SBU Investigates ‘Imposed’ Trustee - Word&Way

SBU Investigates ‘Imposed’ Trustee

(WW) – Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, announced Feb. 22 it would hold a special-called meeting of its Board of Trustees on Monday (Feb. 24) to consider actions regarding a new trustee accused of mishandling the sexual misconduct case of another church staffer. The trustee, Mike Roy, was one of five chosen by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Nominating Committee in October in replacement of trustees nominated by SBU. That nominating decision was not only a shift in process, but messengers were misinformed by the Nominating Committee about the decision.

Eric Turner at MBC

Southwest Baptist University President Eric Turner shares the school’s report with MBC annual meeting messengers (Facebook Live screen shot)

The Feb. 22 statement by SBU President Eric Turner noted the school learned Feb. 21 that “a newly-elected trustee may have mishandled child sexual abuse allegations against one of his staff members in 2005.” Turner said the school and trustee board “are taking immediate action” to “make sure we do the right thing.” He noted that this trustee was one the MBC chose when it rejected SBU’s nominating slate.

“The new trustee was part of the slate of trustees the MBC unilaterally imposed upon SBU without SBU input or approval,” Turner explained in the statement. “Our pre-vetted trustee nominations were rejected and replaced with nominees we were told were vetted by the Nominating Committee of the MBC.”

Turner added they have urged the MBC’s leadership to “take appropriate action.” He also expressed SBU’s support of victims of abuse, adding that “we pray for those affected by any church leader abusing his position of trust.”

SBU’s statement does not name Roy as the trustee or offer details. However, Word&Way also learned about the allegations before SBU’s statement. In 2005, Shawn Davies was convicted on charges including statutory sodomy, sex with a minor, and sexual abuse stemming from allegations involving at least 13 boys at four churches. Davies served time in prison in both Kentucky and Missouri. At the time of his arrest, he was the music and youth minister at First Baptist Church in Greenwood, Missouri, where he had been hired by Roy, the new SBU trustee now being investigated.

After sending Davies to prison, police also reportedly considered investigating Roy because they said he allowed Davies to continue to work around children for four months after they informed Roy of their investigation into Davies. A police detective said at the time that the nine-month investigation into Davies faced setbacks from Roy’s uncooperativeness. A quick online search of Roy pulls up several articles related to the Davies case.

Roy and Davies previously met while students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. At least seven boys at Roy’s church were victimized by Davies, who was hired in 2003 while already under investigation in Kentucky. Roy left FBC shortly after the Davies conviction, and today is pastor of Pathway Church in Raymore, Missouri.

In February 2019, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found 220 Southern Baptist church staff members and volunteers — including Davies — who were convicted or pled guilty in cases of sexual abuse or misconduct from 1998-2018. The database sparked news across the country, resulted in dozens of more cases being reported, and led the SBC to launch efforts to prevent sexual abuse and punish churches that condone leaders guilty of sexual abuse. On Feb. 18, 2020, the SBC’s Executive Committee voted for the first time to remove a church from the SBC because of sexual abuse charges. The action targeted Ranchland Heights Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, which knowingly hired and kept a pastor who is a registered sex offender after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault against two girls.

Misleading Claims on Nominating Process

At the MBC annual meeting in Branson in October that led to the election of Roy, the MBC’s Nominating Committee offered a slate of five candidates different from those nominated by SBU. The school’s trustees had complained in a statement a week before the annual meeting that they had not yet heard about the nominations. Once SBU learned the next day their entire slate was rejected, SBU and MBC leaders worked on a compromise slate, but the Nominating Committee also rejected that to instead push their five nominees. In remarks at the MBC meeting before the trustee vote, Turner expressed his disappointment in the process.

The chair of the Nominating Committee, Ryan Kunce, pushed back in remarks at the MBC meeting by claiming they followed their rules and picked those they “believe will best serve Missouri Baptists and will hold our entities accountable.” Kunce, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Bethany, argued his committee does not “rubber-stamp” names from institutions, and he insisted his committee “does not use a self-nominating board system.” He added that his committee’s process worked to “safeguard biblical integrity.”

However, Word&Way confirmed with previous members of the Nominating Committee that the process Kunce criticized — the committee double-checking and then affirming nominations from the institutions — was actually the normal process. Additionally, Word&Way confirmed with multiple other institution heads that they had in 2019 submitted nominations and the Nominating Committee had, in fact, put those same names forward. Kunce ignored multiple requests from Word&Way asking why SBU was treated differently in 2019 than other institutions, and why he inaccurately claimed what SBU requested was not the normal process.

While Kunce criticized what he called a “self-nominating” process, the committee he led put forth a slate that included himself as a nominee for trustee at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Word&Way learned that some individuals rejected as nominees for SBU were told they could not serve because they are members at a church that has not affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (their church instead adopted the 1963 version). However, the forms for the MBC Nominating Committee do not actually require that. While nominees must confirm they attend a church that financially supports the MBC, the question about the BF&M only asks if they individually are “in agreement” with it, not if their church has adopted it.

The question of adopting the BF&M 2000 has been pushed by some SBU critics upset after Turner and other administrators in November 2018 fired professor Clint Bass after he was found in violation of the faculty handbook for an effort with some MBC leaders to push out other SBU theology professors. One member of the MBC Nominating Committee is Ted Bachman, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar. Bass served as an elder at Southern Hills along with Bachman and Kyle Lee, who the SBU Board of Trustees removed as a trustee last year for violating the Board’s conflict of interest policy in the handling of Bass’s case.