In a stunning but welcome turn of events, last night Trinity Baptist (Ashburn, GA) pastor Rodney Brown released a statement in the Georgia Christian Index apologizing for his handling of a situation with a staff member accused of sexual abuse. Brown apologized and asked for forgiveness from a number of different people during the course of his statement: David Pittman and the other victims, SBC President J.D. Greear, the entire SBC, and the Georgia Baptist Convention.
The situation at Trinity Baptist gained attention when J.D. Greear listed the church in his address to the SBC Executive Committee almost two weeks ago. The churches were named as part of a request for inquiry because they had been described in the Houston Chronicle as not having handled abuse cases well in the past. Several victims had come forward saying the church’s music minister had abused them years prior at other churches.
Initially Rodney Brown told Baptist Press he was ‘shocked’ and ‘discouraged’. In a Facebook video, he said he was angry at Greear for including Trinity Baptist in the list. He said he had gotten apologetic calls from a few SBC leaders and proudly told his church the bylaws workgroup had said ‘no further inquiry‘ was necessary.
But a few days later Georgia Baptist Executive Director Thomas Hammond released a statement signaling a significant shift in his view of the situation – which now appears to be a precursor and possible catalyst for Rodney Brown’s change of heart.
Brown’s statement seems thoroughly repentant and appears to be the words of a man who honestly realizes his error. Trinity Baptist removed the staff member in question and asked him not to return to the church premises. I’m thankful for the intervention of those who worked with Pastor Brown and ultimately to God for granting him the understanding and change of heart to take this seriously and ask for forgiveness. May Rodney Brown serve as an example for pastors who have mishandled abuse accusations in the past because this kind of open, humble repentance is the godly way forward when serious mistakes have been made.
Full text of statement below, as printed in the Christian Index:
From the desk of Pastor Rodney Brown, Trinity Baptist Church Ashburn, GA:
I am pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Ashburn, Georgia. Recently I have come to realize that I failed my duty as pastor in not taking action against an individual who had been accused of child abuse in the past at another church. This was because of my long?standing friendship with the accused.
Other victims have now come forward naming this person and he has admitted to assaulting several young people many years ago. I now realize that what I first thought was an isolated incident was much more. I should have understood that earlier and not doing so was a great mistake on my part. I cannot apologize enough for my actions.
Although there has never been any known abuse at Trinity, the person accused has been terminated from the staff at Trinity. He was also asked to immediately resign his church membership, which he did. He has been directed not to return to Trinity.
I have injured the victims of the accused by my actions, especially Mr. David P, who brought this to my attention. I have spent much time before God repenting for my actions. I now ask David P and the other victims for forgiveness for my acting so irresponsibly.
I also must ask Southern Baptist Convention President Dr. J.D. Greear and the SBC in general, along with the Georgia Baptist Convention, to forgive my actions. I have acted irresponsibly toward them in the past few weeks and I truly express my deep sorrow for that. I pray we can heal and become stronger in the protection of our children.
My greatest failure during this time has been to the God I serve who gave His Son for me. This situation has greatly changed my thinking as pastor. I realize that friendship can never override the duties God has given me to protect those we serve in His name. My prayer is for God’s mercy and healing for the victims of these terrible acts and for any churches affected.