Accusations of abuse cover-up resurface in Birminghamcomment (0)
July 17, 2014
A story published by the Birmingham News on July 2 resurfaced accusations against Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA) Executive Director Mike McLemore. These accusations have been circulated by the accuser since at least 2009.
Andrew Guffey, a nephew of a former staff member at Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham, where McLemore once served as pastor, charges that McLemore knew about and covered up incidents of sexual abuse by Guffey’s uncle Mack Allen Davis, the church’s youth pastor from 1977 to 1999.
Guffey says he was abused by Davis starting at age 9 and that McLemore “had to know” about the abuse.
McLemore flatly denies the charge. “I knew nothing about Andrew’s situation until he started making public accusations against me,” he said.
Davis was recently arrested and charged with 15 counts of sexual abuse in three counties involving at least two boys. The charges are coming up now because two men have stepped forward with the accusations — Guffey and another man not identified at press time.
McLemore told The Alabama Baptist that in 1999 he learned of accusations that Davis had molested a member of Lakeside Baptist, but that charge had nothing to do with Guffey. McLemore said he confronted Davis with the molestation charge and Davis admitted the action. When McLemore met with the family of the victim, he told them they could have Davis arrested and charged.
Instead the family asked to keep the matter confidential. “That guided everything I did from that point on,” McLemore explained. Davis was forced to take early retirement at age 59 and agreed to pay for counseling for the victim. He was told he would never again work around children in a church, McLemore said.
In order not to call attention to the separation, McLemore said he followed normal procedures for a departing staff member, which included a reception and financial gift for his 22 years of service.
In 2009 Guffey, who was never a member of Lakeside Baptist but visited occasionally while his uncle was on staff, put up a website about the molestation. He accused McLemore of knowingly covering up sex abuse by Davis and of money laundering for allowing Davis’ payments for counseling to be routed through the church’s benevolence fund.
In December of that year Guffey sent emails stating the same information to more than 300 pastors and lay leaders of BBA churches.
As a result of Guffey making the accusations public, Breck Ladd, then pastor of Lakeside Baptist, and the church’s attorney had a series of communications and conversations with Guffey. They also met with BBA’s executive committee and human resources committee, which handles personnel issues.
In a report to BBA’s executive board Jan. 29, 2010, the BBA executive committee stated, “Neither the executive committee nor [the attorney] nor Rev. Ladd has seen any information to support the charge that Dr. McLemore knowingly protected a pedophile during his tenure as pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church.
“Furthermore Rev. Ladd reported there is nothing in the financial records at Lakeside Baptist Church to support the allegation of ‘money laundering.’”
The statement also expressed “genuine concern for Mr. Guffey,” adding “evidently he has been through traumatic experiences. We sincerely regret Mr. Guffey’s pain and suffering. The executive committee hopes continued dialogue can help bring resolution to this matter.”
Website taken down
Shortly after the 2010 BBA report, Guffey took down his website, and there was no further contact with the association.
Guffey’s latest attempt to bring the accusations back to the surface spurred meetings by BBA’s executive committee and human resources committees which continue to review the situation. The Birmingham News story did not provide any new information, and McLemore said he has been overwhelmed with support from pastors and churches in the association.
At press time, Davis was being held in the Jefferson County jail awaiting a ruling about reducing his $150,000 bond.