Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Two SBC presidents knew a lot, but what did they do?

Former Southern Baptist president Jerry Vinesagreed to forgive” Jacksonville pastor Darrell Gilyard for his “out of state troubles.”

Another former Southern Baptist president, Paige Patterson, was well aware of what those “out of state troubles” were. That’s Patterson in the picture.

Numerous Texas and Oklahoma women say they tried to talk to Patterson about Gilyard's sexual abuse, and according to Patterson himself, Gilyard confessed to several “adulterous relationships” with women he was counseling.

At that time, Patterson was president of Criswell College, which was located at the facilities of First Baptist Church of Dallas, the largest Southern Baptist church in the country.

Multiple Criswell students said they reported Gilyard to Patterson, including one who said Gilyard tried to rape her. According to news accounts, Patterson reportedly told them “to refrain from speaking about it.”

Gilyard’s conduct had been a matter of concern to Baptist officials since 1987 when he was fired from Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Oak Cliff after 25 women complained about “sexual misconduct.”

The senior pastor at Concord, Rev. E.K. Bailey, said he assumed that would be the end of Gilyard’s evangelistic career. How wrong he was.

According to Rev. Bailey, Paige Patterson wrote him “an unkind letter” which essentially said that, if Bailey would have gone to Patterson first, Patterson “would have come out to my church and solved the problem for me.”

Despite those 25 reports, officials at First Baptist Church of Dallas continued to promote Gilyard throughout the predominantly white Southern Baptist churches, said Rev. Bailey.

Gilyard was a rising star, and Paige Patterson was his “mentor.”

The next church Gilyard went to was in Norman, Oklahoma, where Rev. Dan Maxwell said that he had heard rumors about Gilyard, but that Paige Patterson talked with him and told him there was nothing to substantiate the allegations.

Later, after women at Rev. Maxwell’s church reported abuse by Gilyard, Rev. Maxwell took the information to Patterson, who spoke with one of the women, but claimed he didn’t believe her.

Gilyard moved on to other churches, and by the time he resigned from Richardson’s Victory Baptist Church in 1991, it was “the fourth time in four years” that he had been “forced to walk away from a congregation.”

Despite so many allegations, Gilyard became one of the most sought-after black preachers in Southern Baptist circles. He built Richardson's Victory Baptist into one of the top-ten fastest growing churches in the nation.

So what did Southern Baptist officials and Gilyard’s “mentor,” Paige Patterson, do to try to protect people against such a predator?

The Dallas Morning News reported that many were angry about how little was done. One woman said that she repeatedly phoned Patterson, requesting a meeting to talk about Gilyard, and that her phone calls weren’t even returned. Another, who said that Gilyard grabbed her and pushed her to the floor in the church, tried to report it to Patterson, but she said “Patterson would not take her calls.” She then wrote Patterson a 10-page letter, but according to the woman, Patterson still would not agree to meet with her.

Others recalled that, when they reported Gilyard’s conduct, church officials at both Victory Baptist of Richardson and First Baptist of Dallas grilled them about their own emotional stability.

One Criswell college student said that, when she obtained an appointment with Patterson to report Gilyard’s abusive conduct, Gilyard showed up at Patterson’s office with an attorney and accused her of wearing “suggestive clothing.”

“I don’t even own suggestive clothing,” stated the student.

Two other women obtained a meeting with Patterson, and the meeting included Gilyard and other officials at First Baptist of Dallas. Don Simpkins, a pastoral counselor, also attended.

Simpkins told the Dallas Morning News that the group did not focus on the numerous allegations against Gilyard, but instead “delved into the women’s pasts.” According to Simpkins, the group wanted to know if the women had a history of psychological problems, had been on medication, had seen counselors, or had been divorced.

Patterson asked Simpkins to counsel Gilyard so as to “polish the rough edges.” According to Simpkins, Gilyard ended the counseling relationship after only about 8 visits. Simpkins said “I called Paige [Patterson] to let him know it wasn’t going well, but he never returned any of my calls.”

Simpkins told the Dallas Morning News that he believed allegations against Gilyard “were covered up by Victory and First Baptist officials.”

According to the News, Patterson painted Gilyard as the victim. “It’s amazing,” Patterson said, “how jealousy, frustration, and racism can be motives for making accusations.”

So how does this story end?

Gilyard moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where former Southern Baptist president Jerry Vines had his prominent church. Gilyard started up a new church, the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. Even though his new church wasn’t affiliated with the SBC, Gilyard stayed closely connected to prominent Southern Baptist leaders. Jerry Vines preached as a guest from the Shiloh pulpit, and Jerry Falwell spotlighted Gilyard on his TV show.

Now we learn that Gilyard has been accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to an underage teen girl. There are also allegations of “sexual encounters.”

This is the sort of thing that happens when a sexual predator is allowed to get away with it. He continues, and the conduct often escalates.

If Gilyard had been listed on a database of Baptist clergy sex abusers back in 1987, after 25 women reported him, perhaps numerous other women and girls could have been protected.

How many women and girls would it take before Paige Patterson and other Southern Baptist officials would deem their reports serious enough to proactively warn others and protect people?

Would 50 be enough?

But of course, there may have already been 50. How would anyone know? Who is even bothering to keep track of sexual abuse reports against Baptist ministers?

[Thanks to FBC-Jax Watchdog for first bringing this case to my attention.]

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