Pastor is under a cloud again
OLD: Reports of affairs forced Darrell Gilyard to resign from a Texas church in 1991.
NEW: A mother says she found obscene messages on her daughter's phone.

The Florida Times-Union

December 24, 2007

After 14 years in Jacksonville, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church pastor Darrell Gilyard had put behind a messy chapter in his life when reports of affairs with church members forced his resignation from a Texas church.

But over the weekend, allegations of sexual misconduct again put a cloud over Gilyard's ministry.

Gilyard, 45, took a voluntary paid leave of absence from Shiloh after a mother's report to the Sheriff's Office that she found obscene text messages on her daughter's cell phone.

The messages were sent from a phone number belonging to Gilyard, the mother said in a complaint filed with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Nov. 29. The report did not disclose the girl's age, other than to say she was a minor.

Gilyard, who lives in a gated community and does not have a listed phone number, could not be reached to comment. Gilyard told church leaders in a letter Friday he would go on leave to have a "complete and thorough review of the facts."

His attorney, Brian Coughlin, said in a written statement, "The issues and situation that have been presented to us are ones that we take very seriously. Once those are known, we will proceed accordingly."

Church leaders also had unlisted numbers and could not be reached to comment. In a written statement, their attorney, Fred Franklin Jr., said the matter is being taken seriously and they are committed to a thorough review.

Congregation members arriving for Sunday morning services at the church on West Beaver Street found their pastor missing from his usual place in the pulpit.

"I feel that any human is capable of doing anything," church member Robert Anderson said. "We're only human. I don't care what kind of title you put before our name or after our name, we're still human. Only God is perfect. I think it should be thoroughly investigated to see what the facts are."

One woman who declined to give her name called the allegation "highly unlikely," and another said a person has a presumption of innocence. Many others said they didn't know about the allegations or refused to comment.

Beyond the fast-growing ministry of Shiloh, which counts thousands of members and televises its services, Gilyard has risen to a position of civic leadership. On Dec. 13, Mayor John Peyton appointed Gilyard to a 16-member steering committee for The Jacksonville Journey, a citywide effort to reverse the violent crime that has made Jacksonville one of the deadliest cities in Florida.

Gilyard asked Sunday to resign from the appointment and his offer was accepted, said Susie Wiles, Peyton's chief of communications.

"The mayor does not believe that he could possibly give his focus to the steering committee as we would need him to do," Wiles said.

According to the police report, a mother said she found obscene text messages when she checked her daughter's phone on Oct. 23. The mother, who is not identified in the report, said she later spoke with another woman who said her daughter also had received sexually graphic messages from the same phone number.

The woman said she went to the church about the phone calls and learned the phone number belonged to Gilyard. She said she spoke with four church deacons about the phone calls and showed them a journal of alleged sexual encounters with Gilyard. She said the deacons told her not to involve the police until they could discuss the allegations with Gilyard, according to her statements in the police report.

The mother went to the Sheriff's Office on Nov. 29 to make her report. When asked why she waited a month to lodge her complaint with police, she said she'd been told the church was going to handle the matter.

Chief of Investigations Dwain Senterfitt declined to comment about the investigation being done by the Sheriff's Office sex crimes unit. The Department of Children and Families has also been notified.

Gilyard became pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in 1993 after a rapid rise and fall at Victory Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. Victory was one of the 10 fastest-growing churches in the nation, but in 1991, Gilyard resigned at the age of 29 after accusations of sexual impropriety, according to a 1993 article in the Times-Union. When Shiloh installed Gilyard as pastor, a church member said Shiloh was standing behind the minister and welcomed the rejuvenating leadership he brought to the church.

Gilyard's arrival in Jacksonville was a bit of a homecoming. He grew up in Palatka. He has said that when he was a seminary student, he received encouragement from the Rev. Jerry Vines, who was the pastor of First Baptist Church until 2006, according to a Times-Union article about Vines' retirement.

Vines told the Times-Union Sunday that he was co-pastor of the church when he worked with Gilyard, prior to his move to Texas. He said Gilyard came to him about three or four years ago asking for forgiveness for his out-of-state troubles, and Vines agreed to forgive him.

Vines said the latest allegations must get a full review before any judgments are made.

"I would never condone any sexual improprieties of any kind," Vines said. "At this point, though, the facts will have to tell what the truth is.", (904) 359-4581, (904) 359-4385

See also:

"Mom accuses pastor of sending lewd texts to daughter," Florida Times-Union (AP), 12/24/07  

"Pastor Darrell Gilyard takes leave from Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church," Fox30 News, 12/22/07 (with video)

"One-time SBC rising star in spotlight for sexual text messages," EthicsDaily, 12/26/07

"SNAP leader says sex offender database might have stopped accused predator," EthicsDaily, 12/28/07

Interview with another accuser, Tiffany Croft, CBS-47 (video) (and see Tiffany Croft's blog)

"The downfall of a pastor," Dallas Morning News, 7/14/91

SNAP Note:  According to a 1991 Austin American Statesman article, Darrell Gilyard's Texas church was SBC-affiliated. News articles describe former SBC president Paige Patterson as having been Gilyard's "mentor." Jerry Vines, who "agreed to forgive" Gilyard, is also a former SBC president.