OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It started with a Twitter thread from Mayflower Congregational Minister Lori Walke following an investigation into Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) revealed at least two decades of sex abuse allegations from its members by clergy and other staff that went unheard and unaddressed.
Walke said Tuesday, May 24, that local churches are the ones left to perform background checks on the workers they bring with them to the biggest camp in the state.
“When abuse happens, Falls Creek points its finger back at the local church, despite decades of experience regarding background check compliance by local churches,” said Walke on Twitter.
She encouraged parents to quit sending their children to the summer camp, or any other camps run by the Southern Baptist Convention.
Falls Creek is run by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, now known as Oklahoma Baptists. The Baptists did not return KFOR’s request for an in-person interview, but in a statement they said:
“In recent years, Falls Creek has made even more significant strides in enhancing the safety protocols that were already in place for campers.”
However, the statement did not mention how they were making enhanced safety protocols.
“If you know that there’s an issue, then, you know, make some changes to the oversight, chaperoning or whatever,” said Todd Littleton, Pastor at Snow Hill Baptist Church.
The Falls Creek 2021 Cabin Owners Handbook states: “Private Caretakers must make sure Cabin Owners have secured background checks on all third-party contractors.”
Also stating that contracts between cabin owners and leasees, “in no way implies Falls Creek or the Oklahoma Baptists convention as a party of the cabin lease agreement.”
Walke was referring to that contract language as a way for the Oklahoma Baptists to deflect responsibility.
For Littleton, he saw a leadership breakdown 20 years ago. That was when he stopped taking his church to the camp.
“From our standpoint, on the leadership side, there were some concerns,” said Littleton.
Walke’s tweets come the day after the Guidepost Report calling out the SBC for hiding sexual abuse cases and negligence in taking action.
Six years ago at Falls Creek, a 13-year-old was raped by 35-year-old Benjamin Petty.
Petty was a cook for one of the church groups at the camp. He spent days with the 13 year old before the rape.
Court documents state that at no point did camp leaders raise questions during Petty’s “three-and-a-half day grooming process.”
Littleton said he agreed with Walke’s statements regarding Falls Creek. He also said the entire denomination needs to do better.
“We’re probably going to have to work harder if we want the trust. We’re going to have to be more proactive to say ‘here is what we’re doing’ rather than ‘just trust us’,” said Littleton.