March 29, 2019
By Lise Olsen
For the past few months, pastor Steve Swofford of First Baptist Church in Rockwall has led a national search committee tasked with finding a leader to guide the Southern Baptist Convention through a national sex abuse crisis.
That six-member committee is expected to name a new president of the SBC Executive Committee on April 2 — weeks after the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News published an investigation into sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. In response to the series, “Abuse of Faith,” other SBC leaders already have promised to probe churches whose leaders knowingly harbored child abusers.
But Swofford has never spoken publicly about a scandal closer to home: allegations that a former youth pastor and the youth pastor’s assistant each molested prepubescent boys from his own church in the 1990s, according to interviews and information the Chronicle obtained from civil lawsuits and Harris County criminal records.
Swofford has been pastor of the church east of Dallas since 1989, according to the church’s web site. Though allegations made by one former youth group member received publicity after his family filed suit in 2015, most of what was alleged about the two men’s sexual abuse of minors in Swofford’s church in the late 1980s and early 1990s has not before been reported.
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