By Art Toalston
GALVESTON, Texas (BP) —A San Antonio church has been removed from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for retaining a pastor listed on the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry.
The action involving New Spirit Baptist Church was taken by the SBTC’s Executive Board during an April 22-23 meeting in Galveston, the Southern Baptist TEXAN reported May 2.
The TEXAN reported that representatives of the convention’s credentials committee had met with the church, which subsequently chose to retain the pastor, Erbey Valdez.
“The board reported that due to the church’s position, it was in violation of the Baptist Faith & Message,” the TEXAN reported, referencing the Southern Baptist Convention’s doctrinal statement, which has also been adopted by other Baptist bodies.
New Spirit Baptist Church reported on the SBC Annual Church Profile a weekly average attendance of 24 in 2018.
Valdez, 47, a former middle school principal, was charged in a case dated July, 8, 2010, involving a 17-year-old and Texas Penal Code 43.25 (d), “Sexual Performance by a Child,” a second-degree felony.
The section states in part, “A person commits an offense if, knowing the character and content thereof, he employs, authorizes, or induces a child younger than 18 years of age to engage in sexual conduct or a sexual performance.”
The Texas registry states that Valdez is on probation/community supervision in that case.
Valdez was arrested in February 2010, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported on Feb. 15 of that year, for what the newspaper described as “indecency with a child.” Valdez posted a $25,000 bond.
He had been indicted in January 2010, the Standard-Times reported, by a grand jury in Sutton County on “two felony counts of allegedly having sex with a high school student.” He had been placed on administrative leave from the school district after an October 2009 arrest on a charge described by the Standard-Times as “an improper relationship between an educator and a then-17-year-old student.”
The bylaws workgroup of the SBC’s Executive Committee became aware of the situation, and of action taken by the SBTC, soon after the TEXAN article was published, said D. August Boto. Boto, the EC’s interim president and executive vice president, told Baptist Press, “I have spoken with the chairman of that workgroup, who has said that the matter will be considered fully in the regular course of the workgroup’s work.”
Boto went on to say that because the workgroup, and the entire Executive Committee, is composed of committed and involved laypersons, ministers and pastors, “Southern Baptists can be confident that its review will be handled in a thoughtful and responsible way, and its ultimate recommendation or determination will reflect the values held by the vast majority of the Convention’s congregations.”
In a report “Responding to the Evil of Sexual Abuse,” adopted by the Executive Committee in 2008, the Executive Committee stated it “is strongly persuaded that no church or Baptist entity should employ a known sex offender.” The report also stated, “in our opinion, declaring a church not to be in ’friendly cooperation’ with the Convention would certainly be justified in any specific case where a church intentionally employed a known sexual offender or knowingly placed one in a position of leadership over children or other vulnerable participants in its ministries.”
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle earlier this year, Boto said, he reiterated that the Executive Committee remains committed to these principles.
On the New Spirit Baptist Church website, Valdez’ profile states that he holds two degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of divinity and a master’s in theological studies.
A 104-page self-published book by Valdez is listed on Amazon, titled “Possible: Redefining the Possibilities for Your Life,” published in December 2011.
The lone descriptor by a third party on the Amazon website states in part, “In 2009 … [in] the midst of anguish and ruin, Erbey & Maricruz Valdez chose to redefine their faith, marriage and relationship with God. Overcoming seemingly impossible odds, they discovered redemption and a renewed sense of purpose for their lives.”
A ministry by Valdez and his wife is listed on the internet, Possible Marriage Ministries that states as its purpose “to build and nurture Christ-centered marriages through the Living Word of God. We believe that the love of Christ can make love and fulfillment possible in any marriage.”
Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.