A prominent Southern Baptist church in Austin, Texas, may see its second former minister go to prison for sexual abuse of a child.
Jerry Dale Carver, 52, pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted sexual abuse of a child, according to Austin’s Fox 7 News. The former minister of education at Great Hills Baptist Church was arrested in July 2006 for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old boy.
In 1999 the church’s former youth minister was convicted on nine counts of child sexual abuse. That minister, Charles Richard “Rick” Willits, was arrested on charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy he met at the church and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Michael Lewis, senior pastor of the 5,000-member church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is a member of the SBC Executive Committee. That body is studying the feasibility of database of sex abuse by clergy in response to a motion referred at last year’s SBC annual meeting.
Christa Brown of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said for a single church to be hit twice by abuse convictions shows “the ease with which minister-masked child molesters infiltrate churches.” She said she prays the experience will prompt Lewis to “see the need for urgent action by the SBC Executive Committee.”
Lewis did not respond to an e-mail request for comment in time to be included in this story. After Carver’s arrest on July 21, 2006, Lewis posted a statement on the church Web site saying the congregation was “saddened” and “concerned for all the individuals involved.”
Originally charged with sexual assault of a child, Carver could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Carver no longer works for the church, but he is listed as a Southern Baptist minister in an SBC clergy database.
At the time of his arrest, Carver was married and the father of three children.
Michael Bishop, a family therapist with the Austin Family Institute told Austin NBC affiliate KXAN that because predators get involved in youth activities, churches need to be extra cautious.
“If they’re interested in sexual behavior with a child, they’re going to look for where children are,” Bishop said.
In 1999, the TV station said, members of Great Hills Baptist Church stood by their 44-year-old youth minister accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy over a period of several months, refusing to believe he was capable of the crime.
“He (Willits) would be a part of my ministry today, without a doubt, without blinking an eye,” youth minister Billy Muench said at the time. “I would serve with him till the day I die.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.