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Church Places Matt Queen, Former SWBTS Leader, on Leave

Queen was indicted by DOJ for obstructing federal investigation

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(RNS) — A North Carolina Baptist church has suspended its pastor after he was indicted on allegations of giving false records to the FBI.

Matt Queen in a video for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in November 2022. (Video screen grab)

Matt Queen, a former professor and administrator at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice last week with attempting to interfere with a grand jury investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of sexual abuse.

He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

Queen is pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, a role he was named to in February, but on Monday (May 27), Friendly Avenue said Queen had been placed on administrative leave. He has not preached since May 19, the Sunday before his indictment was announced by the DOJ.

“The actions alleged in the indictment oppose the moral values of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, and we condemn all forms of sexual abuse,” the church said in a statement. “Dr. Queen has committed to resolve this matter responsibly, and we support his full cooperation with the authorities. To this end, Dr. Queen is on administrative leave from his pastoral responsibilities. He will step away to devote his attention to his family and to assist authorities in their inquiry.”

Few details have been made public about the federal government’s 2-year-old investigation into the SBC, which began after the release of a report by the third-party investigation firm Guidepost that showed that denominational leaders had mistreated abuse survivors for years and sought to downplay the extent of abuse in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

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SBC leaders pledged to cooperate fully with federal law enforcement. As part of the investigation, SBC entities such as Southwestern seminary were required to report any case of abuse to the Department of Justice. However, when a student was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse in the fall of 2023, the seminary reported the incident to police but not the FBI.

When a seminary staffer subsequently wrote a report noting that the FBI had not been notified, a seminary leader allegedly told the staffer to destroy the report. Queen allegedly was at the meeting when this conversation took place but told the FBI he had not heard any comment about destroying the document. He produced notes to that effect, which the FBI claims had been faked.

Queen did tell a grand jury that he heard a seminary leader say the document should be destroyed, according to the DOJ.

“The notes prepared by Dr. Queen cited in the accusation were true to his best recollection and did not contain false information,” said Sam Schmidt, Queen’s attorney, in a statement. “Dr. Queen testified truthfully before the Grand Jury.”

Southwestern seminary said that Queen was suspended after the school learned of his alleged actions. The school has also stated that all employees involved in the allegations in the DOJ indictment are no longer with the school. No other DOJ charges have been filed in this case.

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Bob Smietana

Bob has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.