Pastor indicted on rape charge still at church, association
PEARL, Miss. (BP) -- A Southern Baptist pastor indicted on a rape charge continues as the senior pastor of Metro Grace Community Church in Pearl, Miss., and as a staff member of the Rankin County Baptist Association (RCBA), the pastor's attorney told Baptist Press Monday (Nov. 25).
Steverson denies the rape charge, alleges consensual sex and is fully supported in his denial by his church members, trustees and a deacon, his attorney Ed Rainer told BP.
"He denies the charge. He's not denying that they engaged in sex," Rainer said. "His church, the board of trustees, the deacon at his church unanimously voted to support him in this ... within the past couple of weeks."
The RCBA confirmed to BP Steverson’s continued employment.
"On November 14th, 2019, the Rankin County Baptist Association was informed that one of its employees surrendered to Rankin County authorities, and made an initial court appearance concerning criminal allegations made by the [victim]," reads a press release another RCBA employee read to BP when BP called the RCBA Monday.
"It is the policy of the Rankin County Baptist Association to refrain from commenting on matters involving its personnel," reads the press release. The RCBA "has no comment regarding the allegations made against its employee" and "intends to monitor the criminal proceedings, the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations that are developed as part of that process, and await the outcome of the proceedings before commenting further about this matter, if at all."
Twelve or more jurors concurred on the indictment, with at least 15 jurors present during all deliberations, reads the indictment signed by Rankin County court clerk Rebecca N. Boyd.
Steverson pleaded not guilty to the charge Nov. 14 in Rankin County Circuit Court in Brandon, and is out of jail on a $50,000 bond while awaiting a June 1 court date, the circuit court clerk's office confirmed to BP.
Steverson has served since October 2015 as senior pastor of Metro Grace Community Church, which, according to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profile (ACP), has 149 members and an average Sunday morning worship attendance of 85.
He has served the RCBA since 2015 as a part-time facilities manager and since 2016 as a volunteer pastoral ministries director, according to the ACP.
Steverson declined to comment to BP Monday, but instead referred questions to Rainer.
[Editor's note: The statement given by the RCBA was edited by Baptist Press as to not divulge the identity of the victim.]