Disgraced Baptist pastor Royden Wood has this morning been sentenced to one year in jail and three years’ probation.
The former church minister was convicted of assault and sexual assault involving church members.
Last week, Wood — the former pastor at the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church — seemed unconcerned at the prospect of jail time.
“It was fun. It doesn’t scare me a bit,” he said, his wife Linda by his side.
“I had a good time there,” he said of his time awaiting bail. “I have an intense and passionate desire to help people and I was a tremendous blessing to many in jail. The other inmates were constantly asking me, ‘Why are you so happy?’ It’s easy to be in jail. It’s hard to be out here.”
Wood was convicted in April of nine assaults on three boys at the church’s alternative school in the 1980s, and three sex-related charges involving two female church members who had breasts touched over their clothing. Six more sexual assault charges were laid in July.
TUCSON, Ariz. — A Web site with a name like Puresextucson.com is not something you’d expect a Southern Baptist pastor to brag about.
But not only is 27-year-old Jeremiah McDuffie flaunting the site — created it.
McDuffie sent not-so-subtle mailers this week to 35,000 Tucson homes: postcards showing a photo of four feet peeking out from under bedcovers in a suggestive pose.
He also took out full-page advertisements in two local newspapers.
McDuffie, pastor of The Element Community Church, explains that he wants us to know that God wants them to have good sex.
Ultimately, he hopes to open up dialogue on a subject he says is too often regarded as taboo in houses of worship. Yet it’s also at the root of so many issues he hears about from worshippers and others who seek him out for pastoral counseling, he said.
“Sex wasn’t invented in a dark alley behind a porn shop. It’s part of God’s design,” McDuffie’s Web site says.
Not everyone has been happy to receive the mailers. The Catalina Baptist Association, the organization whose name is on the back of the flier, has received a few dozen irate calls, and The Element has had a few, too.
“The negative calls we’ve had were basically from people saying this was a subject we shouldn’t be dealing with in church, that it’s inappropriate,” said McDuffie, who confesses he was once a porn addict.
McDuffie’s in-your-face message is meant to attract people to a series of sermons about sex that he’ll be giving on consecutive Sundays beginning Sept. 7. The first one is titled, “The Greatest Sex You’ll Ever Have.“
It’s an interesting topic for a pastor whose one-year-old church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination with a conservative reputation.
McDuffie said that while he’ll be using the Bible in his sermons, he doesn’t plan on telling worshippers what they can and cannot do.
“This is not a ‘don’t have sex’ talk,” said McDuffie, who is restricting his sermons to those age 13 and older.
The Element is one of more than two dozen “plant” churches that the denomination has started in Tucson in recent years. The plant churches are typically contemporary in worship style — with rock bands instead of hymns and auditoriums rather than sanctuaries — and they don’t have the word “Baptist” in their names.
The Element is not the only such church talking about sex. Also on Sept. 7, two other local Baptist “plant churches” will hold events titled “Porn Sunday.”
One of those churches, CityEdge, is even having a wet-T-shirt contest in recognition of Porn Sunday.
“It’s actually just a couple of our guys being silly, wearing wet T-shirts,” said the Rev. Billy Creech, the 34-year-old pastor of CityEdge, which is just four months old.
But Creech said the message behind Porn Sunday is a serious one. Like McDuffie, he wants to broach subjects that are normally not discussed in church — at least not with frankness. Porn Sunday opens a series of sermons at CityEdge titled “The Unspeakable.” Other subjects include money, work and sex.
“Let’s stop hiding things and stop playing ‘church,’ ” Creech said. “People are tired of that. Instead of pointing fingers at what our culture is doing, we want to be real and talk about who we are in here.”
[Source] August 27, 2008 :
Disgraced Baptist church pastor Royden Wood will find out next week if he will headed to jail or staying at home to serve his sentence for assault and sex-related charges.
The former pastor at the Ambassador Baptist Church was in court today for his lengthy sentencing hearing after he was convicted in April of 12 charges.
Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton will hand down her decision on Tuesday.
During the hearing, Wood’s lawyer, Wendy Harris-Bentley, argued for a conditional sentence that would allow Wood to serve his time at home.
Harris-Bentley told Templeton that Wood is bipolar and has agreed to seek treatment for his mental illness.
Assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk said Wood should serve his time in jail and be supervised by a three-year probation order once he is released.
Templeton also heard victim-impact statements from Richard Howell, Norman Howell, and John Milonas, the three boys, now adults, who described how Wood’s violent discipline program has scarred their lives.
Nine of the counts involved repeated assaults on three boys who attended the church’s alternative school in the mid-1980s and were subject to Wood’s own discipline program that involved the pastor hitting, punching and pulling hairs out of their faces.
Two female church members were the victims in the three other charges where Wood grabbed their breasts.
Wood, who is currently out on bail, said outside court he isn’t afraid of more incarceration.
“I enjoyed jail. It was fun. It doesn’t scare me a bit,” he said.
“I had a good time there. I have an intense and passionate desire to help people and I was a tremendous blessing to many in jail.
“The other inmates were constantly asking me, ‘Why are you so happy?’”
For the latest local coverage, read The London Free Press on the web or in print.
[Source 1] August 21, 2008:
BRADENTON — A former youth minister was sentenced this afternoon to 120 days in the Manatee County jail and two years of probation for secretly videotaping girls as they undressed in his homes in Bradenton and Ellenton over a two-year period.
Matthew Porter, 31, was found guilty of nine counts of voyeurism, a misdemeanor. He had admitted to hiding video cameras in his bathroom and bedroom and taping girls between the ages of 12 and 16 changing clothes. Porter was a pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Bradenton.
Porter, who had sought to avoid jail time, apologized to family members of the victims who attended sentencing in the Manatee County courtroom.
Parents of the victims said their daughters had lost trust in adult men since the video cameras were discovered.
“It has hurt her very bad,” said the mother of one girl. “I saw that she posted on her MySpace page she would never trust a pastor again.”
Manatee County Judge George K. Brown Jr. said he believes Porter is remorseful, but deserved time behind bars for his “very disturbing” actions.
“These folks here are going to be affected by this for the rest of their lives,” Brown told Porter, who has been living with his family in Texas.
As part of his sentence, Porter must receive psychological counseling, must have no unsolicited contact with the victims or church members and may not possess video recording equipment.
[Source 2] Aug. 21, 2008:
Ex-pastor gets four months for voyeurism
BRADENTON – A former youth pastor accused of secretly taping Bible study students changing clothes in his Ellenton home was sentenced today to four months in jail and two years probation.
Matthew C. Porter, 31, of Ellenton, pleaded no contest to nine counts of misdemeanor voyeurism on July 7.
Circuit Judge George Brown issued the sentence at the Manatee County Judicial Center.
Porter resigned from Bethel Baptist Church after admitting he secretly videotaped his students ages 12 to 16, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The recordings, which took place over a period of two years, show the juveniles undressing and changing in the home, said Assistant State Attorney Erica Arend, head of the Manatee County misdemeanor division.
Prior to Porter’s plea, Brown denied a motion to suppress videotapes and other evidence from the case.
Brown ruled deputies had the right to enter Porter’s home to take DVD, VHS and and video recording equipment while he was out of town last summer.
Brown made his decision after Porter’s attorney, Henry Lee, filed a motion arguing authorities did not have a search warrant or Porter’s permission to enter his home in the 300 block of Sally Lee Drive.
Instead, a housesitter who found the tapes gave deputies consent to enter the home while Porter was in Mexico, Arend said.
Had Brown not allowed jurors to see the tapes, prosecutors mostly likely would have been forced to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence, she said.
Porter had been set to go to trial on the charges July 14.
MABANK — First Baptist Church of Mabank youth minister Joshua Neal Ponder, 32, was arrested Aug. 13, for sexual assault of a teenager.
Mabank Police Chief Kyle McAfee said Ponder confessed to charges related to a 16-year-old male victim.
The assault allegedly occurred April 8 but was not reported until Aug. 8, according to reports.
The teenager is not a member of the church.
The Rev. Brent Tucker of First Baptist Church of Mabank, Chairman of the Deacons Randy Teague and Minister of Music Chris Sweet conducted a press conference at the church Thursday. The three released a statement on behalf of the church.
“We are deeply saddened by the circumstances that involve Josh Ponder prior to and during his employment at FBC Mabank,” the statement read. “We lift up in prayer his family and those who have been affected. The FBC Mabank does not condone these alleged actions. …
“We have accepted the resignation of Ponder effective Aug. 14. We are in prayer for our youth and their parents at this time.”
Prior to his stint in Mabank, Ponder served as youth minister at First Baptist Church of Palestine from June 2001 to May 2007.
The Rev. Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Palestine, was notified of Ponder’s arrest late last week and said the church would cooperate with police in the investigation, if asked.
“We are shocked and saddened by this incident, and are praying for everyone involved,” Abernathy said Monday afternoon. “We have made counselors available to our youth and families who may be hurting and will be available to anyone in our church and community who wants to talk.
“We are working to respond to everyone hurt by this.”
Representing the Palestine church’s deacon ministry board, Steve Jenkins mirrored Rev. Abernathy’s sentiments in a statement made by phone Monday.
“As a church, we are saddened by the news of (Josh’s) arrest,” Jenkins said. “We are thankful for the prompt response of the Mabank Police Department and will assist them in any way possible to see that justice is served.
“We respect the need for privacy and healing in the lives of those affected and pray that others will also.”
Ponder remains in the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center charged with sexual assault of a child. Bail has been set at $200,000.
Mabank police are investigating possible instances of improper contact with other victims.
Over the past two years, Southern Baptist pastors are making more money, but the rates of inflation are not far behind the salary increases.
As reported by the Baptist Press and posted on Townhall.com, the Southern Baptist Convention organized a survey of more than 12,000 church staff members. The results of the survey, conducted by LifeWay Research and GuideStone Financial, found that Baptist senior pastors’ compensation has risen 7.26 percent since 2006, compared with the 7.01 percent hike in the Consumer Price Index, which is a major indicator of inflation.
By comparison, pastors who were not the senior pastor saw their compensation increase 12.24 percent over the two-year period. Full-time office personnel had a 9.55 percent increase, and custodians have benefited from a 9.92 percent increase.
Another finding of the survey is that two-thirds of Baptist churches are paying for their full-time pastors to have partial or full benefits. Of the two-thirds, 36 percent reported that their families get at least partial coverage, 19 percent report coverage for pastor and spouse and 10 percent indicate coverage for the pastor only. As for other insurance, 38 percent of senior pastors receiving coverage said they had life or accident insurance paid for by the church, 32 percent have a disability benefit, 27 percent have vision insurance and 12 percent have dental insurance.
Geographic region, weekly worship attendance and the pastor’s level of education seemed to determine most whether or not the pastor received benefits. The weekly attendance breakdown showed that one additional worshipper added to the average equals an additional $34 toward the senior pastor’s compensation. The average raise for an additional year of experience, however, was only $254.
Statistics were adjusted to account for the differences in church size.
August 11, 2008 | 3:01 pm
Have you heard? John McCain is going to church again.
Yep, his campaign wants you—conservative Christian voter—to know that he’s really a religious man. They know he’s uncomfortable talking about God, that he’s more fluent in the language of the non-God-fearing crowd, that he’s given aging Christian right leaders the heebie jeebies. And the best way to solve these campaign ills, they assume, is to publicly plop his tochis in a church pew.
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone’s politics writer, observed McCain one Sunday at North Phoenix Baptist Church for an article about the Republican nominee’s presidential dilemma.
Just a warning: You’ve got to wade through some stomach-wrenching turns of phrase. I’ve posted a (fairly) clean snippet after the jump:
he (McCain) only started going to church regularly a month ago and as recently as a year ago…