Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas Back in the News-Internet Sex Sting with Pastor
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas Back in the News-Internet Sex Sting with Pastor
16 May 2008 at 2:48:41 PM
Some years back my parents attended Prestonwood Baptist Church (!MEGACHURCH!) or watched it on television. My father actually knew the pastor then, Bill Weber, from Baylor University, where they both attended. Then, one day, it came out that Weber was committing adultery, not with one but FOUR women who were assistants or something in the church. Anyone besides me remember this?
As information oozed out over the next few months, the congregation discovered what only a handful of church leaders knew: instead of one affair, there were two. In 1985, Weber had been confronted by two deacons who had been given evidence gathered by a private detective indicating that Weber was having an affair with a young woman in the church. The deacons kept the incident quiet because Weber seemed remorseful, promising it would never happen again.
But it did. And, had they known Weber as well as they thought, they might not have been surprised. In fact, unknown to the deacons, a Southern Baptist preacher had confronted Weber about an affair as early as 1982. After Weber\'s resignation, church leaders began to compare rumors and notes, approaching women privately to find out if they had been involved with Weber. Several confessed that they had, confirming what some leaders had suspected: that Weber had a pattern of infidelity. They say that during his Prestonwood years, he had as many as ten affairs, sometimes with several women simultaneously.
And contrary to the way he has represented the affairs to his supporters-claiming that he was seduced, and that the affairs lasted only a short time-Weber apparently was the aggressor. He picked out women in the church who were very attractive (and almost always blonde) and offered to counsel them or gave them tasks to do in the church. He spent time discovering their personal problems, and then used those against them. And he wrapped their relationship in a cloak of spirituality, convincing each she was special, different, one of the few who could help him serve God.
""Bill Weber came on to me sexually early in our acquaintance,"" says one woman who gave a written statement to D on the condition that her name not be used. ""I, at first, thought he was just a flirt. While all the flirting was going on he discovered vulnerable points in my life.
""He is very deceptive and seductive. I believe it is his ability to use words that makes him so believable. But he also had a spooky ability to get whatever he wanted. . .by using statements and persuasion that make you feel so needed. He always appealed to the side of me that wants to be somebody. He said he could give me an opportunity; he could fix me up in places where I could serve God. As the seduction grew more intense-phone calls, pleas for my help, pleas for secret meetings-I was willing along with him to take chances. I wanted to be with him at all costs.""
...many later came to feel that Weber’s prodigious tears were of the crocodile variety. "I think he thought he had lost, for the moment," says a deacon who was at one point a staunch Billy backer. "He was sorry-sorry he got caught."
Some of those close to him say that in the following months, they saw no real repentance or change in his life. Weber even began maneuvering behind the scenes to regain his pulpit. Mary Kay Ash, a longtime supporter, wrote a letter to the deacons saying that if Weber was not brought back, she would withdraw her financial support of the church.
When that foiled, he began scheming to start his own church, siphoning offboth the rank-and-file and some of the wealthy backers he had attracted to Prestonwood-all the while telling those around him that he was not starting a church.
There was some kind of power struggle around that and I remember an article in the news (maybe the Dallas Observer?) about Bill Weber going to some party where, when you first went in, the men picked up barbie dolls off the table and women picked up ken dolls, marked I think, with somebody\'s name. It was really creepy. (He died not long after that, apparently).
In his three-minute address, Dr. Graham said his staff worked hard to earn the trust of its congregation. He promised that the church would continue to make sure it hired ministers and staff of the "highest character."
"We\'ve taken a hit from the enemy this week, but we will rise above and respond to the challenge ... ," he said, as church members applauded. "We are confident and certain that in the days ahead that God is preparing us for something magnificent and wonderful in the ministry of this church. ...We want to put this in our rearview mirror."
May sound soothing to his flock but let\'s really look at this. The enemy? Does this mean that the church hired Satan or one of his minions? If so, then how it is that they can *continue* to make sure ministers and staff are of the highest character. It isn\'t like God pointed out to them that this guy was a sexual predator. Second, what\'s in that ole rear-view mirror? Billy Weber.
Just as Dallas’ First Baptist Church (which is the world’s largest) has its share of celebrity speakers ranging from Billy Graham to Raphael Septien, Prestonwood has attracted a lot of well-known local names quickly. One of the most prominent parishioners is Mary Kay Ash, who was a member of Northway when Weber was pastor there and whom Weber credits with encouraging him to develop the mission outreach that led to Prestonwood. Ash was chairwoman of the building committee for the big sanctuary and proudly introduces Weber as her pastor when he gives the invocation to the thousands of pink-suited women at the annual seminars of Mary Kay Cosmetics saleswomen. Paula Stringer became an enthusiastic member of Prestonwood after a friend invited her to attend a service. A number of athletic notables, including golfer Lanny Wadkins and his wife, also attend.
Weber says that one reason Prestonwood has attracted so many people is that it understands what he calls "the Dallas mentality": "Dallas has a cross-section of people from all over the world who have the ’achiever syndrome’; they want to do better this year than last year. I think we show them you can have achievement-orientation in your spiritual life as well as in other departments." He says that the basically conservative orientation of the church’s theology is naturally a prerequisite for reaching the typical Dallas achiever.
Does the orientation toward success reduce Prestonwood Baptist to some sort of country club? "Some people might feel uncomfortable here because of social distinctions and background," Weber says,"but I would hope that we would do everything to say to them that we love you anyway." One lay leader of the church says that there is such a thing as the "up and out"-as distinguished from the "down and out"-people who have achieved success but don’t seem to get much fulfillment out of it. Weber believes that the church has a special obligation not to judge people or to condemn them, whether they are conspicuously wealthy or disadvantaged-especially if they have not been obviously pious, churchgoing types. "If we are not careful, Christians will become isolated because many just want to reach ’our kind of people.’ Jesus, on the other hand, was harder on the religious crowd than on any other."
I guess "Our Kind of People" means the adultery crowd, or sexual predators, who would be having trouble fitting that camel through the needle's eye.
After 22 years as the worship pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Todd Bell apparently resigned suddenly last week, or so I've heard from a few sources. He has been removed from the staff listing on the church website. *From what I've been told in an email (see below), Jack Graham spoke at the end of the service last Sunday, apparently after the cameras stopped rolling, about Todd Bell's resignation or firing. I'm not clear on which it is exactly.
If Jack did speak openly and transparently that Todd "disqualified himself, " why has he never spoken about how Prestonwood minister John Langworthy disqualified himself too when he suddenly left Prestonwood in June 1989 after allegations surfaced that he was sexually abusing boys in the church? Why has Jack never mentioned Langworthy from the pulpit? Don't all members and parents deserve to know why a minister would leave suddenly because he was accused of child sex crimes?
*UPDATE 3/5/14: I received the following email today with more information.
I was in both services on Sunday at Prestonwood and Jack Graham spent a good 10 to 15 minutes very transparently sharing his grief and sadness over the resignation and the exact reasons for it which he specifically stated verbatim were unfaithfulness to his wife and to the church and his ministry. It was heartfelt, sincere, transparent and anything but brief as your comments state. I even taped it for my daughter to hear and we listened to it more than once....not brief and not any trace of an attempt at hiding the truth.
But this summer, the Kingsmores abruptly yanked their children out of private Christian school and fled, leaving behind their home, furniture, clothes, and the family cat.
The explanation for their sudden disappearance showed up later, attached with masking tape next to the forest-green front door of the Bent Tree house: a federal judge's order stripping the Kingsmores of control of their assets, including the house.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission believes Kathy Kingsmore found more than fellowship among the other choir members and Sunday-school moms at Prestonwood Baptist. In a complaint filed in mid-September, the SEC alleges that Kathy Kingsmore bilked some 34 people--many from her church--out of more than $3 million. Kingsmore's husband, the SEC claims, also benefited from his wife's scheme.
Smith took her first simple step and looked up Langworthy online.
She soon found he was still working with children at an elementary school in Clinton and as a pastor at the Morrison Heights Baptist Church there. Smith picked up the phone and called the school district superintendent. "I just said I'm from Texas, I have something very serious I need to talk to him about, a staff member, and it involves alleged sexual abuse of children," she remembers telling the secretary. The superintendent got right on the phone and listened to her for 45 minutes. He said he'd look into it.
Emboldened, Smith sent a Facebook message to one of the boys she had heard rumors about. Then she started emailing Prestonwood. Neal Jeffrey thanked her. "I am thankful that someone has come forward and that the situation is being confronted," he wrote back in a 2011 email. In a follow-up, he said he called Prestonwood's attorneys "who were involved in all of this back then."
A few months later, the victim Smith contacted on Facebook finally replied and agreed to write to the Morrison Heights church directly. The pastor's response was not assuring. "We had a long and frank discussion with John, and he was as transparent as any man I have ever talked to," Morrison Heights Pastor Greg Belser wrote back. "He insists that you and [redacted] were the only two involved. All others were just crude play and vulgar behavior, and we are evaluating it all."
Belser asked the man to continue to search for other victims. "John is insistent that you will find none, other than just the crude and vulgar behavior," Belser wrote. "If you do find someone, we would want to talk firsthand with them and in complete confidence." To Smith, sending victims to speak to the church first no longer seemed like a good idea.
Then Morrison Heights' attorney, Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, left Smith a voice mail. Suspicious of his intentions, she emailed to ask why he called. "To discuss a resolution," Gunn wrote back to her. "Are you willing to speak with me for a few minutes?" No, Smith responded.
The work was happening behind the scenes, through calls and emails, when in the summer of 2011 Smith's efforts finally seemed to have effect. First, Langworthy agreed to resign from his job at the school. Then she heard a rumor that Langworthy confessed to some sort of inappropriate behavior from the pulpit and had resigned from his job at the church. Smith told the local Clinton newspaper about it and WFAA's Brett Shipp in Dallas. Shipp told her he couldn't report it until she found a churchgoer who had heard the sermon first-hand who would agree to an interview. So Smith wrote a message in the comments section of a local Christian blog, asking if anyone who was there would give an interview. She got something better: a cellphone video of Langworthy's sermon from an anonymous tipster.
"Prior to coming to Clinton 22 years ago, while serving at a church in Mississippi and then Texas, I had sexual indiscretions with younger males," Langworthy told the congregation. "These decisions were ungodly, and I deeply regret them"
For people connected to the victims and Prestonwood, the case is far from over. They want the church to apologize. As a wealthy, powerful church, it has a special duty to admit it made a mistake many years ago by not reporting Langworthy to the police, they say. No one has come forward claiming he was abused after 1989, the year Prestonwood fired Langworthy and sent him back to Mississippi. Still, victim advocates believe that if there are such victims, they may not come forward unless they know they have support from their church and from officials in the Southern Baptist Convention
"A church as large as wealthy as Prestonwood really should take these tangible steps," says Clohessy, the SNAP director.
Instead Prestonwood has taken a curious approach. In public statements, Prestonwood officials continue to describe Langworthy's abuse as merely an "inappropriate" relationship.
I saw another article about Bill Weber. I didn't realize that he actually started Prestonwood Baptist Church, which makes it all the more disturbing. And it was an offshoot of Northway Baptist. I actually attended Northway Baptist as a kid, wonder if Bill Weber was there, then? Probably, eh?
But that wasn't the only deception. As information oozed out over the next few months, the congregation discovered what only a handful of church leaders knew: instead of one affair, there were two. In 1985, Weber had been confronted by two deacons who had been given evidence gathered by a private detective indicating that Weber was having an affair with a young woman in the church. The deacons kept the incident quiet because Weber seemed remorseful, promising it would never happen again. But it did. And, had they known Weber as well as they thought, they might not have been surprised. In fact, unknown to the deacons, a Southern Baptist preacher had confronted Weber about an affair as early as 1982. After Weber's resignation, church leaders began to compare rumors and notes, approaching women privately to find out if they had been involved with Weber. Several confessed that they had, confirming what some leaders had suspected: that Weber had a pattern of infidelity. They say that during his Prestonwood years, he had as many as ten affairs, sometimes with several women simultaneously. And contrary to the way he has represented the affairs to his supporters-claiming that he was seduced, and that the affairs lasted only a short time-Weber apparently was the aggressor. He picked out women in the church who were very attractive (and almost always blonde) and offered to counsel them or gave them tasks to do in the church. He spent time discovering their personal problems, and then used those against them. And he wrapped their relationship in a cloak of spirituality, convincing each she was special, different, one of the few who could help him serve God. ""Bill Weber came on to me sexually early in our acquaintance,"" says one woman who gave a written statement to D on the condition that her name not be used. ""I, at first, thought he was just a flirt. While all the flirting was going on he discovered vulnerable points in my life. ""He is very deceptive and seductive. I believe it is his ability to use words that makes him so believable. But he also had a spooky ability to get whatever he wanted. . .by using statements and persuasion that make you feel so needed. He always appealed to the side of me that wants to be somebody. He said he could give me an opportunity; he could fix me up in places where I could serve God. As the seduction grew more intense-phone calls, pleas for my help, pleas for secret meetings-I was willing along with him to take chances. I wanted to be with him at all costs.""
3 - Longhorn
16 Mar 2009 @ 12:24:55 AM
I actually was in Bill's personal realm. I for many years dated one of his daughters. I wish that some of the bad things said about him were never said. But, he reputation was not one to help with that. However, his wife and children were great people. His wife was so nice to me and always treated my family with respect. RIP Bill!!
4 - Carl
23 Mar 2009 @ 5:23:17 PM
I remember all of this very well at the time listening to Bill Weber on Sunday mornings was the only church I was getting when I started listing to his preaching I was a whore monger a drunk and anything else you might imagine that was bad but as I listened to his sermons each week I began to feel sorry for all the sins that I had commited then one day I got really serious with God and said to him I know I'm A pice of crap but if you want me I'm yours well little by little I began to change and become a better person then one day I was listening to paster Bill Weber and he said folks I have a confesson to make and when he got threw confessing I was floored I cried and thought how could he have done these things that I'd just heard come out of his mouth I have to admitt it threw me back a ways and for years I have thought about it but I now have my eyes on Jesus and not man and my strenth is in Jesus but I have to say it was Paster Bill Weber that leed me yo Christ Jesus Tho he himself faied hopfully he repented and was forgiven for his sins
5 - Displaced Texan
24 Mar 2009 @ 2:33:50 PM
Can I please ask one question: why on earth would you bring up this kind of shit, after nearly 20 years. Obviously, you had nothing better to do, then truly dredge up old shit...ever heard the saying, Old shit stinks when it's stirred up. Welll, if you want to surround yourself in shit, congratulations you did it...however, what you failed to menntion, dumbass, was that yes, Billy Weber did some terrible things, and paid dearly for it. It also would have been good to hear the truth to, surrounding his death: he died, of brian cancer. So, perhaps that had something to do with his philandernig. Make no mistake, I am not making excuses, but I'm not stupid either. So, next time you want to stear up some old shit, put the entire truth out there. BTW, While he did some terrible, things, who he has no answered for, he also led myridads of followers to Christ. So...just for the record, dumbass.
To site readers: Please excuse the last comment which I allowed through only because it shows the utter vileness, hypocrisy and rudeness of those who make excuses for Christians. Note that this commenter, who won't be allowed to comment twice in this vulgar tone, says Weber led many to Christ-I'm betting that poster, vile as his words are, believes he's one of them.
7 - john
9 Apr 2009 @ 9:15:30 PM
Bill Weber was not perfect, nor is there any Christian out there that is . I became a Christian at Prestonwood in 1986. Bill made mistakes, and the whole Christian faith is built on not perfection, but forgiveness by grace. He is not the first and there will be plenty more. We should never look at men as perfect as they will fail us. Thank God that Bill Weber followed Christ and followed the vision that God gave to him. Otherwise, I might not have ever met Christ and would probably have been dead a long time ago.
I'm very happy for you that you have found a position in life you enjoy and agree with. I also think that every single person on earth is flawed, but that those who represent what one would expect to be a higher level of morality should be held to a more stringent scrutiny.
I decided to Google Billy Weber tonight and look what I found. Wow this discussion takes me back. I was a minister on staff at Prestonwood the last 2 years of Weber's ministry and several years under Jack Graham.
I can tell you that Billy Weber was a really nice boss but somewhat detached from his staff on a daily basis. He was not the spiritual giant I had hoped to find as a young minister looking for a mentoring Sr Pastor. He was caught up in the intoxication of leading a huge mega church. Jack Graham always plays down Billy Weber's accomplishments when he talks of Prestonwoods history. He never admits that he was handed a Mega Church of 11, 000 and he simply has doubled it over the last decade.
You probably have picked up on my dislike for Jack Graham. Not a nice man behind closed doors. Sad thing- if you asked me who I would like to sit down and talk with over a cup of coffee Billy Weber would win hands down, flaws and all. You see Mr. Graham is as interesting and deep as a drop of water. You probably already know that from his sermons which consist of repeating Christian clichés over and over and over. But the simple sheep of Prestonwood seem to want that simple stuff.
Mega churches are large corporations with mega size budgets and problems. Most of the mega church Sr Pastors are distant and detached, due to the size. But I have met one in my years in ministry who is not, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. Bill Hybels is truly a man of God!
I am a member of Prestonwood, I recently was made aware of the fact that a deacon lost his job and was given a job that he from what I understand was not qualified for. Also this decon fired two people at Prestonwood because he did not like them or the fact that they had to clean up his mess. That in itself is not what's bothering me as much as finding out that Prestonwood has a budget surplus of a couple of hundred thousand dollars. So instead of using it to help the community in such distressed times like we are in, Jack Graham was given a brand new office of Cherry Wood that from what I understand he did not need but wanted.
I always felt that when you are in the seat of power it's best to as much as you can for as many as you can for as long as you can. I get the feeling that this belief is not shared or at least is lost on the current Prestonwood leadership.
Someone asked me who I was and when I attended Northway. I don't put a lot of personal information on the internet; will say this that my family lived in that area for about 2 years, not the same class as the person who enquired.
Following video shows Billy Weber's connection from Northway to Prestonwood.
My parents were drawn into Billl Weber's cult when we first moved to Dallas. At the time, there was no church, just weekly meetings in a recreation center. I joined. along with my family, but quit a week later and never went back after I approached Bill Weber and he not only did not remember my name, but did not remember that I had joined his church just the week before. My parents became disillusioned and left years later. They always spoke about how Bill Weber would promise you the world, and how he would be your best friend IF you had money. If not, he didn't care a thing in the world about you.
Later, after the stories of his affairs came out, I began to here more stories of how he had aligned himself closely with the wealthy people whom he could bilk out of millions whilst seducing the most attractive ones. Here clearly is a man who through his example, never cared about anyone but himself. He wanted to say that he had the biggest megachurch in Dallas. It was ALL about him. I am so glad I got out of there when I did.
I must have been there the same time as you Jaret.
We joined Prestonwood while they were still meeting in the gymnasium of the recreation center. I like the recreation center it was so sincere. I think that was because of Dick Baker the minister of music.
Then we moved very shortly into the church building on Arapaho. It still didn't have enough room. We had Sunday school and youth choir practice outside in trailer rooms. But I remember Billy Weber being a 'nice' person who smiled with his eyes and seemed really shy. He had a lovely wife and family.
I only remember shaking hands with him once after church and after that avoided him. He held out his hand to shake yours then was limp as a dish rag with no muscle tone, but still those shy and smiling eyes. Maybe that's how he told people where they stood with him. Quite effective.
He had a lisp so he would say "Prethtonwood". It seems like saundra, his secretary, said he wore some orthodontic apparatus during the day to correct that. So that might be why he seemed not to talk with office staff. Anyway he'd poke his head in a room with his hand still on the door frame then disappear after that.
There was a big thermometer outside of the church that kept track of how much money was raised for the mega church he was founding. Mary Kay was the chief donor although she didn't go to or visit the church. I stopped going there early on because it seemed impersonal to me.
If I remember correctly, it was Mary Kay who started the offshoot church up on Midway above Trinity Mills after all the corruption about Weber came out. And I believe that article about Weber and the swingers party with barbie and ken dolls might have been in the Dallas Life magazine, if anyone remembers that weekly that came out on Sundays in the DMN.
A Southern Baptist megachurch reportedly filed a police report on a church member who raised questions about news stories alleging that nearly 25 years ago leaders of the congregation failed to alert authorities about credible accusations of child molestation by a staff member.
Chris Tynes, a software engineer and member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, for more than a decade, says he spoke with a detective about a complaint labeling him a “suspicious person, possibly violent” after he was ordered by security personnel to leave the church premises March 5.
Langworthy had been a seminary student and youth music minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, where Smith, then 20, worked as a college intern. Although ministers at Prestonwood fired Langworthy in 1989 when at least one teen told church leaders Langworthy molested him, they never reported the allegation to police.
When Langworthy returned to Mississippi, he worked briefly in non-church positions. In 1990, he was working as a music minister at Morrison Heights. He later became a choir teacher, first at Clinton Junior High and then Clinton High.
The father of an alleged victim in Texas said he discovered not long after Langworthy left Prestonwood that he was teaching in Clinton. The father said he called the district and the Mississippi Baptist Convention to talk of Langworthy’s past.
The father, whose son was 14 when the alleged abuse occurred, said he doesn’t remember the name or position at the district of the person with whom he spoke. “He didn’t know about it, and I don’t know if he ended up contacting Prestonwood. He thanked me for calling, but I could tell he was very conflicted about it.”
Basically, when you read the article, you'll see that Prestonwood Baptist not only ignored the problem at the time, but they blew Amy Smith off. Meanwhile, Langworthy was at a school in Clinton, MS.
In May 2011, Clinton district officials said Langworthy had chosen not to return for the coming school year.
What happened in August, though, opened the door for prosecution. Langworthy stood before the Morrison Heights congregation during services Aug. 7 and admitted “sexual indiscretions” with younger males more than two decades before while serving at churches in Mississippi and in Texas and that his actions were “ungodly.” He told members he moved to Mississippi in 1989 because of his actions at Prestonwood. He resigned from the Morrison Heights staff.
The church confession was crushing, said former 28-year member Ginger Davis of Clinton. “Totally surprised. Shocked. That’s the one consistent thing I could tell,” said Davis. “Most people did not know until he got up and talked to them.”
School district officials within days released a statement saying they took protective action once they knew a man accused of being a child molester was leading a classroom. Langworthy had been teaching only with an administrator present, district public relations officer Sandi Beason said then.
A Southern Baptist megachurch reportedly called the cops on a longtime church member who raised questions about news stories that church leaders had “failed to alert authorities about credible allegations of child molestation” involving a staff minister and had kept quiet while the minister moved on to work with kids in another church.
As the Watchdog blogger succinctly explained it, the church didn’t call the cops on the child molester – a minister who has since been convicted – but did call the cops on the member who asked questions about it....
The church is Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. With about 32,000 members, it’s one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. Its senior pastor, Jack Graham, is a former two-term Southern Baptist Convention president, and he heads a ministerial staff of about 40.
You’d think there would be somebody in the mega-sized-leadership of this mega-sized-church who would do the right thing, wouldn’t you?
You’d be wrong.
Ugh. I can't imagine why anyone wants to attend this church with its history of corruption.
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