REVISED 1 p.m. May 19 with comments by Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham.
PLANO, Texas (BP)--A minister from Prestonwood Baptist Church has been arrested in a sting operation for soliciting sex with a minor.
Joe Barron, 52, a minister to married adults at the Dallas-area church, was arrested May 15 in Bryan, Texas. Barron had made a three-hour drive to Bryan to have sex with a girl he thought was 13 but, instead, was a police officer he had been chatting with online in a sting operation, according to The Eagle, a local newspaper for the Bryan-College Station area.
Prestonwood’s pastor, Jack Graham, said in comments to the congregation May 18, “Our church has experienced a heartbreaking and tragic week. We are appalled by the disgraceful actions and subsequent arrest of one of our ministers. I am so sorry for the injury this grievous situation has caused.”
Graham noted that the church has requested and received Barron’s resignation effective immediately. “He is no longer a member of the Prestonwood staff,” Graham said.
“We work very hard to earn your trust and maintain the testimony of our congregation in the community,” Graham continued in his comments to the church. “You can be sure we always make every effort to provide a staff of godly integrity and devotion. I am confident that our ministers are of the highest character and are faithfully fulfilling their calling with accountability.”
To the church, Graham said, “I want to thank you for continuing to believe in us and pray for God’s protection upon our lives. May God give us the grace and strength to overcome the enemy and raise a standard of righteousness. We have taken a hit but we will rise above and continue to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaim His glorious Gospel.”
Mike Buster, executive pastor at Prestonwood, issued two statements to the media May 16. "We are disturbed and saddened by the reports we have heard and we are praying for the Barron family,” Buster said in the initial statement. “We are fully cooperating with the police in their investigation." Barron had been on Prestonwood's staff for 18 months.
Buster later issued expanded comments, adding prayers for the Prestonwood family and reiterating the church’s cooperation in the investigation, which he said "began last night when we received notice of this matter."
"We have not had record or knowledge of prior improprieties, or observed any inappropriate behavior in the 18 months Joe Barron has served on our staff as one of our ministers to married adults," he said, adding, "[W]e are shocked and we are grieved."
The Dallas Morning News reported that Barron was released Friday evening on $7,000 bail from the Brazos County Detention Center. If convicted for the second-degree felony, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, The Eagle reported.
The Eagle stated that Barron had counseled married couples at Prestonwood and was to lead a mission trip to Colombia, South America, in August.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.
To view a video of pastor Jack Graham's full comments at Prestonwood Baptist Church on May 18, click here