A former Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing several teenage boys he mentored while a volunteer youth worker at a Southern Baptist church in North Carolina
Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist church in suburban <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Chicago made news after it became public that an interim preacher in its pulpit for three years was a convicted child molester.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
In North Carolina a tearful Brian “Doug” Goodrich Jr., 26, apologized to members of victims’ families in a video clip aired on Raleigh TV station WRAL for using his position of trust to molest eight young boys who were part of a Bible study at the 2,700-member ProvidenceBaptistChurch in Raleigh, N.C.
“You guys put trust and faith in me, and I betrayed that,” Goodrich said. “I apologize for the deceit, for the lies and betrayal that led the victims to think the offending was OK and for putting them in the position of being victims.”
Police arrested Goodrich in June 2006 after finding him in a parked car with a 13-year-old boy from the church where he worked as an intern. The arrest prompted an investigation bringing allegations involving seven additional victims, all between the ages of 13 and 15.
The prosecutor in the case said the abuse began with games of truth-or-dare and escalated into increasingly inappropriate sexual behavior. Letters read in court called Goodrich a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“Under the guise of spiritual leadership, he manipulated them for his own selfish purposes,” said one letter. “Our son is an innocent victim.”
Goodrich’s lawyer said his client was remorseful and called the sentence excessive. Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said his client enters prison as “a good person–flawed, but good.”
While in prison Goodrich will undergo counseling for sex offenders and register as a sex offender in the state’s registry.
Southeastern Seminary suspended Goodrich after his first arrest pending outcome of his case. Seminary spokesman Jason Hall said Monday that Goodrich has been expelled and is no longer a student at the seminary.
Seminary President Daniel Akin issued a statement saying: “The thoughts of Southeastern’s faculty, staff and administration continue to be with the victims of these tragic incidents and their families, and we pray for the peace of Christ to comfort and encourage them now and in the future. We also remain committed to training men and women who will practice the highest level of integrity both in their Gospel ministries and in their personal walks with Christ.”
In March EthicsDaily.com reported that two students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., were registered sex offenders. Seminary officials said privacy laws prohibited them from commenting about the two students, who were identified in an ABC News “20/20” report on preacher predators, but they are no longer enrolled at the seminary.
Under pressure from a victims’ advocacy group, the Southern Baptist Convention has agreed to consider a database of known or credibly accused sex offenders. But SBC leaders have also said they believe the denomination cannot do much to address the problem, because of Baptists’ system of autonomy of the local church. The denomination encourages churches to do background checks before hiring ministers and offers resources on protecting kids.
A staff member at ProvidenceBaptistChurch in Raleightold WRAL last year the church did a criminal check on Goodrich, like they do with all volunteers, but since he didn’t have a previous conviction his record was clean. Church leaders and parents said they saw no red flags.
A former neighbor said he saw Goodrich entering his town home with young boys, but he never suspected anything was amiss.
Christa Brown of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said background checks are necessary, but alone they aren’t enough, because many sexual predators are never convicted of a crime.
Also, Brown said, lacking strong leadership from the denomination, individual churches can be deceived into making wrong decisions.
The Chicago Sun-Times on Monday reported a story about First Baptist Church of Romeoville, Ill., which allowed a convicted child-sex offender to preach from its pulpit for three years, despite knowing about his past.
“In our church, we believe in forgiveness,” the newspaper quoted one of the church’s deacons who hired 42-year-old Jeff Hannah to step into the pulpit after the former pastor moved on amid controversy over the fact that he had been divorced and remarried.
Hannah was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1996 for having sexual relations with four girls ages 15 to 17 while married and a youth minister at another church. Steve Farish, senior pastor of CrossroadsChurch in Libertyville, Ill., reportedly said he considered Hannah so dangerous that he warned the Romeoville church and a regional Southern Baptist official.
Hannah explained his past to a Sun-Times reporter by saying his marriage had been in trouble and that he had “urges.”
“I honestly believe that had I been a college pastor, I’d have slept with college girls,” he was quoted as saying. “But I was a youth pastor. It was less about age and more about who I spent all my time with.”
After talking to the newspaper, Hannah reportedly resigned as a member of the church, which he joined after being paroled in 2001 and where his new wife was a member, commenting, “I just want to live my life.”
Brown said the Romeoville matter came to light because a Southern Baptist minister contacted SNAP.
“We applaud him for doing that, but this illustrates the denomination’s own lack of resources for effectively dealing with clergy sex abuse,” she told EthicsDaily.com. “If even a Southern Baptist minister has trouble figuring out how to warn people about a convicted clergy perpetrator and to get him out of the pulpit, how does anyone imagine that a clergy abuse victim, who is typically an outsider, is going to be able to warn people about a clergy perpetrator who, in the more usual scenario, has no prior conviction?”
Brown said there is no excuse for placing a convicted child molester in a pulpit for three years knowing that other kids in the community and church were at risk.
“The autonomy of Baptist churches cannot excuse this,” she said. “Autonomy does not give Baptist leaders any sort of biblical right to turn a blind eye. Protecting the young is a sacred obligation, and there are no excuses.”
Today the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a second convicted sex offender was invited to FirstBaptistChurch in Romeoville, when Hannah invited his neighbor, Bryan Buckley, to lead special music at a Sept. 9 celebration service.
Buckley, 38, was convicted in 1997 of four counts of criminally assaulting a 14-year-old girl at a community church in St. Charles, Ill. The paper said Hannah and Buckley apparently met in prison.
Charles Hamby, the church’s former pastor, told the Sun-Times he saw nothing wrong with putting two child molesters in worship roles. “We’re a church that believes in grace and redemption,” he said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Previous news stories on this topic in EthicsDaily.com:
Lawsuit Says Church Failed to Protect Children from Pedophile Sunday School Teacher
Former Preacher Accused of Molestation May Face More Charges
Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandals Hit Baptist Churches in Tennessee, Louisiana
Florida Baptist Convention Sued Over Clergy Predator
Insurance Companies Shed Light on Extent of Sex Abuse in Protestant Churches
SBC to Consider National Clergy Sex-Offender Database
Victims’ Father Urges SBC President to Lead Fight Against Clergy Sexual Abuse
SBC Official Says Relatively ‘Low’ Number of Cases Proves System Working Against Sexual Predators
SBC President Questions Motives of SNAP, Says Sex Abuse Everywhere
SBC Leaders Deny Charge of Unresponsiveness about Clergy Sex Abuse
SBC President Labels Sexual Abuse Critics ‘Opportunists’
SBC Officials Criticize ‘Predator Preacher’ Report on ’20/20′
SBC President Says Denomination Looking Into Sex Offender Registry
’20/20′ Airs Report on Predator Preachers
Pastors Seek Action on Clergy Sexual Abuse
Minister Accused of Sex Abuse Commits Suicide
SBC President Says Sexual Abuse by Clergy not ‘Systemic’
Southern Baptist Minister Charged With Sexual Abuse
Baptist Minister, Volunteer Track Coach, Charged with Rape
SNAP Cries Foul Over Baptist Press Reporting
Lawyer Says Former Southern Baptist Pastor Innocent of Sex Charge
Former SBC President Defends Denomination’s Record Against Clergy Sex Abuse
Clergy Sex Abuse Arrest Stuns South Carolina Baptist Church
Convicted Child Molester Longtime Pastor of Southern Baptist Churches
SNAP Admits Error in Saying SBC Leaders Did Not Respond to Letter
SBC Leaders Deny Charge of Unresponsiveness about Clergy Sex Abuse
SBC Executive Committee to Discuss SNAP Requests
Group Asks Southern Baptist Leaders to Address Clergy Sex Abuse
Clergy Sex Abuse Case Reveals Flaws in SBC System, Victims’ Advocate Says
Bellevue Fires Minister at Center of Sex-Abuse Scandal
Bellevue Report Faults Handling of Minister’s Sexual Abuse
Bellevue Investigation Report Due Jan. 20
Author Says Bellevue Pastor Should Be Sued
Memphis Radio Station Features Critic of Bellevue Pastor
Assistant DA Says Pastor’s Failure to Report Sex Abuse Could Be a Crime
Bellevue Pastor Staying, Texas Pastor Leaving, Over Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandals
Bellevue Investigates Minister for ‘Moral Failure’
Change Dividing Southern Baptist Mega-Church
Clergy Sex-Abuse Activist Awaits Response from SBC
SBC Spokesman Responds to Call to Fight Sexual Abuse
Advocate Says Baptists Slow to Confront Problem of Clergy Sex Abuse
Southern Baptist Leaders Challenged to Get Tough on Sex Abuse by Clergy
Dismantle False Wall of Church Autonomy That Protects Child Predator Preachers
First Person: When a Pastor Protects a Pedophile
Baptist Leaders Must Take Action for Protection of Kids
Menorahs’ Lights Bring Thoughts on Denial and Evil
Language of Foley Report Might Also Apply to Baptist Leaders
Baptist Autonomy Ignored in Investigating Gays, But Not Clergy Child Molesters
SBC Clergy Predators ‘Wolves’ in the Church
Clergy Predators Are As Crafty As Cyber-Predators
Baptist Leaders Blind to Their Responsibilities
Exclusive video coverage of SNAP at SBC headquarters