Church members are outraged at the installation of a registered sex offender who spent time in prison for molesting two girls as the new pastor of a Florida Baptist church.
Rev. Darrell Gilyard recently began a new pastorate at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and church members and critics alike are concerned about Gilyard’s past of sexual abuse.
The Christian Post reports that upset church members have been reaching out to a local news outlet about Gilyard's past.
Gilyard – who was mentored by former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson – served as pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, also in Jacksonville, for 14 years before his arrest.
In 2007, while still working at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Gilyard was arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct. He pleaded guilty to two counts of the offense in 2009. Following his sentence, he was designated as a sex offender by the state of Florida.
Gilyard’s name resurfaced last year when the Houston Chronicle investigated sexual abuse in the SBC. The outlet’s investigation found that Gilyard “was mentored and assisted by Patterson amid allegations of sexual misconduct at churches in Texas and Oklahoma.”
Extensive documents and video footage showed that Patterson had personally investigated accusations levied against Gilyard as well as oversaw his resignation in 1991 from a Dallas based church. Gilyard had confessed to some allegations four years after the first complaint was lodged.
Gilyard parted ways from Patterson as he moved to lead a non-SBC church in Jacksonville with former SBC President Jerry Vines’ endorsement.
One alleged victim blogged about how Gilyard sexually assaulted her 17 years ago when she was a high school senior.
“I will never forget the night when I saw my childhood predator on television 17 years after he train wrecked my life and crushed my soul,” she wrote.
“17 years after he sexually assaulted me while I was a Senior in High School, he was a married father of 2 and a Pastor known globally thanks to the backing of 2 prominent men of the SBC, #PaigePatterson and #JerryVines”.
“The predator Pastor who abused me as a teen is not only still Pastoring but I learned today he has been ‘called’ to another church here in our town. Called being his term, not God’s call. He has a string of victims, over 240,” she wrote.
The alleged victim also noted how Patterson saw Darrell as “the next Billy Graham and nothing was going to get in the way of that plan, even all of the cries for help from the young seminary students whom Darrell had attacked and assaulted or raped, or the parishioners at the churches Darrell co-pastored who had reported him.”
Another allegation came from a grieving widow who said she “was raped and impregnated by him during counseling sessions”, as stated by Florida and federal court records.
Despite all these allegations, Gilyard told the First Coast News that he’s changed.
“I'm a believer in when you do something wrong you pay the price, but do you pay the price forever?" he asked.
Long supporter James Andrews concurs with Gilyard’s claim of change.
“I was certainly disappointed, but I prayed about it like I try to do about everything, and I forgave him,” Andrews said to News4Jax. That includes trusting Gilyard around children.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.