Church to decide whether to keep their pastor accused of rape…

This from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Last Sunday, the Rev. Travis Smith paced First Baptist Church’s sanctuary, decorated for the holidays with poinsettias and a Christmas tree. He addressed his congregation, speaking to them about forgiveness.

Smith read verses from the Gospel of Matthew that follow the Lord’s Prayer:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” he said.

Since Smith’s arrest in October on sexual abuse and statutory rape charges, which follow similar allegations from 2010, forgiveness from his congregation has become critical to his survival as its pastor. It is this group of about 100 souls who will decide Smith’s future in the Southern Baptist Convention.

In any denomination, Christians confronted with the shocking news that their often-beloved pastor has been accused of sexual misconduct, many congregations circle the wagons, some experts say.

“When a church rallies around its pastor, there’s disbelief that someone they trust could do something like this,” said Diana Garland, dean of the school of social work at Baylor University. “It often feels so much safer to blame the victims for causing his downfall, rather than accept that the power of a religious leader has been abused.”

But what happens when those circling the wagons around their pastor are also those who have to make the ultimate decision about his fate — his career, his paycheck, his reputation?

A deacon at First Baptist Church of Stover said that at its last monthly business meeting no one from the congregation even put forward a motion to dismiss Smith, the first step in a longer process to remove the pastor.

“These are old charges, and if they’re true, why weren’t they brought up when they occurred?” said Phil Marriott. “We’ll wait for the court system to address them and let justice take its course.”

I’ve seen this happen many times.  When confronted with charges against a pastor, some churches are just not in a place to accept, or at the very least, investigate the charges.
That leads to the ‘circling of the wagons’ effect the writer describes.
It’s a tough situation.  On one side, ANYONE can make an accusation (and scripture even puts it down that if it is an elder, there really needs to be more than one accuser to help substantiate claims).  But at the same time, these allegations are very serious, and need to be investigated.  Rape, for instance, is a pretty stinkin’ serious charge; and to circle the wagon and not even discuss the situation is horrible.
If you were on the board at this church, how would you respond right now to this situation?
Leave a comment below and tell me what YOU think…


  • Rick Williams December 11, 2012 Reply

    It ABSOLUTELY MUST be addressed, first by leadership, whether deacons or church council, and then in an open church meeting. If the pastor maintains his innocence, until evidence proves otherwise the church should accept it and support him. If the investigation discovers he lies, immediate dismissal is necessary and no, he can never be trusted to pastor again. Thus sayeth another SBC pastor.

  • 1ofhis December 11, 2012 Reply

    My wonderment is that the deacons-elders-apparently don’t seem to have an issue with not fullfilling their responsibility to investigate in order to guard the congregation. The pastor himself should not only encourage an investigation if he is innocent but fully co-operate in clearing his name. It appears that a message on forgiveness is very self serving in an instance like this and that would make it an un Godly message when used as manipulation instead of edification.

    Of course these observations are made based on the limited information provided and the weight of scripture recalled.

  • Pingback: The Filter for December 14 -

Leave a Reply

1 Total Shares
Current Events Humor Leadership Staffing
Global Awareness and Spontaneity Part of 2017 Trends

A study of cultural trends by visual anthropologists and art directors...

Baptist After School Program Meets Critical Need

Highland Baptist Church hosts 40 1st through 5th grade students from...

Female outdoor computer finger  web plastic card
Digital Giving on the Rise for Churches in 2016

A survey of 1600 pastors and lay people found that 59%...