FREDERICK, Md. (ABP) – The former pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Maryland pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to sexually abusing a girl in his congregation.
Joe Nix Ivey, 74, of Walkersville, Md., confessed to a second-degree sex offense in a plea bargain, according to the Frederick News-Post. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of second-degree assault and sex abuse of a minor.
Ivey was pastor of Barnesville Baptist Church for more than 10 years before resigning last September after he was charged with having sexual contact with a girl who was either 10 or 11 years old. The assault occurred while the two watched a movie together at his home.
Ivey, known to parishioners as “Pastor Joe,” initially denied allegations of abuse, but after questioning admitted engaging in sexual contact with the girl and gave investigators a statement, prompting a warrant for his arrest.
According to court documents quoted by local media, the girl spent the night at Ivey’s house during a snowstorm. The next morning, Ivey's wife left and he allegedly initiated sexual contact with the girl for half an hour. After hearing the story the girl’s mother called police, who arranged a monitored phone call between the girl and Ivey. When the 11-year-old asked him if she should tell anyone, he replied “this is between you, me and God," according to the arresting document.
Ivey was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but four years suspended. After release he will be on five years of supervised probation and must register as a sex offender.
The Barnesville Baptist Church website describes the congregation as “a traditional, evangelical Southern Baptist church” whose members “fully concur with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.” The church is affiliated with Montgomery Baptist Association and the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. It frequently ranks among leaders in giving to missions per-capita.
“By now most BBC members and friends are aware of the situation that has resulted in the resignation of our senior pastor,” said an article in September’s edition of the church newsletter. “It is difficult to know how to process the shock and sadness that we all feel.”
Founded in 1871, the church today has 126 members and average attendance of 96, according to its listing on the SBC Executive Committee’s church-search online database.
“For 140 years Barnesville Baptist Church has been a light atop our hill,” the church newsletter article added. “God has blessed us with a strong sense of unity and love for one another. We can walk through this valley together if we lean on Him.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.