Note: If there are any glaring mistakes in this account, please feel free to comment and set me straight.
For those of you who may not know, there is a huge 'scandalabra' at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. This is the former church of Dr. Adrian Rogers who recently passed away. If you have been around Southern Baptist circles, you have heard his name. He was loved by many.
Bellevue has a membership of about 30,000. I am sure that many do not attend each week but like other megas, this is the figure that is tossed around in the media.
In any event, we have a very large church who called Dr. Steve Gaines over a year ago, as pastor, to fill the very large shoes of Dr. Rogers. As most new leaders mistakenly do, Dr. Gaines came in and made some sweeping changes. Some long time well loved staff were let go and new ones hired at higher salaries. New methods, programs and events were introduced. So, there were a few who were not happy campers and rightly so.
Just briefly, I want to point out that this is a mistake many new leaders make. They lead with their egos and not their common sense. Unless the organization is drowning in red ink and drastic changes must be made at once, it is best to spend the first year getting to know the place and building trust before making ANY drastic changes such as firing long time staff. Since this is a ‘church’ that advice is even more important. After all, Jesus is the head of the church and all drastic changes must be prayerfully considered in light of His Word.
- (The picture to the left is Dr. Rogers)
Ok, flash forward to the recent scandal. Unless you have been living in a cave and have not heard, Dr. Gaines found out 6 months prior to the public announcement that the Minister of Prayer, Paul Williams a staff member of Bellevue for 34 years, had sodomized his own son 17 years ago. (Take a deep breath before we plod on because you are going to get even angrier.)
Let me repeat: Paul Williams worked at Bellevue for 34 years. Evidently, the abuse occurred 17 years ago. We do not know if the abuse occurred more than once. We do not know if it happened again recently. We do not know if there are others who have been abused. We do not know who knew this outside the family. We don’t know much about that part at all.
Here is what we know:
- One of Paul Williams' jobs at Bellevue was to interview people who signed up to work with children. He asked them questions about abuse. Background checks were done on potential candidates. If they admitted to being abused, he asked for details.
- Paul Williams was going through professional counseling so SOMEONE knew about this. We do not know if the counseling started recently or years ago. You know, the counselor is liable here too. Unreported felony!
- Paul Williams claims that Dr. Rogers did not know about this.
- Since Paul Williams, as an ELDER (Minister of Prayer), did not publicly confess this CRIME/ SIN 17 years ago, he is unrepentant. This is a public sin that affected the entire church and should have been confessed publicly.
- Why publicly? Because he is an ELDER and according to Titus, Timothy and parts of James there are certain standards for someone in his position. Obviously, a public confession would have meant he would have to resign and be out of the ministry forever. There are consequences to sin...even forgiven sin.
- So he was ‘ministering’ to the congregation all the while an unrepentant pedophile.
- Enter Dr. Gaines, the new pastor. According to his own words, he found out about the abuse 6 months before it became public. I still do not understand what prompted this to finally become public. There have been vague references to the fact that he was told the abuse did not really stop.
- Dr. Gaines told the congregation (and the media) that he did not tell anyone because the sin had been confessed and Paul Williams was in counseling. He claims he did not want to put their family through anymore humiliation.
- When it became public (how and why?), Dr. Gaines put Paul Williams on administrative leave which I assume is paid leave. (If so, I am furious that tithers are paying a pedophile.) The church leaders are ‘investigating’ and it looks as if the government is also investigating.
( Dr. Gaines)
Now, there are blogs and websites dedicated to this entire scandal. Why? Because, as you can see by each point above, a lot of information is missing. The blogs serve as a place people can post what they know or ask questions. It also serves as an unofficial church business meeting because the leaders refuse to have a vote on whether Gaines should step down as pastor for HIS ‘moral failure’ (my words) in harboring a pedophile. The leadership is also not forthcoming on many missing points of information. Evidently, they do not think it is anyone’s business but their own as the church 'leaders'.
Just to give you a sampling of how badly this is being handled check out this statement from the personnel committee. Here is a line from this statement that blows me away in light of the fact this 'minister' sodomized his own son:
"Paul will continue to be supported through outside Christian counseling and the support of our Biblical Guidance Ministry. However, he will have no church responsibilities and will not be on campus during this review process."
Wow, he can't be on campus during the review period! What punishment for a minister sodomizing his own son! What is to review? He admits he did it! He had to because someone outed him! How nice we are to be to a 17 year, unrepentent, minister of prayer...who sodomizes his own son....a pedophile! (Ok, went to take a chill pill)
So the church has split into the ‘We love Gaines’ and the “Gaines must go’ camps. (This whole scandalabra would make a great case study for what not to do as a pastor.)
(Picture of the unrepentent pedophile who for 17 years posed as a minister of prayer: Paul Williams)
The blogs are serving a much needed role -- shining light into a vague and dark place. The blogs are getting information out about quite a few strange incidents, too. One example: Pastor Gaines and a few other leaders ignored a no trespassing sign and climbed the fence of a gated community in order to confront one of their detractors. They did not even call him first to tell him they were coming over. Go here to read this man's account of this bizarre incident propagated by grown Christian men. Make that: Pastors, Deacons and leaders in the Body of Christ.
The blogs serve as the only place where information can be shared. It has become the virtual church community. Many comments are speculations which their detractors call rumors and gossip. But what else can they do when their leaders are not forthcoming and keep saying, ‘Let us handle it’ but then don't?
The leaders so far have done a very poor job and have made bad decisions that may even be prosecutable. (Is that a word?) Besides, they are hiding information as you can see by the mac-truck size holes where important information is missing in this scandal. Until those holes are filled with truth...there will be more speculating.
Right now, the best thing for everyone is total open communication about everything that happened since this information came to light.. even if it was 17 years ago. People need to start talking truth...fast. That is how real leaders handle a scandal. Since this is the Body of Christ, nothing is to be hidden. We are all equals in the Body. The leaders are ‘servants’. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. (Whatever happened to the Priesthood of the Believers as all good Baptists believe?)
I can hear the groans now... 'What about the victim'? 'Won’t discussing it publicly make it harder for him'?
The answer is yes and no. The victim has already been victimized several times by others besides his own father because they protected his abusing dad. This includes the mother, the counselor and anyone else who knew.
So what message did 'protect the abuser' send this poor kid who is now a young man? This message: Keep your mouth shut.
The abuse is then compounded because the Body of Christ protected the abuser... again! Who can this young man ever trust if he cannot trust his own Christian leaders? The blogs show this young man that there are people out there that are outraged about what happened to him.
Count me in as having righteous anger. I am livid. Praying but... still...livid!
And, there are other victims…victims of lies, of course, but victims nonetheless: The church members who trusted their ‘minister of prayer’. The people who were interviewed by him so they could work with children at the church. His own staff. The Body of Christ…everywhere. That's right, Mr. Williams, your unconfessed sin, as a minister/pedophile for 17 years, affects all of us in the Body of Christ.
I am still reeling from knowing that a pedophile walked the halls of that church as a staff member… for what may be 34 years! We do not know…it could be 17 years he was there as a pedophile/minister. Does it matter? Would it be less horrible if it were 30 days? In his heart, he is a pedophile. In his actions, he is a pedophile. If you know anything about pedophiles, you will know this does not just go away…especially since it was not repented of publicly for accountability.
Pastor Gaines and the other leaders have actually enabled Paul Williams’ sin. Do they not care about Paul Williams’ eternal life? St. Paul, in Corinthians, tells us to kick the sexually immoral person out so they ‘can be saved’. By doing this, the sinner has to depend on God. Yet, Paul Williams could ‘pose’ as a minister of prayer for 17 years doing his dirty deed known only to a few. Was this appropriate to the sheep he lead? Is it Biblical? NO!
But there is irony: Because they enabled sin, now the whole world knows. Pastor Gaines looks like a pastor who learned nothing of scripture in seminary but is driven by ego instead. Perhaps he has been reading too many GCM books. Wait! He wrote one!
The other leaders look like men who are protecting their power. None of them look like Christians. For crying out loud, If church leaders do not protect children, who will? The secular pagan authorities are looking pretty good right now, don't you think?
I thank God for blogs. I know many hate them and think they are rumor mills but I disagree. These ‘hirelings’ (see John) must be outed and held accountable by real Bereans in the church.
Think about this: People who abuse authority hate blogs. So, don’t abuse authority. Don't sodomize your child. Don't hide it... especially if you are the pastor. Tell the whole truth no matter how ugly it is. Tell it no matter how badly it may reflect on you. Tell the truth even if it means you may lose your job, your home or your income. Why? Because your eternal life depends on it:
5And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."