Southern Religion

A predator’s phrase dictionary in the Matt Baker murder trial testimony

Christa Brown parsed the verbal signatures of a sexual predator from the testimony about Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker in his Waco, Texas, murder trial.

Excerpting from Erin Quinn’s trial blog, Brown created a hair-raising phrase dictionary of sexually predatory grooming and controlling intimidation by a pastor who is systematically misusing his authority. For example, Baker’s former mistress, Vanessa Bulls, testified that:

  • He told her to “just date your pastor.” [isolation]
  • Baker took the divorce counseling he provided Bulls at church to a new level. He started saying she was beautiful and asked her to come over. [abuse of a dual, pastor/counselor role]
  • He told Bulls during counseling “that God is such a forgiving God. I don’t think that God believes that a person can be with just one person for the rest of their life.”
  • He told Bulls that no one would believe her if she told anyone what he did because he was a preacher. [use of pastor role to intimidate | the jury believed her]
  • Bulls told Baker to turn himself in [for murdering his wife Kari by smothering her with a pillow] and he told her “God has forgiven me.”

She was testifying to events in a world where clerical predators flourish because in well-documented ways, they are allowed to flourish. Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland and Christen Argueta have documented the psychological profile and technique of sexually abusive pastors. The common themes of the church environment which allows clerical predators to flourish and as Brown says, “church-hop through Baptistland,” have also been well-explained.


The murder of Kari Baker and surrounding human devastation showed with startling drama how tragically lives spin out as a result of Baptistland’s refusal to apply well-known remedies to clerical predation. Investigators found evidence that Matt Baker had for years led “a secret life as a sexual predator.” Brown wrote:

Prosecutors said that he had made advances and assaults on at least 13 young women, including 4 minors. Yet, despite multiple reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault, Matt Baker was always able to continue his career through churches, schools, and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

When a Waco, Texas, jury found Matt Baker guilty Wednesday, it by implication indicted Southern Baptist failure to act forcefully to stop clerical predators in its midst.


January 21, 2010 - Posted by | Crime, SBC | , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Your last statement is exactly my thoughts. There were opportunities all along the way that could have altered the trajectory Baker was on and save Kari Baker’s life. Baylor University should be really ashamed for how it treated one of their female students in the early 90’s.

    Comment by Sue Q | January 22, 2010

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