29 December, 2006

Bellevue Baptist Bloggers

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 refers to this father (who is also a minister) sodomizing his own son as a ‘moral failure’. (Has Dr. Gaines forgotten what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah over this sin?) I think it is more of a felony, myself. Nothing less than a prison sentence is warranted. Preferably, Sing Sing.

( 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. Think about this: If the son talked, dad is out of a job. More victimizing of the victim.

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:

Revelations 21

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."

20 comments:

imaresistor said...

Hi Lindon,

I just replied to you post on the bellevue bloggers. Just to be certain you read it, I am bringing it here too. Want you to know I looked over your own blog recently and saved it to my desktop...I really am impressed. However, I must bring what I am about to say to your attention. As you might notice by my blog name, this is especially important to me. I am a victim of secular church abuse in trying to stop the invasion of a church growth movement. And now...to make a long story short:

Lindon...

While all you say is true, there are pertinent facts missing here. If I am incorrect I am sure I will be corrected, but my memory best serves me in that there were inconsistencies of truth first coming from the pastor and some of his staff and the deacon chairman? There was a deacon by the name of Mark Sharpe who was grossly abused by these men and blatantly called a liar for speaking Truth. There are many other victims at the hands of the 'leaders' and many other indescrepancies. It seemed that many, many people rose up against what appears to be a church growth movement, the purpose driven one at the center of suspect and the savingbellevue website and this blog was birthed as a result of it. As a result of all this, Paul Williams and his rape of his own son was somehow leaked. Thus...the outbreak of the truth of Paul Williams. Since that, that revelation has taken center stage and the core of the problem has taken a back seat...so to speak. I certainly hope that the core problem is not lost in the shuffle. Steve Gaines, Mark Dougherty, Chuck Taylor, etc. are not deserving of the lapse of memory in my opinion. We must not lose sight of the beginnings.

7:54 PM, December 29, 2006

Lin said...

imaresistor, I am a lonely refugee from the CGM so I totally understand where you are coming from.

Thanks for your clarifications.

My prayers are with all of you.

simplegifts3 said...

I got a private e-mail from a Mark Sharpe after I posted on a baptist church in my environs, where the pastor was immoral, and only resigned reluctantly. It turns out people from Bellevue know this pastor, John Jackson, and were shocked. Anyway, this person who said he was Mark Sharpe gave me some contact information, which I responded to, but erased from off my blog.

I will be in prayer about this situation. I am sorry about this.

telos said...

Lindon,

I just read your review of the Bellevue debacle and I find it to be comprehensive and the commentaries are much appreciated.

I, too, came from a CGM church. I think what bothers me most about these churches is that they appear so successful. They have great numbers so they can raise much money to be infused into ministries. And much like politicians, one can validate their methods by pointing to the success of these ministries. So, what can be wrong? I cant say for all churches, but the church I attended manipulates emotions, using music and pointed messages, to raise money for certain causes. I know this is a strong statement, and many good people work in these ministries, but it is very accurate. To me, this is like robbing a bank at gun point and donating all the cash to charities. I ask, is this style of "church" acceptable to God?

The Bellevue situation is most sad. It is sad because many have lost their home which is God's church. Many have been violated spiritually for the trust they placed in the pulpit has been rewarded with half truths and various blunders. What a sobering reminder Lindon:

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

You are right in saying the church has no walls. But the church has one Savior. Thank you for helping us see through the smoke.

God Bless

Lin said...

Telos, The most frustrating thing I face from GCM'ers it the belief that large numbers = God's Blessing.

I am starting to believe just the opposite based on many scriptures including Matthew 7.

As one former 'recovering' GCM pastor said, "I grew a church of baptized pagans".

Never put your faith in men! said...

As someone who has been at BBC and in the SBC for almost the entirety of my salvation (12 years)I want to thank you for your words, your thoughts, and the facts.

I appreciate your take on blogs as well ... I have been called every name you can think of because of my "mindless speculation" or because I am "bringing up trash for my past and the past of BBC".

These blogs, especially ones like yours, truly do get people thinking. And people who abuse authority do hate blogs, very well said.

During my time as a staffer at BBC I witnessed the outrageous emphasis placed on numbers as opposed to pure ministry, and it bothered me then.

It bothers me moreso now when I see a pastor bent on abusing power to push and encourage growth.

Thank you again for your words and your stand for truth. Keep it up.

NPYFIM

Never put your faith in men! said...

Also, off topic, I am a huge Spurgeon fan as well, what a great link!

Anonymous said...

Just a friendly reminder-

As I have said so many times on the other blog- please remember that no one was trying to downplay the severity by using the term "moral failure". He was speaking to a large congregation including young children.

Lin said...

Anon, I have to wonder...what is wrong with referring to the situation as 'sin' in front of young children?

One need not go into details with children.

Actually, Pastor Gaines had a 'moral failure' by harboring a pedophile minister on staff for 6 months. Minister Williams, sinned.

Joe said...

I am a SBC pastor and I find this whole thing horrible, but I do want to correct one statement. The counselor is not on the hook here. By law, if the felony has already been committed then the counselor is bound by law to not reveal what has happened unless he or she believes the perpetrator is going to do it again. So if you come to me for counseling and tell me that you are thinking about killing your husband, then I have a legal obligation to report you. If you come to me for counseling and tell me you have already killed your spouse and buried him, and I believe you are not a danger to anyone else, then I cannot by law turn you in. To do so, would be against the law. I know there has been a lot of effort to change this law but I don't believe it has happened yet. I first learned these distinctions in the Army. Anyway, just thought I'd clear that up.
BTW, I too love Spurgeon.

Lin said...

Pastor Joe, Are you sure that pertains to pedophiles or child abuse? Seems illogical in light of the child abuse laws.

So that means if a priest told a counselor he had abused one of the children in his parrish, the counselor, by law, cannot report that if the counselor, in their opinion, thinks you are not going to abuse again? Sounds like someone can go counselor shopping.

I am going to check on this in my state. Thanks for the info!

Joe said...

Lin,
I'm trying to run it down. In the case of Child abuse, you can make the argument that most abusers return to abuse again and again, but in a court of law if the counselor could reasonably believe that it was a one time thing, or if the person being counseled had told them that it had stopped, I am almost certain, the counselor could not divulge it.

Bin Wonderin said...

Pastor Joe,

In Tennessee everyone including pastors, priests, counselors, the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker all are required by law to report child abuse no matter when it occurred.

News Report
"Everyone has a duty to report. There are not exceptions, there are not exceptions for clergy or anyone else," said Assistant District Attorney, Kevin Rardin.

Rardin adds, "Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a crime in and of itself.

Rardin says it doesn't matter how long ago that abuse happened, or if the child who was abused, is now an adult.

"Even though the child you mention may now be an adult, there may be other children at risk from the same person, the suspect, and that's why it's incumbent upon you to report it to the appropriate authorities."

Lindon said...

bin wondering,

Love the name...

It seems to me that if teachers and doctors are required to report any suspiscions, then counselors, pastors, etc., would, too.

As a matter of fact, I read that many pediatricians are asking all children probing questions upon any examination. This shocked me at first but I am starting to see why. They have seen it all..even from the most upstanding of citizens.

Corrie said...

Lindon,

This makes me mad for many reasons, some of them hit too close to home. You are right, will protect our children if the church leaders are too busy helping cover up the sexual abuse of children? I have seen it with my own eyes and it makes my blood boil.

Lin said...

Corrie, I am stunned that some people in this church are supporting the pastor after he protected this pedophile for 6mos. The message this sends victims of abuse is astonishing!

This is not a mistake or a 'bad decision'. It is criminal.

church_musician said...

If I might ask...Are you personal friends of the Williams? Your characterization of him as an "unrepentant pedophile who posed as a minister of prayer for 17 years" is inflammatory. At least put the facts as you know them, not as you speculate. At least realize that a confession of sin was made and ask yourself if you actually know the condition of his heart...repentant or unrepentant...on what basis do you post your conclusions? Consider that he actually HAS repented of his sin. I think one thing is VERY likely...all others who walk around Bellevue with a sin in their past (or present) like this will now be even less compelled to confess it, repent of it, and seek healing and restoration from the body. Maybe these blogs will encourage others to go on hiding a sin of this nature and even other sins as well.

Lindon said...

Church musician, I am not going to pretent to understand where you are coming from because I don't.

We are not talking about a random member of Bellevue. We are talking about the 'MINISTER OF PRAYER' who has worked in the church for 34 years. We are talking about an elder as described in Titus. This elder fits the description of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians.

If PW has repented, then why was he still on staff? How come the church membership did not know? Was it a secret repentence? Where is the accountability? What about the victim(s)? Would a secret repentence be to avoid criminal charges fromt the state?

Would a repented embezzler be kept on staff? How about a repented raptist? Forgiveness does not mean restoration when it is criminal behavior.

Your post only brings more questions.

Corrie said...

Church Musician,

Sodomizing a child is a criminal offense. How much time did this pastor spend in jail? What of his victim? Anone talk to him and find out if he has gotten help and healing from the trauma? Ask him if it really stopped? Did the pedophile turn himself in to proper authorities thus showing genuine repentance? Who has he been accountable to and what was the intense treatment he went through? Do you realize that it is very hard for pedophiles not to crave sex with children? Why was he allowed around children?

Hecanhear said...

Dear Pastor Joe,

Regarding your statement that a Child Sexual Abuse Counselor is exempt from reporting a Child Rape please be advised of the following: The State of Tennessee law for not reporting child sexual bruise is a felony crime. There are absolutely no exceptions to this law. Camp counselors, attorneys, pastors, child abuse counselors and every citizen are to place the children first and protect them from abuse. There are no exceptions to this law. None. Period.