Thursday, February 28, 2008

Deja vu: Why didn't Baptists bust him?

With a frank television news interview, counselor Don Simpkins told of how he went to the media in Dallas years ago to try to warn people about Baptist pastor Darrell Gilyard. That’s the pastor that former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson mentored and promoted for far too long, despite numerous allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Reportedly, Patterson was dismissive of the women who reported Gilyard and told some “to refrain from speaking about it.”

Despite the many allegations, Gilyard was able to move on to another church in Florida, and now he is accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to underage teens.

According to Simpkins, Paige Patterson asked him to counsel Gilyard so as “to help restore” him. (Wouldn’t it have been nice if Patterson had been even half so concerned about Gilyard’s victims and had sought out counseling for them?)

As Simpkins worked with Gilyard, he was deeply troubled by the aggressiveness of what he saw.

Gilyard told Simpkins this: “Nobody will believe you because you’re just a peon and I am an up and rising person.”

Gilyard had a point: Southern Baptist leaders had turned him into a rising star, and apparently they didn’t want to see their star fall. When Simpkins tried to tell Patterson his concerns about Gilyard, Patterson didn’t even return Simpkins’ calls.

If the lack of consequences can make clergy-perpetrators so confident that they’ll say such things to a pastoral counselor, can you imagine the sorts of things they say to their young victims?

And if Patterson wouldn’t even return calls to the pastoral counselor that he himself assigned, do you doubt the stories of the women who say that Patterson wouldn’t return their calls?

Counselor Don Simpkins finally went to the Dallas press to try to get Gilyard out of the pulpit. It’s sad that the only way to warn people was through the media rather than through some responsible office within the Baptist faith community.

For that action of trying to protect people, Simpkins was the person who wound up facing consequences. After the news about Gilyard was reported, Simpkins received “death threats.” He also had a lot of phone calls from people who identified themselves as pastors and who castigated Simpkins for taking “a godly person out of the pulpit.”

If this sort of hatefulness is inflicted on a counselor who speaks out, can you imagine the sort of hatefulness that all-too-often is inflicted on the victims who speak out?

And can you imagine how such hatefulness may be even more intimidating when it is used against sexual abuse victims? These are people who are often so wounded that they can barely bring themselves to speak at all about what a minister did to them, much less to continue speaking in the face of bullying tactics.

And what effect do you imagine it had on some of them when Patterson met with them, and rather than focusing on the allegations against Gilyard, the women themselves were grilled on their own pasts and their psychological histories?

When there is no responsible office to which victims can safely report clergy abuse, the perpetrators stay hidden and continue to abuse others. With no effective system for receiving and assessing abuse reports, kids and congregants in Baptist churches remain at grave risk.

According to news reports, it was 20 years ago when young women at Criswell College first attempted to tell Paige Patterson about Darrell Gilyard. Patterson wouldn’t listen.

A couple other ministers also tried to report Gilyard to Patterson, as did counselor Simpkins. But neither Patterson nor any other Baptist official took action to stop Gilyard. He was always able to move on.

While Baptist leaders in Texas sat on the sidelines, dozens more women and teens were hurt. Because of sexual abuse allegations, Gilyard resigned from 4 churches in 4 years, and there were 25 such allegations in just the first church. Then he moved on to a church in Florida,

Why didn’t Baptist leaders stop this man long, long ago?

How many kids, families and congregants are Baptist officials willing to sacrifice for the sake of image, power, and purity of polity?


Anonymous said...

I thought the video of the former police chaplain who had counseled with Darrell Gilyard was very insightful, especially the part when years ago the counselor was in the office with Dr. and Mrs. Patterson from 9am-5pm and had 6-8 women come in to tell their accounts that included rape and sexual assaults. Because nothing was done to effectively stop Gilyard, there are dozens more victims. What does it take for Baptist officials to recognize that something must be done? Thankfully this courageous counselor did not allow "death threats" and intimidation to keep him from speaking out to try to keep Gilyard out of the pulpit and protect future victims. How sad that no Baptist official took action.


Anonymous said...

I simply don't get this. Aren't counselors to report such incidents to authorities when threatened.

Jeri said...

I've linked to this from my blog, Christa. (Wish I could figure out how to enter the URL in the "Linked" section, below.)