A conference held by the Southern Baptist Convention voted on Tuesday to bar a pastor currently under indictment for charges related to a 1991 sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl, the organization announced.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SBC Board Chairman Owen Strachan announced that Bishop Rex Long, of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, had been removed from the denomination’s North America Conference by a vote of 3-2, with one abstention. Long was previously a member of the board of directors of the event, but his position was not formally removed until after the vote.
“This body has concluded that a person’s previous sexual abuse of a child cannot be justified even if their criminal acts have not been reported to law enforcement,” Strachan said during a public meeting at the time. “We have absolutely no justification whatsoever for a person with a history of sexual abuse of a child being a member of this body or the North America Conference.”
Dr. Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the AJC that when Long was elected in 2011, he was suspended from ordination and his credentials revoked until he finished an eight-year sentence for a conviction for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. At the time, Long was the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, which was the same church where now-former Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent his son when he was in middle school.
The day before the decision, Long’s son, Tre Long, announced his decision to leave his father’s church, where he had served as an assistant pastor, after months of tension with church leadership.
Long was first arrested in January 1991, when the 12-year-old victim told her parents that Long had tried to take her off the street and into his house. He pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and served a prison sentence in Alabama before being released. In 2011, Long was later indicted for defrauding the IRS, but as the AJC reported, he entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which would have avoided a trial if he did not violate the agreement.
Long, who lost his 2012 re-election as chairman of the North America Conference, has since apologized for the conduct in a statement.
“No words can adequately express my sincere regret for all of these mistakes,” he said in a statement, “and it would be impossible to begin to express the deep sorrow I feel and the intense feeling of guilt that I have.”
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