Southern Baptist Convention’s list of alleged abusers includes Mid-South ministers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention published a list of ministers accused of sexual misconduct Thursday night.

MORE: Report reveals handling of abuse allegations by Southern Baptist Convention

More than half a dozen ministers listed have ties to the Mid-South.

The following information is from the SBC’s alleged abuser list.

In 2001, a grand jury handed down criminal indictments of rape and three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure against Steven C. Haney, 47, for assaulting a 15-year-old boy. Haney was a former pastor at Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Cordova. He registered as a sex offender in Tennessee. Haney was convicted of a 2003 sexual battery by an authority figure and of a 2001 rape in state court.

Edward Earl “Eddie” Prince, a pastor at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Hernando, Mississippi, was arrested on possession of child pornography charges. He was listed as a sex offender in Mississippi for a 2013 conviction of child exploitation.

Andy Savage, a teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, a nondenominational congregation, resigned after admitting to the congregation that in 1998 as youth minister at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church near Houston, now known as Stonebridge Church, he had a sexual incident with a high school student. Since the statute of limitations had expired, no charges were filed.

READ MORE: Andy Savage accuser speaks out, calls for his ordination to be revoked

MORE: Memphis pastor who admitted to sexual assault reportedly starting a new church

Larry Singleton, a pastor at Bay Springs Baptist Church in Abbeville, Mississippi, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the sexual battery of a boy. Bay Springs Baptist Church is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Singleton volunteered at an extension campus of Gateway Christian Schools, sponsored by the independent Gateway Baptist Church, Memphis.

Demarcus Smith, a pastor at Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, was sentenced to 85 months in prison on child pornography possession charges in 2015.

In 2007, Luke A. Cooke, a youth pastor, was indicted on rape and aggravated sexual battery charges involving an 8-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl. Cooke fled the country. In 2015, he fled to China, Morocco, and Albania after being indicted on sex crimes charges in Shelby County. In 2015, he was brought back from Albania by U.S. marshals and convicted in Tennessee of “coercion or enticement of a minor” for having transported a juvenile with the intent of engaging in illegal sexual activity and sentenced to 138 months. He is serving out his sentence in federal prison.

In 2006, Paul Williams, an assistant pastor, minister of prayer and special projects at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, admitted he was guilty of sexually abusing his son in 1990. Bellevue leaders told the church Williams had committed a “moral Failure” that required his leave of absence and an investigation into the allegations. Pastor Steve Gaines told the congregation Williams had confessed the misconduct to him six months earlier. He received criticism for not reporting the abuse earlier. Williams was later fired.

READ MORE: Southern Baptist Scandal: Mid-South pastor responds to allegations he covered up sex abuse

Larry Michael Berkley, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Harrison, Arkansas, and a former pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Henning, Tennessee, was arrested for abuse of over a dozen boys as young as 14 and 18. Police say he plied them with alcohol and marijuana and showed them porn to gain compliance. Berkley was convicted of 16 crimes, including four counts of aggravated statutory rape and four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure. He was sentenced to 33 years and incarcerated in Tennessee. He was required to register as a sex offender.

In 2006, Timothy Neal Byars, 44, a minister of youth, education, and music at Springhill Baptist Church in Dyersburg, Tennessee, was arrested on charges of rape, sexual battery by an authority figure, and aggravated statutory rape (14 and 19-year-old sisters). Byars is a registered sex offender in Tennessee for rape and for an attempt to commit sexual battery. The crimes that were reported in two different cities on two consecutive nights in November 2006. Byars served two years in prison.

Heath Tyler Ransom, a youth minister intern at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, was accused of contacting four minors and attempting to persuade them to engage in sexual activity. He registered as a sex offender in Tennessee for a 2017 conviction of criminal attempt to commit solicitation of a minor. He was listed as a felony offender and is on probation through 2025.

In 2015, Nathaniel Hull Jr., a preacher’s son at First Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas, was arrested for the rape of a 13- year old girl. DNA confirmed the victim’s baby belongs to Hull.

Michael Shane Casabella, a youth pastor at North Corinth Baptist Church and principal of North Corinth Christian Academy, was arrested and convicted of fondling, sexual battery, and exploitation of a child in Mississippi and is serving an eight-year prison sentence. Casabella was arrested in the Houston, Texas area by U.S. marshals in 2018, according to news reports.

A nearly 300-page report released Sunday found that the organization ignored claims of sexual abuse by ministers and church leaders for the past two decades.

MORE: Southern Baptist Convention to release names of 703 ministers accused of sexual abuse

Willie McLaurin, the Executive Committee’s interim president and CEO, issued a formal public apology to all those who suffered sexual abuse within the SBC, which has a membership of over 47,000 churches.

“We are sorry to the survivors for all we have done to cause pain and frustration,” he said. “Now is the time to change the culture. We have to be proactive in our openness and transparency from now.”

CLICK HERE to read the complete list.

CLICK HERE for the Sexual Abuse Task Force Report Resources

The following is the joint statement from Rolland Slade, SBC Executive Committee chairman, and Willie McLaurin, interim president/CEO of the SBC Executive Committee:

The recently released Guidepost report revealed a list of alleged abusers compiled by a former employee of the SBC Executive Committee. This list is being made public for the first time as an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention. Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.

Our God invites us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8). As a network of Great Commission churches, we are commissioned to live out the Great Commandment and to fulfill the Great Commission. It is our hope that releasing this list places a spotlight on truth and transparency. Southern Baptists have made it clear that transparency in the area of sex abuse should be the norm.

We are releasing the list in the exact form that it was provided to Guidepost Solutions by an Executive Committee staff member. We have not made any additions to the list, nor any alterations other than converting it from Microsoft Word to portable document format (“pdf”) format and redacting information as detailed below.

In making redaction decisions, counsel to the Executive Committee included, in their entirety, entries that reference an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry. The only exception to those entries is the redaction of names or identifying information of survivors and/or other individuals unrelated to the offender. Many of the entries list either an arrest or charges, but no disposition. Since May 24, 2022, counsel to the Executive Committee has done preliminary research and, where guilty pleas, convictions, judgments, sentences, and/or inclusion on a sex offender registry could be easily verified, the entry was left unredacted. Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fits within the described parameters have been redacted. Entries that do not relate to sexual abuse or that resulted in an acquittal are also redacted.

We note that there will be more exhaustive research and analysis of the redacted entries and we anticipate that some of the redacted entries will be fully released in the future. We felt it was more important to release the list and redact rather than delay and investigate.