(Photo: Screen Grab via CBS6)
A swirling controversy over the criminal past and alleged sexual proclivities of the founding pastor of Virginia's Richmond Outreach Center (ROC) megachurch, Geronimo Aguilar, came to a head on Wednesday when the church's board announced that it had accepted the resignation of four of its five pastors.
"The Richmond Outreach Center held a Board meeting this evening, June 5, 2013. Upon mutually agreeable terms, we hereby announce that we have accepted the resignations of Pastor Geronimo Aguilar, Pastor Jason Helmlinger, Pastor Andrew Delgado and Pastor Matthew Aguilar," noted the board in a terse statement posted to its website.
"We wish the best for the pastors and their families. The Richmond Outreach Center remains focused on those in need and we will never stray from this mission," it added.
Pastor Aguilar, affectionately known as "Pastor G" was extradited to Texas late last month where he is currently facing seven felony charges including aggravated sexual assault of two sisters under age 14, according to an ABC 8News report. These assaults are said to have taken place before Pastor G founded the ROC ministry in 2003. If convicted of the charges he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
The 8News report also noted that executive pastor Jason Helmlinger, a former police officer, was also arrested and charged with a misdemeanor last month for allegedly threatening former ROC church pastor, Allen Caldwell, who was assisting with their investigation of the ROC church's founding pastor.
Helmlinger reportedly made a "threatening and obscene" phone call to Caldwell after he told 8News that he witnessed allegedly "inappropriate behavior between Pastor G and some church wives."
"Helmlinger called him and yelled profanities and threatened to do bodily harm to Caldwell, who called police to report the incident," notes 8News.
The ROC church had initially dismissed the allegations against Pastor G in a May 3 statement as "unsettling rumors and inaccurate news reports" but as more information began to surface, the church noted in another statement on May 23, that their lead pastor had decided to step down from his post temporarily.
Five days later, on May 28, the church announced that pastor Helmlinger had voluntarily stepped down from his pastoral duties to deal with his legal troubles.
According to the 8News report, however, Pastor G's criminal past isn't the only source of his troubles. Since their investigation broke, several women have come out of the woodwork claiming to have had sex with the pastor.
Amber Baker told 8News that she had sex with the founding pastor when she was a teenager. Baker started attending the church when she was five, claims that one night when Pastor G's wife was out of town, he took her, two other young women and her 16-year-old sister to a timeshare.
"He brought us alcohol, we got drunk and the rest is history," said Baker. "I had just turned 18. We had sex." Although there was no earthly crime involved here, Baker insists that, "It was wrong. Just because it is not illegal doesn't mean it is not wrong and he was my pastor I moved to Richmond to serve God."
She claims Pastor G also had sex with other members of her family. "My mother, my aunt and myself have all been involved with him sexually."
In a CBS6 report on Wednesday, Charles Willis of the Jeff Davis Neighborhood Civic Association who worked closely with Pastor G, expressed fears that the ROC may not be able to continue its mission under the weight of the current allegations.
"It's a sad day in Richmond," said Willis. "The ROC has been a ROC within the Richmond community and that ROC has been shattered," he added.
Willis explained in the report that Pastor G is a spiritual man who looked out for troubled kids and asked that people not rush to judgment.
"If you have the transportation, and the means, and the will to go out into the community and grab the young folks and teach them and train them," Willis told CBS6. "That's something that could really help build a safer community."
"I don't think that there's one that should be sitting back judging this situation here," added Willis. "But supporting the ROC church and supporting the mission of reaching out to the lost souls and those that need to have a relationship with God almighty through Jesus Christ," he said.
Statement from Pastor G
On Thursday, in a personal statement posted on the ROC Church's website, Pastor G, who is married with five children, acknowledged to the church that his affairs have been a distraction.
"As you all know, my family and I have been facing difficult trials and persecution. This has taken a toll on me and my family, as well as those close to me. Unfortunately, during this difficult season, the focus has been taken off of Jesus and put on me, and that is not what The ROC is all about," he said.
"For this reason, I decided last week that it was time for me to permanently step down from my position as Senior Pastor of the Richmond Outreach Center. I came to this decision after much prayer and wise counsel from a dear friend; and the Board is graciously supporting my decision," he noted.
"Serving you all and leading this church have been the best twelve years of my life. Although we will not be at The ROC, Samantha and I are not leaving Richmond, and we hope to continue the many relationships we have built with you all. I would ask that you pray for me and my family, as we don't know what God has in store for us, next," he ended.
Despite the allegations, however, many of Pastor G's supporters flocked to The ROC church's facebook page where his statement was also posted on Thursday, to share words of encouragement.
"Thanks Pastor G for all the love u shared to all of us on Saturday evenings & always keeping it real. The devil can fight all he wants but he can't take away all the good u brought to The ROC for the past 12 years!!!" wrote Reginald Hawkes.
"Pastor G, go with God! Praying that no matter the outcome of all this that you will stay true to your faith and he will see you through this," wrote Tracy Elmore.