Friday, February 24, 2012

Church boots children so preacher-predator can take pulpit

Darrell Gilyard
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
  • Darrell Gilyard is a convicted sex offender who was released from prison just a couple months ago.
  • Darrell Gilyard is preaching from the pulpit at Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • The law precludes Darrell Gilyard from being around kids, and so the church banned kids from attending Sunday services. “No children are allowed.”
Do you get the picture? The church chose to boot the children out the door so that it could put a convicted predator in the pulpit.

And there is no one in Baptist denominational leadership who will do anything about it.

Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is shown as being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. (

Roger Oldham
A spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, Roger Oldham, told The Guardian that the SBC was “not empowered” to take action. “We…have no authority,” he said.

Oldham also claimed that the Southern Baptist Convention “has taken a strong position on the protection of children.”

But for a denomination whose leaders claim to be powerless in the face of preacher-predators, what in the world does “strong position” actually mean?

Without a willingness to take action, the words of Southern Baptist leaders are wholly hollow. There is nothing “strong” about them.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the country, and it wields a strong arm in many other ways. Yet, to this day, officials of the Southern Baptist Convention claim to be powerless when one of its affiliated churches puts a sex offender in the pulpit.

Denominational officials have taken action against churches based on their “perceived toleration” of gay people in membership.

Denominational officials have taken action against churches when they put a woman in the pulpit.

But let a church put a sex offender in the pulpit, and Southern Baptist officials claim they are powerless.

This is why Baptistland has become a near-perfect paradise for predatory preachers. The Southern Baptist Convention refuses to even attempt the sort of denominational oversight systems that have become common in other major faith groups, and this lack of institutional safeguards makes it far too easy for preacher-predators to church-hop.

Long before his conviction on child sex crimes in Florida, Darrell Gilyard had left behind a string of several dozen abuse, assault and rape accusations in Texas and Oklahoma Baptist churches. But of course, that’s just the ones we know about.

With so many accusations, and if there had been responsible denominational action, Gilyard could likely have been stopped much sooner, but instead, Gilyard was supported and “mentored by some of the biggest names in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

For example, rather than protecting the people under his care, including many who were young college girls, Southern Baptist seminary president Paige Patterson continued to promote Gilyard, and suggested that Gilyard’s accusers were motivated by “jealousy, frustration and racism.” And after Gilyard went through 4 churches in 4 years and then moved to Florida, former Southern Baptist president Jerry Vines “agreed to forgive” Gilyard for his “out-of-state troubles.” So with the blind-eyed leniency of other Baptist leaders, Gilyard was repeatedly allowed to seek new prey from a vantage of spiritual trust in the pulpit.

Because Darrell Gilyard’s conduct is so deplorable, it Is easy to focus our attention there. But it should not be forgotten that many other religious leaders played a role in furthering this travesty. Literally dozens of young women, college girls and teens were wounded while high Southern Baptist leaders stayed mired in their own complicity.

Worst of all, with Gilyard back in a Baptist pulpit again, we can readily see that nothing has changed.

A church goes so far as to boot the children for the sake of keeping a silver-tongued sex offender in the pulpit. And Southern Baptist leaders do nothing.

The 1991 Dallas Morning News series on Darrell Gilyard and the failure of Baptist leadership:
The downfall of a pastor, 7/14/1991
Richardson minister quits amid sex charges, 7/12/1991
Pastor who quit in sex case speaks at new church, 7/22/1991

Update March 5, 2012: "Baptist association asks church with sex-offender preacher to leave."