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Ga. pastor repents, church fires accused staff member

ASHBURN, Ga. (BP) — A Georgia pastor has confirmed the termination of a church staff member who allegedly “admitted to assaulting several young people years ago.” The pastor also apologized to the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC President J.D. Greear for having “failed my duty as a pastor in not taking action sooner.”

“My greatest failure during this time has been to the God I serve who gave His Son for me,” Pastor Rodney Brown of Trinity Baptist Church in Ashburn, Ga., said March 7 in a statement to Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newsjournal. “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 [alleged] acts and for any churches affected.”

Trinity Baptist was among 10 churches named by Greear in a Feb. 18 report on sexual abuse to the SBC Executive Committee. Following Greear’s report, Brown told Baptist Press he felt “shock” and “disappointment” because Greear had not contacted the church before naming it publicly.

Brown also told BP following Greear’s report the church’s minister of music allegedly confessed in 2013 or 2014 he had molested a “young teen” decades earlier and had repented. In response, Brown “fired him right there on the spot.” The man continued to attend the church, Brown said, though he was never allowed to be alone with children. At church leaders’ request, the church reinstated the man as minister of music, Brown said, adding the church felt the man was gifted for ministry.

Brown also said following Greear’s report that Trinity performed background checks on volunteers and staff and was “doing everything we can” to protect children.

A week later, Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director Thomas Hammond released a statement alleging Brown had fired the staff member at issue.

Brown confirmed the termination in his March 7 statement and said the former staff member “was also asked to immediately resign his church membership, which he did. He has been directed not to return to Trinity.”

“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,” Brown said.

“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,” Brown said.

Trinity is not aware of any abuse committed by the staff member at issue while he attended the church, Brown said.

Still, alleged “victims of the accused” have said Brown’s actions “injured” them, the pastor stated. As a result, “I have spent much time before God repenting for my actions.”

Brown apologized to the alleged victims, Greear, the SBC and the Georgia Baptist Convention, stating he “acted irresponsibly” and feels “deep sorrow.”

“I pray we can heal and become stronger in the protection of our children,” Brown said.