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‘We Never Got Trained on It in Seminary’—Texas Pastor Responds to Church’s Failure To Report Sexually Abusive Youth Minister

Denton Bible Church
Screengrab via FOX 4

In May of this year, leadership of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, reported to their congregation that a man who formerly served as their junior high minister had sexually abused multiple female students. 

Robert Shiflet, the former junior high minister, reportedly abused 14 girls, 11 of which were students of the Denton Bible Church junior high program. The abuses date as far back as 1997. 

In his address to the church, pastor Tommy Nelson indicated that he was completely unaware of the abuses perpetrated by Shiflet until 2005, after Shiflet was no longer working at Denton Bible Church. Nelson further explained that the church had hired a third party firm to conduct a thorough investigation.

Denying that any coverup occurred, Nelson said, “What there was, well, times changed on us and we didn’t change. Because this was something—a pedophile was a term I never heard from 1974 to 2005. I never heard it. It never happened. We never got trained on it in seminary.” 

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“We’re so sorry it took so long to deal with this with the seriousness it deserves,” Nelson later read from a prepared statement. 

Nelson referred to Shiflet as having been one of his “young guns” and “the best junior high teacher we had ever had,” noting that the church had provided financial resources for Shiflet to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. With regard to sexual abuse allegations coming to light, Nelson said, “It’s always a decade or two later.” 

While church leadership “saw smoke” with regard to Shiflet’s “inappropriate behavior,” Nelson said that the church “did not look for the fire, and we should have.” 

Denton Bible Church also provided their congregation with a five page letter summarizing the investigation, which was obtained by FOX 4 Investigates.

The letter chronicles that Shiflet was employed by Denton Bible Church “to work with middle school students from 1996 to 2001. During this time, and despite his own policies to the contrary, Shiflet was observed regularly spending time alone with girls in his ministry, including before and after school, in his office, in his vehicle, in his home, and in a hotel room.”

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According to FOX 4, Shiflet sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student while on a youth retreat in 1997.