A few weeks ago I responded to the accusation, leveled in a report by Private Investigators International, that Robert T. Ketcham was guilty of “long-time sexual addictions.” At the time I noted that the report specified four sources for the accusation: E. Alan Cockrell (interim executive administrator of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism from 2011 until 2013, then again in 2016), Robert Showers (former legal counsel and paid investigator for ABWE), Nancy Anderson (legal coordinator at ABWE), and an unnamed ABWE employee. In its report, PII stated that it had declined to investigate this accusation beyond the four specified sources.
At the time, I expressed skepticism about the charge. One of the sources is anonymous. None of the others was in a position to offer first-hand testimony (Ketcham died in 1978 after a decade or more of blindness and physical infirmity). The report said nothing about the information upon which these sources were relying. In other words, the accusation that appeared in public was third-hand at best and impossible to verify by an outside observer.
Before proceeding, I wish to clarify two points. First, the bulk of the report from PII is an investigation into the infidelities and predations of Donn Ketcham, Robert Ketcham’s son. Much of the report also details how ABWE handled the discipline of Donn Ketcham during and after the years that he was engaged in activities that were immoral and, in many instances, criminal. I know of no one who is contesting these aspects of the report, and I have no wish to call them into question. Based not only on the report, but also on knowledge from other sources, I am fully satisfied that Donn Ketcham actually did the things of which he has been accused, that the ABWE administration badly mishandled his case, that the extent of his crimes will never be fully known, and that the missionary children who were Donn Ketcham’s victims have not yet received full acknowledgement of their suffering.
Second, I have no interest in trying to exonerate Robert T. Ketcham if he really is guilty. The Lord’s work is not well served when His people conceal the predatory behavior of Christian leaders, whether past or present. Covering up abuses is not the same thing as covering sins in love. So if there is real evidence to support the accusation against the older Ketcham, then let the truth be known. If the evidence does not exist, however, then repetition of the charge is, at best, irresponsible. The fact that Robert Ketcham is dead and will not sue does not make the accusation less libelous.
When “Bob” Ketcham was alive, his enemies did their best to blacken his name. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of many targeted by J. Frank Norris. Later on, Carl McIntire tried to smear the leadership of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and the American Council of Christian Churches. Both men were capable of fabricating and publishing lurid accusations. Norris regularly accused his enemies of adultery and even homosexuality—in a day when those accusations carried weight. So far as I have been able to discover, however, no one ever publicly accused Robert T. Ketcham of anything like “long-time sexual addictions.”
What about the sources of the accusation? My colleague, Jeff Straub, is probably the leading Baptist historian within fundamentalism. He is a trained and determined historical investigator, and he has been trying to get to the bottom of this charge. In the process, he has spoken to two of the three named sources.
One of them is E. Alan Cockrell. As interim president of ABWE, Cockrell is reluctant to say anything that would make it look as if he were attempting to discredit the PII report. His hesitancy is understandable. If the rest of the PII report is true, then the administration of ABWE has repeatedly failed to measure up to reasonable standards of transparency, responsibility, and compassion. Cockrell wishes to do better, and he deserves acknowledgement for that. When pressed, however, he admits that the accusation against Robert T. Ketcham did not originate with him. He explicitly disavows any personal, substantive knowledge of Robert Ketcham’s “life or lifestyle.” At most, he has a vague recollection of someone relaying a rumor or hearsay report about the subject.
A second named source is Robert Showers, former legal counsel for ABWE. In a telephone conversation with Straub, Showers was emphatic that the charge against Robert T. Ketcham did not come from him. In fact, Showers claims to have no knowledge of how or why the accusation was included in the report.
Whether Robert T. Ketcham was guilty of “long-time sexual addictions” is a matter not of opinion but of fact. It is not as if someone said the man was a spendthrift or a grouch. Either of those might be matters of perception and judgment—but “long-time sexual addictions” is not. Either it happened or it did not, and whether it did is subject to testimony and verification.
At this point, two of the three witnesses named by Private Investigators International claim to have no knowledge that supports the accusation. Unless PII is willing to advance further credible evidence, this part of its report stands discredited. Robert T. Ketcham is better remembered for the genuine contributions he made to the Lord’s work than for this ill-supported and slanderous claim.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
How Clearly All His Torturing Wounds
Edward Caswall (1814–1878)
How clearly all His torturing wounds
The love of Jesus show,
Those wounds from whence encrimson’d rills
Of blood atoning flow.
How doth th’ensanguined thorny crown
That beauteous brow transpierce!
How do the nails those hands and feet
Contract with tortures fierce!
He bows His head, and forth at last
His loving spirit soars;
Yet even after death His heart
For us its tribute pours.
Oh, come all ye in whom are fix’d
The deadly stains of sin;
Come wash in this all-saving blood,
And ye shall be made clean.
Praise Him, who with the Father sits
Enthroned upon the skies;
Whose blood redeems our souls from guilt,
Whose Spirit sanctifies.