Pastor arrested on molestation charge - Word&Way

Pastor arrested on molestation charge

ST. LOUIS (ABP) — A Southern Baptist pastor in St. Louis faces between five and 15 years in prison on a charge that he inappropriately touched a child younger than 4.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office issued warrants Aug. 20 on Terry McDowell, 48, alleging one count of Child Molestation in the First Degree. Police said McDowell was being held on $50,000 bond.

McDowell, pastor of Gateway Southern Baptist Church, is accused of inappropriately touching the child while she was alone with him at his home in St. Louis County. A police press release described McDowell as "a trusted family friend" of the victim and said that he and his wife had been babysitting the child for the last two years.

The arrest followed a three-month investigation, which began with a hotline referral from the Missouri Department of Social Services. The incident is alleged to have occurred between January and May of this year.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the victim reported the incident to her parents. They took her to a pediatrician, who reported it to social services.

McDowell has reportedly cooperated with police but made no admission of guilt. An investigator quoted by the newspaper said the victim called McDowell "Pops" because he babysat with her for so long. The officer said the victim's family is not connected to the church and that police "have no strong indications" that there are other victims. Police asked anyone who believes they may have been a victim of sexual crime by McDowell to call 314-889-2341.

McDowell warned on the church website that he isn't perfect.

"We are a church of second chances for individuals and families," McDowell wrote in a message on the welcome page. "But beware, NO perfect people are at Gateway. Know this, Real People, just like YOU, are discovering their new beginning in every area of life: spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and in their families."

Founded in 1971, Gateway Southern Baptist Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Missouri Baptist Convention and St. Louis Metro Baptist Association.

In addition to duties at the church, McDowell has officiated at numerous weddings around the St. Louis metropolitan area. In a recent interview with the Ultimate St. Louis Bride Guide, McDowell said he performed 18 weddings in 2009 and had already done 20 weddings this year with 12 more booked.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.