Editor’s Note: In support of the sixth strategic action of Vision 2025 adopted by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting, Baptist Press will continue to report every instance of sexual abuse related to Southern Baptist churches, entities, institutions or leaders of which we are made aware.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated after initial publication to include a statement from First Baptist Church Bentonville, Ark.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (BP) – A former youth pastor at an Arkansas church has pleaded guilty to 13 sex-related crimes involving minors.
Keenan Hord, 33, served as youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Bentonville, Ark., from 2018-2022.
At his hearing Friday, Feb. 24, one of Hord’s victims gave an impact statement, as did the mothers of four other victims, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren ordered Hord to register as a sex offender and not to have contact with any of the victims or any children, the Democrat-Gazette reported. He faces 60 years in prison, and is eligible for parole in 15 years.
At Hord’s bond hearing last August, Bentonville police Sgt. Josh Woodham testified that Hord’s cellphone contained at least 5,000 text conversations with one boy as well as messages with as many as 30 others.
A warrant for Hord’s arrest was issued Aug. 23, 2022, a few days after First Baptist Bentonville made a report to the Arkansas State Police child abuse hotline.
“We have been devastated to learn that a former employee of our church has been credibly accused of abusing adolescents during his tenure at our church.,” First Baptist Bentonville said in a statement to Baptist Press at the time. “While these accusations did not come to light until after his employment ended, when we learned of them we immediately contacted our local authorities, made a report to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, and continue to fully support the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”
In a statement released to Baptist Press today (Feb. 28), the church said: “We are so proud of the courageous survivors and their families for coming forward and we are grateful to law enforcement for thoroughly investigating these crimes. We know that our Lord is the God of all comfort and we know that He is near to the broken-hearted. We have been honored to minister to and support these families as they heal. God is not neutral on the abuse of the innocent and we rest in His justice.”
Hord also served on staff at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., from 2011-2016. He served first as an intern and then became student pastor of Bellevue’s Arlington, Tenn., campus in 2014. At this time, there are no reports of any criminal activity during Hord’s time at Bellevue.
If you are/have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, please reach out for help at 202-864-5578 or [email protected]. All calls are confidential.