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Southern Baptist pastor in Texas charged with sex abuse of a teen family member

Southern Baptist Convention to address abuse

Houston—A former Southern Baptist pastor has been arrested on charges of child sex abuse, accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage family member over the course of two years. Stephen Bratton, 43, has been charged with one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. 

Bratton is accused of subjecting the relative to inappropriate touching that escalated to "sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week" from 2013 to 2015, according to Thomas Gilliland, a spokesman with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. The victim cooperated with the Harris County District Attorney's office. 

According to CBS Houston affiliate KHOU, Bratton is currently free on a $50,000 bond. The victim said Bratton sexually abused her starting in 2013, when she was just 13 years old, the D.A.'s office said.

Bratton, who is a father of seven, was an outspoken supporter of a Texas bill that would have made abortions illegal even in the case of rape or incest. The measure never came to a vote.

Texas Pastor Arrested
Former Grace Family Baptist Church pastor Stephen Bratton, 43.  Harris County Sheriff's Office / AP

In a statement, Grace Family Baptist Church said that Bratton admitted to two pastors at the church on May 16 "of sexually abusing a minor in an ongoing way for a number of years." The church said Bratton is no longer a member, is no longer receiving a salary, and that he was excommunicated by the church the following Sunday, May 19. 

"This activity is wrong according to Biblical and civil law and the church condemns the behavior as abhorrent," the Grace Family Baptist Church statement said. "The elders have called upon Stephen Bratton to accept the full responsibility for his actions and to place himself at the mercy of the criminal justice system."

Last week, Southern Baptist church leaders outlined a plan to address sex abuse in the largest U.S. protestant denomination.

Bratton publicly testified in April in support of the state's proposed abortion ban, which could have allowed women and doctors to be charged with homicide if they underwent the procedure. That level of offense can be punishable by the death penalty under Texas law. 

"Whoever authorizes or commits murder is guilty," Bratton said at the hearing. "They're guilty already in a court that is far more weighty than what is here in Texas."