A victims’ advocate says a Florida pastor accused of sending obscene text messages to a minor might have been stopped if the Southern Baptist Convention had a database of sexual abuse by clergy.
“This is the sort of thing that happens when a sexual predator is allowed to get away with it,” said Christa Brown of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said of allegations against Darrell Gilyard, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. “He continues, and the conduct often escalates.”
Brown is calling on the nation’s largest Protestant body to list clergy sex abusers in a national database. “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,” she said.A fellow Baptist pastor in Jacksonville says he tried to warn Shiloh Baptist Church not to hire Gilyard 14 years ago.
George Harvey Jr. from Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church told a Jacksonville TV station he read Dallas newspaper reports about Gilyard leaving his church in Texas after several women accused him of inappropriate conduct. Harvey said he even confronted Gilyard directly.
“I went to the church and met with Gilyard in the old auditorium and I began to share the fact from the Bible perspective that he was disqualified for pastoring because of those improprieties in Texas,” Harvey told CBS-47 News.
Articles in the Dallas Morning News in 1991 described not only the fact that Gilyard walked away from four churches in four years over allegations of sexual misconduct but also complaints from women who said church leaders did little to protect them.
One woman who said she had had a long-term affair with Gilyard said phone calls requesting a meeting with Paige Patterson, then Gilyard’s mentor and promoter and today president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, were not returned.
A woman who was a student at Criswell College said she made an appointment with Patterson, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention fundamentalist movement, to talk about Gilyard in 1989.
“Darrell was there with his wife and an attorney,” the woman said in a story published July 14, 1991. “He confronted me and said I wore suggestive clothing. I don’t even own suggestive clothing.”
“Paige Patterson asked me to refrain from speaking to anybody about this,” she said. “He said unless I came back with two witnesses or proof that something had happened, not to come back.”
The article said Gilyard preached two years at Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Oak Cliff, Texas, before being fired for sexual relationships with women members. Pastor E.K. Bailey said he heard allegations from “around 25” church members.
Bailey said invitations to Gilyard from black churches dried up as word of his firing spread, but First Baptist Church of Dallas continued to promote him in predominantly white churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The paper said Gilyard had trouble getting hired as assistant pastor of Hilltop Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., because the church’s pastor had heard rumors about him, but Patterson assured him he had talked to the women and there was nothing to substantiate the allegations.
Another article said Gilyard eventually acknowledged wrongdoing to Patterson, but Patterson did not turn information over to the police because he did not believe any conduct was “substantially unlawful.”
Prior to that, the Dallas Morning News said, Patterson said he was unwilling to believe allegations against Gilyard without “demonstrable evidence.” He said Scripture teaches that action cannot be taken against a minister accused of adultery unless there are two or three witnesses and that he also asked for other proof like photographs, videotapes or laboratory tests.
Patterson also indicated he viewed Gilyard as a victim. “It’s amazing how jealousy, frustration and racism can be motives for making accusations,” he said.
Patterson said he believed Gilyard had disqualified himself from the ministry in 1991, but he counseled him to only refrain from preaching for two years and then return only if he could prove he was rehabilitated. Patterson withdrew support after Gilyard started a new church just two weeks after resigning from Victory Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas.
“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?” Brown asked.
Another former mentor, former First Baptist Church Jacksonville pastor Jerry Vines, told the Florida Times-Union Gilyard came to him about three or four years ago asking for forgiveness for his out-of-state troubles, and Vines agreed to forgive him.
After hearing the new allegations against Gilyard on CBS-47, a woman named Tiffany Croft called the station and went on camera to claim Gilyard made inappropriate sexual advances toward her when she was 18 years old after meeting her through his church youth group.
Croft said Gilyard once asked her to meet him at a hotel and when she got there tried to coax her into going to his room. Croft said she shared her story in hopes that other potential victims would come forward. “I’ve prayed for the day that the Lord would allow his time to come, and I think that this is his time,” she said. “And if all of us rise together to say enough is enough, then we can stop him.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
One-Time SBC Rising Star in Spotlight for Sexual Text Messages
Bob Allen was the managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, writing more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure. He is currently the news editor at Baptist News Global.