When the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee made public a list of alleged sexual abusers with Baptist connections, one Birmingham-area church realized a significant error.
The report wrongly states on page 68 that Luis Federico Garcia, who was convicted in 2007 of three counts of sexual abuse in Shelby County, was “pastor of Spanish ministries” at First Baptist Church Pelham. Though Garcia led a Hispanic congregation in Pelham that used space formerly occupied by FBC, he was never on staff at the church, said pastor emeritus Mike Shaw, who led FBC from 1979 to 2014.
“In February 2000, we moved to a new property, leaving our former sanctuary empty,” Shaw explained. “Luis Garcia came to us one Sunday and asked to rent our old building for a church for Hispanics he had started in Pelham. I talked to our staff and deacons, and they agreed to let him use the old sanctuary.”
As a precaution, Shaw said he conducted a background check on Garcia through the Shelby County sheriff’s office. That check showed only a traffic ticket. But then FBC custodial staff member who attended Garcia’s church confided to a member of FBC that Garcia had molested her daughter. When Shaw learned of the abuse, he confronted Garcia, who admitted to the abuse. Shaw also filed a complaint with the Pelham Police Department that resulted in Garcia’s conviction.
The EC’s report said Garcia later admitted to molesting 23 victims ages 5–13 in both Alabama and New Jersey. Following his conviction, Garcia moved out of the country.
FBC Pastor Daven Watkins confirmed the details Shaw provided in a statement read to the church May 29.