HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Houston-based Second Baptist is one of three local churches criticized nationally for the way sexual abuse and misconduct allegations were handled. The leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has announced there are ten churches, three of them in the Houston area, that he says should be investigated and perhaps removed from the SBC for their handling of reported sexual abuse in the church. His statements come after a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed more than 300 Baptist church workers throughout the U.S. have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last two decades.
"It’s a long time coming, long time coming,” says Gwen Lewis. It was in 1994 when Lewis’ 14-year-old daughter, Heather Schneider, was sexually assaulted by a short-term contract worker at Second Baptist Church where Ed Young is the pastor.
Lewis says she was horrified when it seemed she and her daughter were being treated like the villains.
"I was like, 'He got my child, he can get other children there,'" adds Lewis. "I just felt like they didn’t care."
John Forse was ultimately charged with sexual assault, but Lewis says her daughter began doing drugs to cover the pain and was never the same.
“It was horrible," describes Lewis. "She went into treatment because of the depression."
Lewis is glad to hear Southern Baptist Convention president Pastor J.D. Greear say, “I am committed to doing everything possible to ensure we never make these mistakes again. I will pursue every possible avenue to stop predators in our midst. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists.”
"It encouraged me that at least he’s stepping up to the plate to make them be accountable," says Lewis.
Second Baptist released the following statement after learning about the allegations against John Forse:
Second Baptist Church wants to assure the Southern Baptist Convention and our community that we have long adhered to strict policies and guidelines dealing with sexual conduct and abuse.
First and foremost, we grieve with each and every child, individual, their families and everyone affected by sexual abuse. Period. We pray and will continue to pray for anyone, and everyone affected by the gutless and heart wrenching actions of sex abusers and predators. We are thankful for all law enforcement agencies that put their lives on the line each day to bring sexual abuse offenders and predators to justice.
Second Baptist constantly strives to utilize the resources God has given our church family to implement and maintain effective systems, policies and procedures to prevent sexual abuse, to minister to anyone affected by sexual abuse, and to provide a safe environment for children, youth and their families.
These policies and practices are subject to periodic review as we constantly strive for improvement in this critical area.
The statement also says, "his contract was terminated and the church cooperated fully with law enforcement."
Unfortunately, Lewis’ daughter tried to take her own life a couple of times and ultimately died at age 28 of a drug overdose. Lewis believes a simple apology from the church may have made a world of difference.
"I think it would have made a big difference in her life," explains Lewis. "I think she would have not felt so jaded and like she had done something wrong. She was the victim here and they didn’t treat her as one. To me, these pastors would look so much better not only to God, there in God’s home, but to the public themselves if they make the children feel valued instead of devalued. They believe a monster instead of a child. She tried so hard to be happy and she had her two beautiful children. She just wanted so much to have a normal life."
The other two Houston churches named by SBC are Brentwood Baptist Church, where Joe Samuel Ratliff serves as pastor, and Cathedral of Faith the Church of New Beginnings, where Michael Lee Jones is the pastor and founder.