Friday, May 27, 2022

Southern Baptist sex abuse list includes names of 10 accused Jacksonville-area ministers. (Florida Times-Union)

From Florida Times-Union: 

Southern Baptist sex abuse list includes names of 10 accused Jacksonville-area ministers

Steve Patterson
Florida Times-Union
The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention is seen Dec. 7 in Nashville, Tenn.

At least 10 current or former Jacksonville-area ministers were named in a previously secret list of accused sexual abusers that Southern Baptist Convention leaders published Thursday night.

The list, which includes some active ministers, was released “as an initial, but important, step toward addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the convention,” Rolland Slade, chairman of the convention’s executive committee, and Willie McLaurin, the committee's interim president and CEO, said in a joint statement.

Dozens of names were redacted from the 205-page list, which was maintained for years by a former executive committee employee.

Read the list on SBC's site: List of ministers accused of abuse

Guidepost report: 'Ignored, disbelieved': Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse report details cover up, decades of inaction

It came to light after being given to a consulting firm that this month reported that previous leaders had been “singularly focused on avoiding liability” and “ignored, disbelieved” or even “vilified” people reporting abuse.

The list included both living and dead clergy, not all from Southern Baptist churches, as well as some volunteers.

Some were found guilty of wrongs committed as early as the 1940s and some were repeat offenders whose actions were spread over decades.

The list reflected people who’d had “an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing or inclusion on a sex offender registry,” Slade and McLaurin’s statement said. “… Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fit within the described parameters have been redacted.”

Jennifer Weed, left, and Nisha Virani demonstrated outside the Southern Baptist Convention's 2019 meeting in Birmingham, Ala. to urge leaders to combat sexual abuse within the church.

The local breakdown

The list included these Jacksonville-area cases:

• Robert Browning, a teacher and former youth pastor at Old Plank Road Baptist Church, convicted in 2018 of lewd or lascivious battery of a minor.

• Anthony Denton, a former counselor at Trinity Baptist Church convicted in 2008 in North Carolina of seven counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

• Stephen Edmonds, who was a deacon and youth minister at First Baptist Church convicted in 2003 of three counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor. He also was a former president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

• Darrell Gilyard, who resigned as pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church during a police investigation in 2008 and was convicted in 2009 of lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor and lewd or lascivious conduct. He’s now pastor at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Gilyard, who was described in the consulting firm's report as having been a "mentee" of former First Baptist Church leader Jerry Vines and Southern Baptist icon Paige Patterson, had a complex history of sexually related complaints at several churches before going to prison. The report said an attempted rape complaint was made by a young woman at First Baptist in 1991, but "Dr. Vines was dismissive of her report." 

• Robert Gray, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, died in 2007 awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused four children at the church and associated school.

• William Hendricks Jr., pastor of Clay Hill Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young girl in 1998.

• Fritzner Jean, former pastor of the First Haitian Baptist Church of Jesus Christ of Green Cove Springs, was registered as a sex offender in 2008 despite adjudication being withheld on a charge of unlawful sexual activity with minors.

• Alexie Kelly, former pastor of Little Rock Baptist Church in Jacksonville, pleaded no contest in 2005 to lewd or lascivious battery involving an underage former church volunteer. The case was later appealed and the charge was dropped, although that's not reflected in the Southern Baptist report.

• William Randall, former pastor at St. Simon Baptist Church in Orange Park, began a 20-year prison sentence last year for sexual battery on a minor.

• Richard Sweat, a former youth pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church, was convicted in 2007 of receiving and possessing child pornography on his computer.

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Mounting concerns, past and present

Responses to sexual abuse have been a subject of deep tension within Southern Baptist congregations, with some rank-and-file members saying they were wrongly ostracized for reporting abuse.

Slade and McLaurin said the list was released as part of a change in stance by the convention.

“It is our hope that releasing this list places a spotlight on truth and transparency,” the two said. “Southern Baptists have made it clear that transparency in the area of sex abuse should be the norm.”

Although apparently drawn largely from publicly available sources like news coverage, the list’s release was closely followed by people connected to the subject of sexual abuse and religion.

Members of an organization formed to challenge abuse within the Catholic church called the release critical to ensuring parishioners are protected from abusers in churches but gave the convention scant credit for making the list public.

“This is the bare minimum step that SBC leadership needed to take following the most recent report that has shed light on decades of abuse and cover-up within our nation’s largest Protestant denomination,” said a statement from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “If SBC leadership wants applause, they have much, much more to do.”

How to report a case of abuse in a Southern Baptist Church

Survivors of abuse at a Southern Baptist Church can report an instance of abuse by phone at (202) 864-5578 or by email at

According to the Southern Baptist Convention's website, all information will remain confidential. It's not clear how reports will be investigated.

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