By Bob Allen
A judge in Florida has changed probation terms for a preacher who is a registered sex offender to allow the former Southern Baptist pastor to minister to children in his church.
Darrell Gilyard, 52, began preaching at Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., shortly after his release from prison in December 2011 for sex crimes against two minor girls at his previous church. It made international news when the church barred children from worship, because Gilyard’s probation prohibited him from having contact with minors.
Recently, according to Jacksonville television station WJXT, a judge agreed to modify the probation so Gilyard can “minister to children under the age of 18 as long as the children are supervised by an adult other than the defendant.”
Gilyard pleaded guilty in 2009 to lewd or lascivious conduct and molestation involving two girls younger than 16. His 2007 resignation after 15 years as pastor of Jacksonville’s Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, a 7,000-member predominantly African-American congregation, marked the fifth pastorate he lost due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
A native of Palatka, Fla., Gilyard rose to fame in the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1980s under the mentorship of former SBC presidents Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson. Jerry Falwell’s pulpit gave Gilyard a platform to share on national television his dramatic testimony of growing up a homeless orphan who lived under a bridge, a story that was later discredited.
The attention helped Gilyard attain several pastorates, until confidence in him eroded after a series of sex scandals in the early 1990s. The Dallas Morning News published stories in 1991 saying dozens of women had accused Gilyard of sexual misconduct, with some alleging rape.
Gilyard began as pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Community Church in April 1993. He resigned Jan. 4, 2008, after a member of the congregation filed a police report claiming Gilyard sent sexually explicit text messages to her daughter.
Gilyard was arrested Jan. 14, 2008, and charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. He pleaded guilty May 21, 2009, to molesting one girl and sending lewd text messages to another.
Gilyard completed a three-year prison sentence on Dec. 28, 2011. Four weeks later he took the pulpit at Christ Tabernacle Baptist Church, prompting community protests and a visit from Jacksonville Baptist Association, which resulted in an agreement that the church would “leave the fellowship” of the Southern Baptist Convention regional affiliate.