same considerations.

Michael Leathers said...


Thanks for your encouraging words. They mean a lot. In the weeks after I reported that story, I heard two different reactions. Politically connected pastors and laymen were up in arms, of course. However, as I traveled the state, I heard a very different response from grass-roots pastors and laypeople who were thankful that the incident was reported. They began to pray for that church and those involved, which they never could have done if they had not been made aware of the situation. They also believed it was right for the newspaper to keep them informed about the incident. I learned there are many concerned Christians out there, both in the pews and behind the pulpits, who are concerned but know that the system is structured in such a way to keep their voices minimized. Bloggers, however, are changing that by giving these people a voice.

-- Michael Leathers

Lin said...

God Bless you, Michael.

I can relate to what happened to you over this. I once had to 'resign' my position because of a 'negative' truth that mega leaders did not want to deal with.

But, Jesus Christ showed me though the entire ordeal that I was following 'man' and not HIM. So the high price I paid in earthly security has been worth it because of eternal security.

I am encouraged by your report of grass roots pastors and laity, their concern and prayers.

I was reading in Isaiah last night and it struck me how angry God was about injustice done by His people. It is mentioned over and over. Especially about widows and orphans...those with the least power in that society.

I fear for the SBC leaders who are so cavalier about this reprehensible behavior by a pastor who abused his position and mocked God by first admitting it to his deacons and then pleading not guilty!

Michael Leathers said...


Those are great words from Isaiah. Imagine what kind of witness we would send to the rest of the world if our denomination, from the smallest church to the largest convention entity, were to say "Enough" and did all in our power to make sure those who abuse our children were not quietly shuffled to another church, but were handed over by us for prosecution. As it is now, it still brings me to tears today when I read the e-mail that one of the victims sent Les Mason, after he apologized to her. She accepted his apology but added "if it really hurt you that bad, this would have stopped long before I even turned 14."

-- Michael Leathers