Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes

Church leaders worry that there is no system in place within the Southern Baptist Convention to stop people like Davies. Each church is, for the most part, autonomous, so there is no tight connection with the other churches.

StopBaptistPredators.org

Brown, abused herself when she was 16, went on to form an organization called Stop Baptist Predators, because in her search for justice, she found that the Southern Baptist Convention had no central office, no readily available list of preachers under investigation or even convicted, and no one to help investigate allegations like hers.

Brown said this system allows preacher predators to move from church to church, seduce the devout and the young, and often get away with it.

Ken Ward is a Southern Baptist pastor and teacher in East Texas, who has admitted to molesting more than 40 boys. He said that being a teacher and minister is the perfect job for a child molester, because it puts the molester in direct contact with young people. "I [was] attracted to a certain child, and in my case, it was primarily prepubescent boys," he said.

Ward is now under house arrest, after serving five years in state prison. He wears a GPS monitor so that he can be tracked by the sheriff's department, and he cannot be around children anywhere, even in public.

Ward agreed to talk to "20/20" to give insight to parents on how to spot a predator. He said that parents aren't worrying about the right things. "The idea of a guy in the park with a trench coat on or driving by slowly trying to get a child … I've never even dreamed of doing that. … I've never touched a stranger," he said.

'It's God's Little Secret'

Ward preyed on children for decades. One of his victims, Tommy Lee Burt, came forward about the abuse as an adult. He believes that Ward damaged him for life, and used his God to abuse him. "You're struggling as a kid and you want to get up and he is telling you, 'No.' When I would try to leave, he would tell me it's God's little secret," Burt said.

Burt added that he never really recovered, and last year he, himself, was arrested for solicitation of a minor and pleaded guilty to sending obscene material to a police officer posing as a 14-year-old.

There is no way of knowing how many Ken Wards are out there. The Southern Baptist Convention does not keep records, and local churches often seem to be in denial -- such as one church in Denton, Texas, where the minister publicly confessed to "making a terrible mistake" last November after a woman sued, claiming she'd been raped as a teen.

Church members responded by throwing the minister a retirement party and raised $50,000 as a "love offering." To this day, he has a church building named after him.

The Southern Baptist Convention said the problem is neither widespread nor systemic, despite a recent rash of cases. But just last week, a pastor of a Florida church -- Lyle Whittaker -- committed suicide after he was charged with sexually abusing an 11-year-old-girl.

The Local Level

Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a minister himself. He told "20/20" that independent congregations present a challenge when it comes to tracking preacher predators. The organization has yet to create a national database of preacher predators. "We have no such database and again, we encourage churches to investigate. … They have to do background checks," he said.

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