“It is not considered in their best interest -- there are just too many guys who have covered up too much, and even if they aren’t perpetrators themselves, they are running around scared of being exposed.”With news about the link between a reported serial predator and two Southern Baptist presidents, and with Mike Massar’s recent election as vice-president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I’ve been thinking about Dee’s explanation and pondering the web of connections between my own perpetrator and Baptist high-honchos.
Look at these names. How many of these guys had a part in covering up for Tommy Gilmore or in trying to hush-up my report of his abuse?
As a 30-year-old youth and education minister at First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch, Tommy Gilmore told music minister Jim Moore that he was afraid a congregant had seen him in “a compromising position” with me, a 16-yr-old girl. Moore stayed quiet. As is often the case with sex abusers who aren’t stopped, Gilmore then grew more emboldened. The abuse escalated, and I wound up being much more traumatized.
Gilmore wasn’t forced to leave until I myself broke down crying at a piano lesson and talked to Moore. (Years later, as an adult, it was devastating to learn that Moore had actually known about the abuse earlier and could have stopped it sooner.) Pastor Glenn Hayden, now deceased, probably also knew about Gilmore’s abuse of me, but apart from telling me I should rededicate my life to Christ, he too kept quiet.
Gilmore moved on to First Baptist Church of Tyler, where he worked as children’s minister for about nine years. That’s the church where newly-elected BGCT official Mike Massar is now pastor.
After FBC-Tyler, Gilmore went to First Baptist Church of Atlanta, where he worked for many years as children’s minister under the leadership of celebrity evangelist and former Southern Baptist Convention president Charles Stanley.
Next, Gilmore moved to First Baptist Church of Oviedo where he was children’s minister at the mega-church pastored by Dwayne Mercer, recent past-president of the Florida Baptist Convention and an active board member for a number of Southern Baptist agencies. While at FBC-Oviedo, Gilmore was included in a complaint alleging sexual harassment against staff ministers…but it too was hushed up.
These are only the most obvious of Gilmore’s connections. On closer inspection, the web gets even more tangled.
As a younger man, Gilmore graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, where former SBC president Paige Patterson was just a year behind him. Hardin-Simmons is a small school, and was even smaller back then. So it seems likely they would have known one another. Did Patterson and Gilmore have a continuing friendship?
When I tried as an adult to report Gilmore’s abuse of me as a kid, some Texas Baptists, including the BGCT's own long-time lawyer, tried hard to silence me. It was such overkill that I could never make sense of it, and so I keep looking for explanations. Why would they react so aggressively?
Maybe the simple truth is that there never was any sense to it. Hatefulness has no logic.
Or maybe the answer is in Dee Miller’s words -- “too many guys who have covered up too much” and "they are running around scared.” Fear can also produce hateful responses.
Though many more Southern Baptist leaders ultimately learned about Gilmore’s abuse, and about the fact that my report was substantiated by music minister Moore, no one helped me in trying to assure the safety of others. And Gilmore continued in ministry.
Yet, after I notified then-SBC-president Bobby Welch about the abuse, the Southern Baptist Convention wrote back that it had no record of Gilmore being in ministry. At that time, I didn’t have a clue about Gilmore’s connections to Charles Stanley and Dwayne Mercer, or about his possible connection to Paige Patterson. I didn’t even know what state he was in. Now that I know these things, it’s hard to imagine that no one in Nashville knew where he was.
Like Dwayne Mercer, Bobby Welch was also a recent past-president of the Florida Baptist Convention, and his church was just up the road from Mercer’s church. While he was Southern Baptist president, Bobby Welch appointed Mercer to the resolutions committee of the SBC. So Welch obviously knew Mercer. Was he acquainted with the other ministers at Mercer’s prominent church? Did he know Gilmore?
And even if Bobby Welch didn’t personally know Gilmore, could he have possibly still been inclined to keep things quiet in order to help protect the reputation of Dwayne Mercer’s church?
Nowadays I see even more possible connections….and wonder even more.
A 2006 Associated Press photo, shown above, reveals current Southern Baptist president Frank Page sitting next to Dwayne Mercer, the senior pastor of Gilmore’s former Florida church. Did Gilmore’s connections extend even to Page?
The BGCT’s newly-elected Mike Massar was on the board of trustees at East Texas Baptist University where music minister Jim Moore is now Director of Choral Activities and a bit of a luminary in the world of choral music for youth. (Yes, that’s the same Jim Moore who kept quiet about minister Gilmore’s sexual abuse of me as a kid.)
So there’s another possible connection in the web. Did Mike Massar have reason to want to sweep things under the rug so as to protect the reputation of Jim Moore, an ETBU professor who kept quiet about another minister’s sexual abuse of a kid even while knowing that the man was continuing to work with kids? Does that explain why Mike Massar’s church completely ignored me?
The chairman of the deacons at Massar’s church, First Baptist of Tyler, received certified notice about Gilmore’s abuse of me as a kid and about Jim Moore’s knowledge of it. I assume the chairman of deacons would have probably informed the pastor. Did pastor Mike Massar tell people in the pews that their prior children’s minister was a child molester? Or did he keep it secret even from his own congregants?
Before Massar’s election as an officer of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, he served on numerous BGCT committees and boards. So he must have been well-known by many BGCT officials. Surely, BGCT officials Jan Daehnert and Sonny Spurger could have called Massar and asked him where Gilmore went after he left FBC-Tyler. I told Daehnert and Spurger that Gilmore had gone to FBC-Tyler, but that I didn’t know where he had gone after that. So why didn’t Daehnert, Spurger or Massar help me in tracking Gilmore? Did they simply not want me to find him?
Though I don’t know the answer to all of these questions, I know enough of the answers to see that the big picture looks like a very tangled web of connections and collusion.
Maybe Dee got it right. Maybe Southern Baptist leaders don’t choose to effectively address clergy sex abuse because “there are just too many guys who have covered up too much.”
Update: A Florida church-woman told me that, even while Gilmore was working in Florida, he always went to the annual meeting of Texas Baptists. So apparently, Gilmore was still maintaining his Texas connections. This makes it seem all the more likely that leaders at the Baptist General Convention of Texas would have known that he was a children's minister in Florida, or at least that they could have found him if they had cared enough to try.