In the third and final part of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News’ devastating investigative report on the sex abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the newspapers turn their attention to youth pastors and youth ministers. They uncovered at least 100 Southern Baptist youth ministers currently in jail, have registered as sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes. In several cases, these predators were able to leave one church and get rehired at another church, since the SBC does not keep a database of former employees who’ve been accused of sexual abuse.
The newspapers detailed the story of a former youth pastor named Chad Foster, who preyed upon girls at two different Texas churches before getting arrested in 2013 after pleading guilty to three counts of sexual assault of a child and two counts of soliciting a minor online. He received just five years in prison and was released in 2017.
“My life has turned upside down. I can’t relate to what people are going through anymore. My innocence is gone,” one of Foster’s victims said in court. “I no longer have a relationship with God, and that was once something very special to me. I don’t trust anyone in churches anymore.” Foster had begun sending this victim sexually explicit texts and photos when she was only 12.
Another former youth pastor named Gary Welch is currently serving jail time for repeatedly having sex with a girl he started grooming when she was just 13 years old.
Two brothers — one who worked as a youth pastor, the other as a music minister — were arrested in 2015 for distributing sexually explicit photographs of their victims across state lines. Both were employed at several different churches over the course of the criminal investigation into accusations made against them.
Throughout the report, there’s a clear pattern of men being hired and ordained by churches that do not perform rigorous background checks or provide any training in how to work with children and adolescents. The first church to hire Foster fired him over “inappropriate behavior” but still gave him a “sterling reference” when he went to work for another church. The former church claims it was not aware of Foster’s interactions with teenagers when they fired him. Both churches were involved in confidential settlements with the families of Foster’s victims.
You can read part one and part two of the reports here.