Broken Arrow church reopens alleged sex abuse case

Broken Arrow Sentinel [Broken Arrow OK]

April 7, 2024

By John Dobberstein

The First Baptist of Broken Arrow is reopening its investigation of alleged sexual misconduct by one of its ministers that took place more than a decade ago.

First Baptist-BA says the allegations pertain to actions that took place during the timeframe 2003-06 timeframe and involved a former college and singles minister. The minister was terminated after the alleged behavior came to light.

“The individual who has brought this to us was a teenager in our church during this timeframe and part of our high school student ministry,” First Baptist-BA says. “While there are many aspects yet-to-be-determined, we have confirmed that some level of sexual contact took place between this teenager and (the minister), resulting in his termination in 2006.”

The church read a lengthy statement to parishioners earlier this year announcing new steps would be taken.

The church has chosen to identify the alleged abuser publicly “so relevant witnesses can come forward” and to prevent speculation about which former staff member was being accused.

“Naming an abuser is not a de facto judgment on allegations, rather it is the means by which a thorough weighing of evidence can take place,” the church says. 

The Sentinel is not naming the alleged offender at this time because no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Allegations resurface

The Southern Baptist Convention has in recent years been dealing with the reality of sexual abuse that occurred in its churches, “and First Baptist is now walking through this exact issue related to allegations of sexual abuse in our church’s past,” the church’s statement said.

First Baptist-BA says current church leaders first learned of the allegations in 2021 through a social media post and immediately reported the allegations to law enforcement, “who advised us that there was no action which they could take.”

According to the Baptist Press, a Broken Arrow Police Department spokesperson said there were no arrest reports for charges related to sexual abuse filed in that time span for the suspect.

Law enforcement did meet with church leaders in the summer of 2021 and conducted field interviews over the allegation, the Press reported, but an investigator was not assigned to the case.

“We then reached out to the woman who had shared her story. She graciously and courageously met with members of our leadership team,” the church says. 

This initial report and meeting with the woman took place just over two years ago. The church says it listened to the allegations and offered to take “additional steps” when she felt comfortable moving forward. 

The woman contacted the church again last August and asked that the minister accused of the assault be reported to the Southern Baptist Convention. She also asked for First Baptist-BA’s policies and procedures for abuse prevention and response “be analyzed and accounted for,” the church says. 

The woman also asked the church to provide, “tangible consideration for the suffering she has experienced.” 

Church leaders say they worked collaboratively with the woman for a few months until concrete steps were taken. 

First Baptist-BA says it engaged with “experts in this arena,” including a nationally recognized abuse survivor who has worked closely with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Abuse Reform Task Force, “and has guided multiple Christian organizations through appropriately responding to these types of allegations.”

First Baptist-BA also engaged with “nationally recognized legal counsel” who have worked with many churches in these types of matters and contacted with the church’s prior leadership and reached out to the former minister about the allegations.

Additionally, the church has hired an independent third-party organization to ensure a thorough investigation and assessment. The firm is GRACE, or Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment — which is a church investigations organization. 

A church spokesperson said the independent investigation will assess the church’s prior awareness of the allegations and how our church responded once the circumstances were discovered. 

“We believe it is extremely important for an outside organization, not us, to review, assess and advise with respect to the credibility of these allegations and to help us identify any areas where we can better live out our commitment to care for the vulnerable,” the church told members earlier this year.

Policies to be examined

The original abuse complaint from the victim to the church was reportedly not provided to Broken Arrow police initially, and it’s unclear if church members were notified about the allegations at that time.

A spokesperson for the church said church family and others who may have been victims or may have information about additional cases to report them to GRACE. 

“We can say that we recognize behavior does not have to meet a criminal standard for it to be defined as abusive. We would want the investigation to make that determination in this case,” the church spokesperson said. 

Church officials would not comment if its policies were violated in the way the case was handled in 2006, stating a desire “to protect the integrity of the law investigation.”

“As we said in our statement, we did receive external validation that some level of sexual contact occurred that led to his dismissal. This why our church’s current and past responses will be assessed as part of this investigation,” First Baptist Church-BA said. 

GRACE’s investigation will focus on performing a factual examination and credibility assessment of the allegations against the former minister.

GRACE will also assess the church’s prior awareness of the allegations and how it responded once the circumstances were discovered, and assess the church’s “present environment and culture” in responding to this abuse with recommendations for any changes to policies and practices with respect to abuse in the church.

Church leaders have also asked anyone who may have “potentially relevant” information about the allegations and the minister to call GRACE’s lead investigator. 

Once the investigation is complete, the church says it will share GRACE’s “relevant findings” with church members, which may come sometime this summer.

Anyone with  information relevant to this case to contact, GRACE’s lead investigator, Robert Peters, at