Friday, April 20, 2012

Having A Sex Offender For A Preacher Means Children Can't Attend Services

That which is denied cannot be healed. This statement is so powerful to me because I have seen the truth of it in my own life. I spent so many years in denial about my childhood and the sexual abuse in my family, and I wasn't able to work on healing until I could admit there was something broken.

That Which Is Denied Can Not Be Healed Brennan Manning

I clicked a link on facebook this week, the title was Jacksonville Pastor Convicted of Sex Crimes Back in the Pulpit. The small, optimistic part of me was hoping that it was a sensationalized title, but it was not. The story was worse than I expected.

Darrell Gilyard spent three years in state prison for committing sex crimes against two teenage church members at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville. While in prison, he admitted to fathering the child of a woman who had accused him of raping her during a 2004 counseling session. Gilyard was released in December, and in January he began preaching at Christ Tabernacle Baptist Church. Because Gilyard is on probation for three years, the church has barred minors from church grounds during his services, and Gilyard will not be preforming any counseling.

This story starts long before Christ Tabernacle Baptist decided that having a former nationally known mega-church pastor who could grow their numbers preaching was more important to them than allowing children to attend church.

Denial. Darrell Gilyard's story starts in the 1980s and early 90s, when he was fired from multiple churches because of sexual misconduct. He continued to be recommended for jobs by leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention - essentially being passed from church to church, leaving a trail of victims behind him.

Even after one church had at least 25 women publicly accuse him of sexual misconduct, some of them alleging that he raped them, he was still able to continue working as a pastor. This is how we got to the place where he was pastoring Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist church in Jacksonville unchecked, and committing sex crimes against 14 and 15 year old girls.

Why did Christ Tabernacle turn over their pulpit to Darrell Gilyard after he left prison? Christ Tabernacle Trustee Eloise Bolden was quoted in the Florida Times-Union,
“We are a group of Christians who are not afraid of controversy. He needs and wants to preach and we need somebody to minister to us spiritually - so why not him?”
Why not him? Three years in prison does not erase over 20 years of repeatedly victimizing women and children. I understand that he has served the time the court required of him for the crimes he pled guilty to, and he is therefore free to reenter society, but that does not mean he is in a position to lead anyone spiritually.

Money and Numbers. Statements from other church leaders make mention of what I think is the real reason Christ Tabernacle is allowing Darrell Gilyard to preach:
"The arrangement is mutually beneficial because the 25-year-old congregation on North Davis Street had become almost as broke as Gilyard had become since completing his three-year state prison sentence on December 28."
"About 150 attended his first service on January 29 - up from a normal attendance at that church of five to ten."
The assurances that children will not be in the services at Christ Tabernacle, he is not actually the pastor, and he will not be counseling parishioners do not put my mind to rest. Darrell Gilyard's lawyers have already tried to petition the court to allow minors in the services. And Gilyard has said that he feels he’s being called back into eventual church leadership, and feels liberated by the fact that everyone knows about his criminal background. In a text message to the Florida Times-Union he said,
“Somehow I will prove that life isn’t over when one has committed a crime for which he receives this heinous label. You don’t have to languish on the fringes of society.”
A theme quickly emerges from statements made by Christ Tabernacle church members and many people commenting on news articles about the church's decision: Christians are supposed to forgive. A calling to ministry can't be questioned. Grace. He is such a gifted speaker. Paul was once a murderer.... There is no concern for the vulnerable position women and eventually children might be placed in by walking into the doors of a church not knowing who the man preaching, in a position of authority, is or what he has done. There is no concern for the victims of Darrell Gilyard, no concern for their feelings and needs.

The call to forgive as the Lord forgave you is not a call to blindness or stupidity. When will the church accept this? Forgiveness does not mean living in denial. Forgiveness does not mean putting someone in a position to victimize women and children over and over again, because he apologized each time he was caught. We have to stop this madness.

The church can not look at victims of sexual assault and say it cares about them and their healing while turning a blind eye to a sexual predator in the pulpit. Each time Darrell Gilyard is excused from his behavior because of his "powerful preaching" it is a re-victimization of the women and children he has hurt.

The full story of Darrell Gilyard's past is long and involved. I have only given a short overview here. If you want more information, I encourage you to look for yourself and make your own decision about this situation. Some places you can start in addition to the articles linked above:
-Tiffany Croft, a former victim, has a blog Let's stop Pastor Darrell Gilyard Together.
-This post from Pastor Wade Burleson, The Sordid and Strange Darrell Gilyard Story and What it Reveals About the SBC.
-Articles on Gilyard from the Associated Baptist Press.

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Reading about this case reminded me of a blog post written by Elizabeth Esther earlier this week - Grace Does Not Preclude Accountability: Apologizing for my unwitting support of Hugo Schwyzer. The Hugo Schwyzer and Darrell Gilyard stories are not identical, but Elizabeth brought up many good points about the responsibility organizations and ministries have to background check people they employ or allow to write (and I would extend that to speak or preach) on their behalf, and the responsibility they have toward the public. It is well worth the read, especially if you have read Hugo Schwyzer's articles and do not know about his past.

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
-Get involved in sexual assault awareness and prevention.
-If you have been the victim of sexual assault and need help, or you want to help a loved one, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
-Get involved in child abuse awareness and prevention.
-If you suspect that a child is being abused, or if you are a child or teen who is being abused, you can call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.


10 comments:

  1. Sorry but I agree with you. I do believe the word he is claiming to be so gifted to preach tells us that if ANY MAN harms the hair on the head of a child it would be safer for him to tie a millstone around his neck and jump in the lake, rather then come face to face with God. Said by JESUS.. so I would think that would pretty much tell them.. ok we can forgive but God has already said he could not be in a position of authority. Yeah Paul was Saul and was a murderer, but guess what he STOPPED killing when he became PAUL and began preaching. The only slaying he did after that was in the spirit and casting out demons. mmm too early for me to be on my pulpit.

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  2. This story both saddens and sickens me. I believe that any person has the capacity inside themselves to change and choose to be a different kind of person. But part of that is taking responsibility for your actions and working the path to recovery.
    I believe that him wanting to preach again is a selfish act of vanity and false redemption rather than any sort of calling.
    And having the lawyers petition to have children allowed in the church is just pure arrogance. I hope it doesn't happen.
    And that quote really resonated with me. My mom has always denied the things that happened to me as a child and all I ever really wanted was for her to admit them. I have come to terms with the fact that that will never happen, but there's something in the back of my mind that can never completely close up because of it.

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  3. Gag. How about some church discipline? Obviously, he is not truly repentent, since he keeps comitting the same sin. As a leader, you are not called to be perfect, but you are held to a higher standard. This is especially true in the church. No pastor needs to claim he is perfect, because that is in and of itself a lie, but being honest about the sin in your life and the pain and destruction which your sin has caused in the lives of others is a must. I don't like teh idea of comparing him to Paul- once Paul came to know Jesus, he put off his sinful ways! Not that he was perfect and sinless, and he never claimed to be...but he definitely didn't leave a string of dead bodies from church to church...

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  4. Excuse my language, but honestly this pisses me the fuck off. It's just classic church BS. It's exactly what happened to my ex step father. His court appointed counselor for his rehabilitation was the pastor of the new church he started attending after our court case. Years later he is a church leader, leads the Men of Valor and gives seminars on sexuality to teenagers. It baffles me. And his church and many others stand behind him. They support him and root for him. And I'm looked at like I haven't forgiven or I'm bitter because I think its all a load of shit and I can bank money on the fact that I wasn't the only victim. But the church stands behind him, so by god, he must be right, sanctified, forgiven and called for such a time as this.

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  5. I have so much to say on this subject, so much about history, modern times, the future. But it strays into politics and responsibility, ethnic cleansing (remember, I am in Canada, home of the residential schools that only recently STOPPED abducting and brainwashing indigenous peoples) and tears and anger so I will simply say I concur. And especially with the comments written by Joules.

    Tracie, I can hear your outrage, it is so plainly obvious and well placed. I share it with you.

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  6. SInce when does ONE man's right to preach and work entirely crush the rights of many women and children to be safe in their place of worship? This is outrageous. I can't believe he's being allowed to be in a position of power and, further, I can't believe people are attending his services. A man like that can't operate without people making a spectacle of him. I wish people would choose to protect their women and children. Boycott his services and find someone who is actually capable of caring for a congregation.

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  7. I am sickened by this. I am amazed and saddened that attendance went up. I am unable to speak beyond that. Just sad and mad.

    Thank you for sharing the story.
    Traci

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  8. That is SICK! IF he's really called to preach ... it should be in prisons or some such where he can do no harm. I can't imagine choosing to attend that church. :(

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  9. 1 Timothy 3 says that an overseer must be above reproach so it sounds like implementing the Word of God is not very important to this church. He should be accepted and loved in a fellowship if he has repented but should not be in any form of leadership.

    This might be going overboard, but our church doesn't even let victims of sexual abuse teach the kids class. Even though the majority of these survivors would probably make wonderful teachers, they don't want the one person who would be tempted to propagate the abuse be allowed access to the children.

    And what you say about not healing what is denied is true, even in the Bible. When David's son Amnon raped his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13), her brother Absalom urged her to keep quiet about it and she remained a desolate (unhealed) woman (vs 13). If she had been able to shout it from the rooftops, I think she would have been healed.

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  10. "The call to forgive as the Lord forgave you is not a call to blindness or stupidity." This is very well said. Sometimes being too forgiving blinds us from the criminal in front of us. This preacher has been suspected of committing numerous sexual abuse crimes, and he must be reprimanded, moreover, I don't think he should have any right to preach anymore.

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