TULSA — The FBI is encouraging any possible victims of a former Southern Baptist preacher to come forward in the wake of his recent indictment on sexual abuse charges.
Roy Edward Williams is accused in federal court of sexually abusing five minors, offering them payment afterward and threatening them to keep them from reporting the abuse, Acting U.S. Attorney Clinton Johnson said.
A federal grand jury indicted Williams, 63, in November. The former minister is charged with coercion and enticement of a minor in Indian Country, aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in Indian Country, abusive sexual contact of a minor between 12 and 16 years old in Indian Country and possession of child pornography.
Williams was charged in federal court because he is a member of the Cherokee Nation. The victims ranged in age from 7 to 16 when the abuse occurred, the U.S. attorney alleged. Williams was a member and a preacher at Bunker Hill Baptist Church in Vinita.
"Williams is alleged to have committed the sex crimes starting on or around November 2002 and as late as December 2018," Johnson said. "According to the indictment, Williams also took sexually explicit photographs of several of the victims, paid or offered something of value to several victims immediately following the sexual abuse and threatened several victims to prevent them from reporting the abuse to others."
Williams was also found in possession of child pornography in June 2019, Johnson said.
The preacher was initially charged in Craig County District Court. However, that case was dismissed because Williams is a Cherokee citizen and the alleged crimes occurred in or near Vinita, which is within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. According to the U.S. attorney's office, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General’s Office then filed tribal charges against Williams in April.
Wednesday, a spokesman for the Mayes County jail said Williams remained in custody.
Baptists confronting issue
Oklahoma Baptists, the state Southern Baptist affiliate, released a statement after the indictment.
“Oklahoma Baptists stand strongly against sexual abuse and abuse in every form, and we believe every allegation should be taken seriously and reported to proper authorities,” said Joe Ligon, senior associate executive director of Oklahoma Baptists, also known as the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
The Southern Baptist Convention has come under fire in recent years for the way some of the denomination's churches have handled sexual abuse allegations made against church clergy and staff. In 2019, the denomination was the focus of a scathing report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio News Express which chronicled the alleged mishandling and cover up of sexual abuse allegations at some of the denomination's churches.
In recent months, the issue caused upheaval in the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee due to the way leaders allegedly dealt with churches where sexual abuse allegations were mishandled.
Delegates gathered at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June voted in favor of the committee waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation over the committee's handling of sexual abuse claims.
The Tennessean reported that the law firm representing the committee and the Southern Baptist Convention, along with one of the committee's highest ranking officials, the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, and 10 other committee members resigned after a series of contentious meetings surrounding the issue.
Floyd said he submitted his resignation because of the committee's decision to waive attorney-client privilege.
Executions in Oklahoma: Eyewitnesses to John Grant's execution give conflicting accounts
Oklahoma Baptists to start sex abuse prevention task force
In Oklahoma, the Rev. Todd Fisher will officially take the helm of the state affiliate in January. At the faith group's annual meeting last month in Oklahoma City, Fisher said he would form a Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force as one of his first tasks as new executive director-treasurer.
Fisher, of Shawnee, said the task force would focus on creating best practices in preventing sexual abuse in Oklahoma Baptist churches and ministry contexts and a focus would also be on how to care for abuse survivors.
With the creation of the new task force, Oklahoma Baptists will be among other state affiliates of the Southern Baptist Convention that have formed such committees to address sexual abuse. In February 2020, Oklahoma Baptists conducted regional gatherings in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Ardmore focusing on awareness and prevention of sexual abuse in churches.
Meanwhile, Baptist Press, the official news outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention reported on Williams' indictment. In an editor's note, the news outlet explained that the report was made in an effort to support the strategic vision adopted by delegates at the denomination's 2021 annual meeting.
"Baptist Press will continue to report every instance of sexual abuse related to Southern Baptist churches or leaders of which we are made aware," the editor's note stated.
Attempts to reach leaders at Bunker Hill Baptist Church were unsuccessful.
Any other possible victims are asked to contact the FBI at 405-290-7770.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: FBI seeks help from potential victims after Oklahoma preacher indicted