Prestonwood Baptist Church Minister, Joe Barron, has been arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor in a sting operation. The girl turned out to be a Bryan police officer working in an ongoing Internet sex sting, pretending to be a thirteen year-old girl. Mr. Barron, 52 years old, had been one of 40 ministers in the 26,000 member mega-church in Plano Texas for the last eighteen months, ministering to married adults, prior to his arrest on May 15, 2008. Mr. Barron was nabbed by police after driving about 200 miles from Plano to Bryan to meet with a girl he thought to be thirteen years old, having asked the girl to skip school and meet him.
Inside the car Mr. Barron borrowed from his wife, police found a box of 10 condoms, a Web camera and headset that authorities believe he was going to give the girl, police said. Bryan police Officer Lesley Malinak, a Police Department spokeswoman commented, “It is common for people that are engaged in this type of activity” to give gifts to the minors that “they are grooming.”
Pastor Jack Graham has since accepted Mr. Barron’s resignation from Prestonwood Baptist Church, telling church members, “You need to know that we are appalled and we are disgraced by this terrible action, an unacceptable action by a minister on our staff. I’m so sorry for the injury that this kind of behavior has brought to many people in our church and outside of our church.”
The pastor said he was eager to move on, promising church members that the church would continue to make sure it hired ministers and staff of the “highest character”. “We want to put this in the rearview mirror,” Graham said. “We will handle anything we need to handle in terms of our responsibilities and obligations, and any ongoing investigation”.
Prestonwood’s executive pastor, Mike Buster said in a prepared statement, “church officials had no record or knowledge of prior improprieties, nor had they observed any inappropriate behavior in the time Mr. Barron worked on staff.” If convicted, Mr. Barron could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the second-degree felony. Bryan police also are investigating and looking into whether Mr. Barron may have engaged in previous sexual contact with minors, but at this time Mr. Barron does not appear to have a criminal history.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has in recent years expanded its focus, with attention to abuse by Baptist pastors. “Baptist officials, we believe, need to compile a thorough, online database of proven, admitted and credibly accused pedophile clergy, so that kids can be protected and parents can be warned,” said David Clohessy, SNAP national director.
It will be interesting to see whether SNAP will be able to accomplish the goal of having an online pedophile database in order to help protect children from child molesters, by clergy and priests, and I do applaud and support their efforts. I am personally looking forward to seeing the day when an already established, yet secret pedophile database of Jehovah’s Witnesses will become public knowledge. Perhaps then I will believe something of real benefit is being done to protect children, yours and mine. Who is really knocking on your door?
Do you really know who is ministering to you and your children? When attending church, are you with your children at all times, or are you in a separate classroom while your children are being taught elsewhere within the church? But by whom really?