MIDLAND, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas church employs a pastor who is a registered sex offender, so a committee decided the house of worship cannot be part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC, the nation’s second-largest faith group, recently promised to improve their handling of sexual abuse allegations in churches and enacted a number of sex abuse reforms. Under these new polices leaders voted to remove Ranchland Heights Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, from the denomination.
The church’s pastor, Phillip Rutledge, was convicted of sexual assaulting two girls — ages 11 and 12 — in 2003. A investigation by Odessa CBS television affiliate KOSA even reported that the “vast majority” of parishioners knew of the Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child convictions before hiring Rutledge, who has been pastor at Ranchland Heights since 2016.
The SBC’s Executive Committee, an 80-plus member body that acts on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention when it is not in session, is the panel that voted to expel the church during a meeting in .
Ranchland Heights is the first church recommended for removal by the newly formed SBC Credentials Committee. The organization says the panel was created in response to the sexual abuse crisis plaguing churches across the country.
A North Texas church, Bolivar Baptist Church in Sanger, chose to voluntarily leave the SBC last year after the pastor there was accused of sexually abusing and impregnating a teenaged girl in the 70s. Pastor Dale Amyx was never charged with a crime, but admitted a child born to a then 18-year-old girl was his and settled a civil case with the woman.
The removal of a church from the SBC is the most severe action denominational leaders say they have the authority to take.
But the disfellowship of Ranchland Heights isn’t final, it only stands if the church doesn’t appeal the decision, which they can do up to 30 days before the SBC Annual Meeting in June.