Anti-abuse group archives member stories

Associated Baptist Press

By Bob Allen

A victims’ advocate says she believes it’s important to talk about a Southern Baptist megachurch’s mishandling of alleged child sex abuse 25 years ago so other churches don’t repeat the same mistakes today.

“This is a story that needs to be told to protect other kids,” Amy Smith, a Baptist representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in an August interview posted Oct 22 on her blog.

Smith, 45, shared her story in an oral history project commemorating the 25th anniversary of SNAP, a support and advocacy group formed during the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal that today boasts 12,000 members in various denominations.

Smith said her involvement with SNAP began about four years ago, when she started acting on something that had been bothering her for a long time. While she was in college her youth choir director and close friend to her family left their church abruptly in 1989 without explanation.

Rumors circulated that he was fired after confessing that he had molested several boys. “We were very upset, hearing that he had done these horrible things, yet not knowing what to do with that knowledge,” she said.

“How could this be?” she remembered feeling. “How could this person that I looked up to, that I loved as a friend, really, like a family member — and feeling very betrayed and angry — and then he’s gone. We didn’t get to say goodbye. He’s gone.”

Smith said it wasn’t addressed publicly by the church staff or from the pulpit, so she “just kind of dealt with it privately and internally.”

“I got on with my life, but it always bothered me: where he was and what he was doing,” she said. “And the fear that maybe he could be harming other kids.”

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