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Steven Smith to step down as pastor of Immanuel Baptist, Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP) – Steven Smith’s final Sunday as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock will be April 7, he announced to the congregation March 27.

Smith came to the church in January 2017. In recent months Immanuel has been embroiled in controversy over allegations that leadership withheld instances of abuse from its congregation. Reports have emerged of large numbers of families with children leaving as well as deacons being barred from meetings

“Ashley and I have spent considerable time thinking and praying about what is best for the church; about what will diffuse the current situation and allow Immanuel to heal. We want to do what will help the church unify,” Smith wrote.

“… Please know that this has not been an easy decision, but a decision that came with much prayer, tears, and godly counsel.”

Former staff member Patrick Miller withdrew his petition on Jan. 30 to seal his criminal record over abuse allegations. In March 2016, a young member of the church stepped forward and accused Miller – who had left the church two months earlier – of having inappropriately touched her the previous summer during a game of hide-and-seek at the church.

Another victim came forward in 2018. Their attorney, at the time a Sunday School teacher at Immanuel, said more victims may have stepped forward had church leadership not withheld the news of Miller’s abuse. 

Immanuel leadership established a Child Safety and Sexual Abuse Prevention program, but in December severed its relationship with the attorney it had selected to help with the program after it was revealed that lawyer was involved in the defense of reality TV star Josh Duggar from child pornography charges.

After departing Immanuel, Miller was subsequently hired by First Baptist Church in Moore, Okla., where he was associate kids pastor until August 2018. In a written statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the church’s pastor from that time stated that no one from Immanuel alerted him to the accusations against Miller.