A Baptist association missions leader in central Missouri has resigned after confessing to inappropriate behavior involving a female teenager several years ago.
Mark Carter, who has been employed as director of missions in central Missouri for the Crossroads Baptist Association since 2017, recently stepped down from the role he has held since 2017.
Crossroads Baptist Association, which includes a network of 29 churches affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that the organization was only recently made aware of Carter's past actions. Following the discovery, the association immediately acted to notify local law enforcement and state authorities about the facts surrounding Carter's involvement with the then-teen.
It is not immediately clear what the age of the teenager in question was at the time.
In an email, the association confirmed that as far as they know, "there have been no legal charges."
"The parties have agreed that the conduct of texting and touching was inappropriate, especially for a minister, but, the misconduct fell far short of sex or sexual abuse," the email stated. "Legal authorities do not believe there was a crime, and so legal charges were not filed and are not expected."
The association added that volunteers are "assisting with the associational operations until a decision about a replacement for director of the association is made."
The Missouri Baptist Convention released a statement through its news publication, The Pathway. Crossroads Baptist Association stressed that the convention's statement "clearly expresses the heart of the Crossroads Baptist Association."
The Missouri Baptist Convention said it grieves to learn that a Carter has engaged in inappropriate behavior toward a young person — "specifically, texting, emails, and inappropriate touching."
The convention also said the leaders of the Crossroads Baptist Association continue to love and minister to the young person and others impacted by Carter's "sin."
The convention reminds all churches to report any troubling or offensive conduct by anyone at church or related activities and notify appropriate local and state authorities immediately.
"We join the association's leaders in gratitude that the young person came forward, and in grieving the harm caused by leader's sin," the convention's statement reads.
"We also stand with the churches of the association in stating clearly that inappropriate behavior of any kind is not tolerated and will be addressed immediately, including the immediate reporting to all appropriate authorities. We know that all sin grieves the heart of God. He has given His followers responsibility for ensuring that our churches are the safest places for people and families to gather and worship."
Rob Phillips, the director of ministry support and apologetics at Missouri Baptist Convention, told CP in an email that the convention can't mandate training but has "long encouraged our affiliated churches to train their members in matters of church security and sexual abuse prevention."
"This includes 'Stewards of Children' conducted by Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and 'Caring Well' an initiative of the Southern Baptist Convention," Phillips explained.
He noted that the convention can't "answer for every church" since Southern Baptist churches are "independent and affiliate voluntarily."
"However, we know that our churches are experiencing a heightened sense of awareness with respect to sexual abuse and are taking positive steps to address this," he assured. "Many of our churches tell us they are going beyond standard background checks to ensure they are taking the greatest care to make our churches the safest possible places for people to gather and worship."
Such additional steps, he said, include participation in churchwide training offered by the MBC and the Southern Baptist Convention and other available resources.
"All of us have a sacred responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us. Awareness, prevention, diligence, church discipline – all of these are essential elements in ensuring that the children Jesus welcomes into his arms are equally safe in ours," Phillips stated. "The body of Christ always suffers when God’s people sin. And as we address these sins, we need to keep our focus on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2)."