By Bob Allen
A woman who claims she was victimized by a preacher years later exposed as a sexual predator says a new autobiography by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines minimizes his and fellow former SBC President Paige Patterson’s role in promoting convicted child molester Darrell Gilyard despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
Tiffany Croft — who in 2008 launched a blog titled “Let’s Stop Pastor Darrell Gilyard Together” to track Gilyard’s arrest, conviction and imprisonment for molesting a 15-year-old girl and sending lewd text messages to another — returned to the blogosphere June 22 with a new title, “What Hurts the Most.”
In her second posting on July 7, Croft said the new Vines: My Life and Ministry published by B&H Publishing includes an “incorrect retelling” of her story.
Toward the end of his memoir, Vines details his experience with Gilyard, a charismatic young African-American preacher who he and Patterson helped educate for the ministry in the 1980s. Gilyard went on to resign from five churches due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
“There were rumors,” Vines wrote. “Accusations of moral improprieties began to surface. All of them were denied by Darrell. Dr. Patterson checked them out as best he could. There were inconsistencies and contradictions in the stories. Some were made by church people who had moral failings themselves. One accuser was a member of the KKK. As it turns out the rumors were true. A young person in our FBC, Jacksonville church met with me about a matter of impropriety as well. I didn’t understand it to go beyond some flirtation. They were both single at the time. Perhaps I misunderstood.”
Croft says Vines is referring to her. She says it is true that she was single, because at the time she was a senior in high school and a leader in the youth group at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Gilyard was 29, married and a pastor from Texas who traveled with her youth group as an evangelist on a mission trip.
She described their encounter in the introductory posting of her previous blog, dated Jan. 4, 2008.
“I have a personal testimony of this man preying on me as an 18-year-old,” Croft wrote. “I left the matter in the church’s hands, as did all of the other girls and women who came forward at that time. We truly thought he would never preach again based on all of the sexual improprieties against him.”
Croft said Gilyard “targets and preys on women and young girls, especially those who may be slightly vulnerable and seeking counsel from him.”
“He uses this time to find their weaknesses and to make them feel as if they can trust him [as their pastor] then he begins to come on to them and has been repeatedly accused of rape.”
Croft said Gilyard groomed her by asking her to move to Texas to be on staff at his church, a move she never made.
“I trusted and looked up to him as a spiritual leader,” she said. “I was blessed to get away from him the night he tried to get me to go to his hotel room. I literally ran away from him. He ran after me and was not apologetic or remorseful when confronted later.”
Croft said she contacted LifeWay Christian Resources to set the record straight. LifeWay spokesman Marty King said B&H has removed three sentences from future printings that “upon further reflection, Dr. Vines agrees do not accurately describe the situation.”
“Recently, Dr. Vines reopened this story with the incorrect re-telling of this story,” Croft said on her blog. “Many of the things said are false or misrepresented. Many things were said to attempt to restore his legacy and to repaint his part in this saga. But we didn’t allow it, and I won’t allow it. For all of the victims, I want the record straight! Lifeway has recently agreed to edit out parts of the story in future publications, but there were already thousands in print and on bookshelves nationally, and I am not OK with that.”
Croft said she is also not OK with a news story aired July 7 on First Coast News in Jacksonville in which Gilyard discusses his “fall from grace” for the first time since his release from prison. Among other things, the story quotes Gilyard about his thoughts on being included in the Vines autobiography.
“It was negative,” Gilyard said. “He could have left it out. It is his autobiography, not mine.”
Croft said Gilyard did not just “fall from grace” and now is trying to play the victim card.
“This man has done nothing to apologize, he has never asked our forgiveness, he has never done anything to repay the victims or their families, he has not admitted to any counseling nor treatment for his problem (it doesn’t just go away) and he was hardly out of prison before you had him in a pulpit,” she said.
“Now he speaks on the news report and all he talks about is ‘poor me’ because people haven’t forgotten his crimes, because it is still there for the world to be warned, because it’s been so tough for him, because he has been talked about negatively, he is labeled as a leper (good choice of words), he feels he is in the right ministry, he feels he has changed and he has ‘paid my debt to society.’”
Croft said Gilyard never should have been given the role of a pastor in the first place.
“Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines — they were the two advising, leading, guiding, promoting and introducing the young up-and-coming dynamo Darrell Gilyard,” she said. “They were the ones that introduced and promoted him to Jerry Falwell and to all of the ‘Big Dogs’ of the Southern Baptist Convention. They were the Watch Keepers, and they failed miserably.”