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Bellevue: Clergy sex-abuse and cover-up scandal hits Southern Baptist flagship
Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee
( photo)


Bellevue Baptist is a flagship megachurch for Southern Baptists. It was long pastored by 3-term Southern Baptist president Adrian Rogers, and more recently, by Steve Gaines. In 2006-07, it was mired in reports of a clergy child molestation cover-up.

Pastor Steve Gaines knew that one of his staff ministers had sexually abused a kid years earlier. What did he do? He kept quiet. Not until 6 months later, when the news was broken in a blog was the congregation finally informed. It was a "church matter" said the pastor, and he gave a sermon on "grace" and redemption.

For anyone who thought clergy sex abuse was "just" a Catholic problem, Bellevue should be a wake-up call.

Former Bellevue minister Paul Williams
  • Minister Paul Williams reported for child molestion.

  • He commonly counseled molestation victims, who told him their personal and painful stories.

  • Pastor Steve Gaines knew for 6 months and kept quiet.

  • Pastor Gaines calls it a "moral failure" and justifies his silence because Williams said there was "no reoccurrence."

    Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church
  • Pastor Gaines could face criminal charges.

  • Hear experts on legal impact: "Child sexual abuse is rarely an isolated incident."

  • Listen to The Michael Reagan Show: "...many Protestant churches ... protecting the Catholic Church."

  • Seminary president urges Pastor Gaines to resign. "If Steve Gaines found out that a child had been sexually molested by one of his ministers and if he did nothing to address it, then he needs to step down immediately," Dr. Michael Spradlin, the president of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary said.

  • Bellevue finally fires minister at center of sex abuse scandal, Paul Williams.

  • Deacon Michael R. Pruett urges church discipline, NOT for Pastor Gaines who kept the matter secret, but for those who brought this to light! "Where is love in all of this?" he asks. (Here's the answer Deacon Pruett: Love resides in doing everything possible to protect the young against sexual abuse. That sort of love requires courageous truth-telling and transparency.)

  • Report shows that what pastor Gaines called a "moral failure" - and kept quiet about - was really minister Williams' "egregious, perverse sexual activity with his adolescent son over a period of 12 to 18 months."

  • Report also shows that minister Williams' wife knew about abuse - and kept quiet - and that other Bellevue ministers knew - and kept quiet.

  • Bellevue acknowledges a practice "prevalent across churches in general" of keeping such matters secret to protect the church from embarrassment. Recent events "have vividly brought to light the need for change."