Thursday, December 1, 2011

What we already know about John Langworthy and Morrison Heights presents serious questions

One of the least talked about aspects of the unfolding Langworthy/Morrison Heights/Gunn story is the timeline of Langworthy’s transition from admitted pedophile in Texas to restored minister in Mississippi. A closer examination of this timeline suggests that what we already know about Langworthy’s admitted transgressions and the institutional decision-making that followed was questionable at best.

Adopting a conservative approach and relying solely on the statements of Langworthy and his churches, here is what we know:

• “In the summer of 1989, the church received an allegation that John Langworthy had acted inappropriately with a teenage student. Based on this allegation, he was dismissed immediately, removing him from all responsibilities with the church. In no way did officials of the church seek to cover up the actions of Mr. Langworthy or silence his accuser. The elected officers dealt with the matter firmly and forthrightly.”—statement of Prestonwood Executive Pastor Mike Buster to WFAA News 8 in Dallas on August 8, 2011.
• According to Langworthy, he came to Clinton immediately following his dismissal from Prestonwood and began working at Morrison Heights Baptist Church the following year. Langworthy stated, “continuing in my process of restoration, I began my work here at Morrison Heights twenty-one years ago in a part-time position.”
• In conversations related by Amy Smith, SNAP coordinator for Houston, Smith recounts the response of Morrison Heights Senior Pastor Dr. Greg Belser: “[The pastor] replied about a month later asking me to call him. I did call him and he stated he had been made aware of the allegations of abuse from a phone call from a past victim. He stated he had confronted John who admitted the abuse.” Inexplicably, in a telephone conversation with Morrison Heights Senior Pastor Dr. Greg Belser two months later, Dr. Belser informed Smith that the church had completed its “investigation” of the matter and had decided, despite Langworthy’s confession, that it would keep him on staff. Smith’s understanding of the church’s decision is compatible with Langworthy’s public confession on August 7, 2011 where he announced to his church family that he had “had sexual indiscretions with a younger man” and that he “was not asked to resign by the pastor or the elders.”

Based on the timeline provided by Langworthy, Prestonwood, and Morrison Heights we know a) that Langworthy confessed to child abuse in 1989 and was dismissed from Prestonwood that same year, b) In 1989, Langworthy moved to Clinton, c) in 1990, Langworthy began working at Morrison Heights, d) in early 2011, Morrison Heights learned of Langworthy’s prior bad acts, and e) on August 7, 2011, Langworthy publicly resigned from Morrison Heights.

Without adornment, conjecture, or further information, we know that Langworthy went directly from a place that dismissed him for child abuse to Clinton where soon after, a church there gave him a job that put him in close contact with children. When the Clinton church learned about the abuse, it conducted an in-house investigation and chose to continue its relationship with Langworthy.

Based on what we now know, a couple questions come to mind: 1) did John Langworthy lie when he was hired at Morrison Heights or did the church simply fail to ask a prospective children’s minister if he had ever sexually abused children? and more importantly,2) did Langworthy miraculously heal himself in the months between his employment at a church where he was actively engaged in abuse and his new employment where he was asked to oversee children? Morrison Heights knows the answer to the first question but isn’t telling and it’s already publicly answered yes to the second.


Amy Smith said...

Actually, Langworthy resigned and read a letter from the pulpit on May 29, 2011 citing mental and emotional reasons. A week later, Morrison Heights hosted a public reception of appreciation for him at the church. Gunn confirmed this reception in an email to Sherry LeFils. On Aug. 7 is when he confessed from the pulpit to "sexual indiscretions with younger males."

bill said...

Matt, your "without adornment" paragraph sums it up nicely. One event in your timeline that you sort of skip past is Prestonwood dismissing Langworthy without notifying law enforcement. I'd be calling for their collective heads, Gunn's included, had Langworthy been accused or even suspected of abuse at Morrison Heights - which he wasn't - and had simply been dismissed without calling the police. However, and once again this is an issue that you probably know more about than I do, as long as the Mississippi law that requires reporting of sexual abuse suspicion was followed it's still a personnel matter that the church has no duty to make public, isn't it?

Amy Smith said...

Seminary Trustee, Lawyer, Tells Church Leaders to Not Speak to Police About Meetings They Had With Molester

SNAP Network said...

Stunning recklessness and secrecy by officials at both churches. . .

David Clohessy, SNAP Director

Amy Smith said...

A Facade of Goodness: response to Penn State on Focus on the Family