The Rev. Darrell Gilyard, a registered sex offender and protégé of former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, is under fire for getting back into the pulpit after serving time in prison for molesting two teenage girls.
Victims and critics alike say Gilyard, who is now the new pastor of Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, should not be holding the office of pastor due to his past.
“Our phones were ringing off the hook,” Lynn Jones, an editor for the Jacksonville Free Press, told News4Jax about members from the church who are concerned about Gilyard’s past. “Members of Mount Ararat — they were totally upset, and a lot of them are our subscribers.”
It remains unclear if Gilyard failed to share his past with his new flock and calls made by The Christian Post to the church seeking comment on Wednesday were not answered.
For 14 years Gilyard served as pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, where "he fell from grace," First Coast News reported. He was arrested in 2007 on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct, and in 2009 he plead guilty to two counts. He was sentenced and the state designated him as a sex offender.
Gilyard’s case featured prominently in a Houston Chronicle investigation of sexual abuse in the SBC last summer which reported that he was mentored and assisted by Patterson amid allegations of sexual misconduct at churches in Texas and Oklahoma.
A trove of documents and videotape showed Patterson personally investigated sexual misconduct allegations against Gilyard during his rise in the SBC. Four years after the first allegations surfaced, Patterson oversaw Gilyard’s resignation from a Dallas-area church after Gilyard confessed to some of the allegations in 1991.
They later parted ways and Gilyard moved to Jacksonville to lead a non-SBC church and got support from former SBC President Jerry Vines.
In addition to the molestation convictions he faced, Gilyard also had to defend himself against multiple civil suits, including one, eventually settled, from a grieving widow who alleged that she was raped and impregnated by him during counseling sessions, Florida and federal court records say.
“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. 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,” one of Gilyard’s alleged victims wrote in a recent blog post.
“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 alleged.
In 2014, Gilyard told First Coast News that he has changed.
"Of course I believe I have changed. But time will tell everyone if I have changed,” he said.
“I'm a believer in when you do something wrong you pay the price, but do you pay the price forever?" he asked.
James Andrews, one of Gilyard’s long-time supporters, told News4Jax that he trusts Gilyard and believes he has changed.
“I was certainly disappointed, but I prayed about it like I try to do about everything, and I forgave him,” Andrews said.
When asked if he’d felt comfortable trusting Gilyard around his children, Andrews said: “Yes I would. I wouldn’t have any problems at all trusting pastor Gilyard around children.”