Immanuel Baptist Pastor Steven Smith to resign over handling of child abuse allegations

Steven W. Smith has been pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., since 2017.
Steven W. Smith has been pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., since 2017. | YouTube/Immanuel Baptist Church

Pastor Steven Smith of Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock, Arkansas, will be resigning from his position in April amid criticism for failing to inform his church about child abuse charges against a former children's ministry staffer. 

In a letter released Wednesday, Smith said he will step down effective April 7 to "diffuse the current situation and allow Immanuel to heal."

"Every family experiences tension, and our church family tension has been very real and very public in recent months," wrote Smith, as reported by The Arkansas Times.

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"To feel this tension as we walk through the halls and as we worship together has been disheartening. Unfortunately, at present we do not see this abating, but only increasing."

Regarding possible future plans, Smith said that he was "not stepping into another ministry, but stepping aside to allow this process of healing to begin."

According to Immanuel's website, Smith began serving at the church in 2017 and recently served as vice president of student services and professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Smith garnered calls for his resignation in recent months as he failed to inform his congregation about former ministry employee Patrick Stephen Miller being accused of sexually abusing a child.

Miller, who served as Immanuel's assistant director of children's ministry from May 2014 to January 2016 and faced multiple accusations of abuse, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge in January 2022.

He was accused of sexually assaulting a child in a closet in 2015. He was arrested in December 2018 and initially charged with felony second-degree sexual assault.

Miller resigned before Smith became pastor of the church. Immanuel leaders were made aware of the allegations against Miller in March 2016. The child also shared details of the allegations with church leaders in 2018. 

Last December, hours after The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a story about Miller and the accusations, Smith apologized to his church for failing to inform them about the situation, saying, "I wish we would have told you about these crimes sooner."

"We recognize the importance of treating abuse behavior seriously. We intend to honor Christ in the way we care for anyone who's experienced past abuse," Smith added.

"If you have knowledge of any inappropriate behavior with children at Immanuel or anywhere else, please call the abuse hotline of the Little Rock Police Department."

Later in December, Smith expressed a willingness to step aside, stating that if "this church believes God's anointing or call upon my service at Immanuel has been lifted, I will not resist the will of the church."

In a vote of no confidence in February, Immanuel's deacons voted 26-18 to support Smith, with 17 deacons abstaining, meaning that less than half actively favored the pastor.

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