Skip to comments.Gaines wants to remain at Bellevue (Baptist)
Posted on 12/21/2006 4:29:10 AM PST by Sybeck1
Congregation lines up in support of its pastor
Appearing subdued and distraught, Steve Gaines told members of Bellevue Baptist Church Wednesday night that he'd like to remain their pastor.
The embattled Gaines, under fire from some in the religious community for various controversies at the massive church, spoke to several hundred members before their usual midweek service.
"The past few days have been very difficult times," said Gaines, who took over leadership of the church from the late Adrian Rogers in July 2005. "I'd really like to stay and be your pastor."
Gaines' comments came after Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary head Michael Spradlin called for the pastor's resignation in Wednesday's editions of The Commercial Appeal.
Gaines said he had nothing but "good thoughts and feelings" toward Spradlin.
Spradlin's call followed a series of other controversies, chief among them Gaines' handling of allegations that Bellevue minister Paul Williams committed a "moral indiscretion" 17 years ago that potentially included sexual abuse.
Gaines found out about the incident in June, but the congregation was only recently told. The delay inflamed some who questioned why the information was not released sooner.
Earlier Wednesday, Joyce Rogers, widow of the former pastor, said Williams told her that her husband had had no knowledge of the situation.
"I want to preserve my husband's integrity," she said. "He would not have handled the situation this way. Had he known he would have acted immediately."
Most of those at Bellevue Wednesday night, though, clearly supported Gaines, forming a line to greet him before the service and rising for several standing ovations.
"I don't think Steve Gaines has done anything wrong," member Brian Hunter said. "I think pastor Gaines is taking the appropriate measures dealing with the investigation."
That investigation was the topic of a separate talk by administrative pastor David Coombs, who outlined the steps the church plans to take.
The investigation, expected to be concluded within 30 days, will include Williams' "indiscretion" as well as his subsequent time at the church, where he has been a staffer for 34 years.
"We have put together a team of outside legal counsel as well as outside personnel consultants to assist in this investigation," Coombs said. "As people come forward with facts, we will investigate each one of them."
Coombs said that, by the end of the investigation, they will bring a recommendation on Williams' future at Bellevue. The group will also bring recommendations to church leadership regarding any changes necessary in hiring policies.
"I'm also a parent and member of this church. I have grandchildren I entrust to the care of the staff on a regular basis," Coombs said. "I have complete confidence in that staff.
Reporter James Dowd contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
'People losing trust' in Bellevue pastor, seminary leader says By James Dowd Contact December 20, 2006
Alarmed by what he described as a crisis of the faithful at Bellevue Baptist Church, the president of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary said Tuesday the senior pastor of the Cordova congregation should resign.
Dr. Michael Spradlin, head of the seminary that moved across the street from Bellevue this summer, said Dr. Steve Gaines should step down because of his initial decision to remain silent amid allegations of sexual abuse involving a Bellevue minister.
Church leaders announced Monday that Paul Williams, a Bellevue staffer for 34 years, had been placed on paid leave pending an investigation regarding a "moral failure."
The alleged incident occurred 17 years ago. Details have not been made public by the church and Williams has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing, but claims of sexual abuse have been posted on the Internet.
"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," Spradlin said. "We cannot take chances with other people's children. If he knew about this and kept quiet, then he's put Bellevue in a very dangerous position and possibly put children and the emotionally vulnerable at risk."
The decision is the most recent in a series of miscues made by Gaines since his arrival at Bellevue last year and the congregation has suffered, said Spradlin, who is also interim pastor at Germantown Baptist Church.
"There's a sense of Steve Gaines being the measure of what's right and what's wrong. If you agree with him, you're right and if you disagree, you're wrong," Spradlin said. "But I think he's spent all his credibility and people are losing trust in him."
Gaines acknowledged he became aware of the matter six months ago.
In a statement released Tuesday, Gaines wrote: "The past few days have been difficult ones as I have worked through an issue that no pastor wishes to face. We have had to place a minister on a paid leave of absence due to a past moral failure.
"I learned about this in June from the minister involved and believed the issue was settled. Two weeks ago I was surprised to find out that the issue was not settled.
"Some people have questioned why I waited for several months. It's simply this: I acted out of a heartfelt concern and compassion for this minister because the event occurred many years ago, he was receiving professional counseling; and I was concerned about confidentiality. In light of the events that have unfolded, I realize now that I should have discussed it further with this minister and brought it to the attention of our church leadership immediately."
Attempts to reach Williams Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
Spradlin agreed that the congregation should have been informed immediately and Williams relieved of his duties as soon as news of the situation surfaced. By remaining silent, and by keeping Williams on the payroll, he says inestimable damage has been done.
"People are watching this and talking about how it's being handled and the effect is that it puts everyone under suspicion," Spradlin said. "You can't fault someone for not knowing what to do, but you can fault them for not seeking advice on how to address a situation as tragic as this one. Keeping it hidden and hoping it will go away is not the way to handle it."
David Brown, former Bellevue member and coordinator of the West Tennessee chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said euphemisms don't work, either.
"If it turns out that there was in fact sexual abuse, then calling it a 'moral failure' is not acceptable at all," Brown said. "And there has to be total honesty. Here we have a religious leader who learned about a terrible situation and chose not to come forward."
But church leaders insist there has been no cover up. Results of the investigation, which should last a few weeks, will be released to the congregation as soon as findings are available.
"I think the important thing to remember is that Steve Gaines realized he made a mistake, he's taking ownership of that and trying his best to fix it," said Jim Barnwell, Bellevue's director of communications. "I don't believe there was a deliberate attempt to hide anything."
During the investigation, which includes Bellevue members and independent sources, Williams will not perform any ministerial duties or be on the Bellevue campus.
Mid-America seminary is on 51 acres donated by Bellevue and includes a 130,000-square-foot academic and administration complex, a 1,100-seat chapel, gymnasium, bookstore, dining hall and student lounge. The school has 450 students and receives financial assistance from the church, but is not controlled by Bellevue.
-- James Dowd: 529-2737
Gaines under fire:
Since being named senior pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in September 2005, Dr. Steve Gaines has been the subject of several online debates. Savingbellevue.com has been critical of Gaines and other church leaders. Since its inception, the site has received nearly 400,000 hits.
Topics that have spurred debate include:
Allegations, denied by Gaines, that the congregation was being transitioned to include an "elder-led" form of government.
Institution of a blended style of worship, incorporating traditional and nontraditional music.
Gaines' compensation package, which is confidential.
An incident in which Gaines and several other church leaders traveled unannounced to former deacon Mark Sharpe's home in a gated community and climbed over a fence to get to his house.
Copyright 2006, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Letters to the editor the following day:
Butt out of Bellevue's business December 21, 2006
Shame on Dr. Michael Spradlin for his judgmental attitude again (Dec. 20 article, "Gaines urged to quit / 'People losing trust' in Bellevue pastor, seminary leader says"). Does he not have enough to do without meddling again?
Bellevue Baptist Church can handle its own internal business without the help of this intruder. Or maybe his job as leader of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary does not keep him busy enough.
God called Dr. Steve Gaines to lead the congregation at Bellevue, and if Gaines made a bad call, he doesn't have to answer to Spradlin.
God said in His word to lift up your brother in prayer, and not to kick him when he is down.
I am not a member of Bellevue, but I am a Christian and I will pray for Gaines and his congregation. God bless his work at Bellevue.
Gaines innocent until proven guilty
What is Spradlin's position that allows him to become involved in events at Bellevue Baptist? A search of Bellevue's Web site failed to turn up his name as a staff member, consultant, etc.
As interim minister at Germantown Baptist, a church with its own problems, I doubt he would be considered a member of the Bellevue congregation. Other than being a practicing Baptist, what makes him think his opinion is necessary for Bellevue to handle its internal situations?
Does he covet the Bellevue pastorship?
In America, you still are not guilty of anything based simply on unproven statements. Even Rickey Peete, Edmund Ford and John Ford are entitled to a day in court before judgment about guilt or innocence is made.
Spradlin's role in this is no different than Harold Ford Sr.'s investigation into the voter fraud situation last year. In both cases, a person with limited information reached conclusions and recommended action not necessarily supported by the facts.
If, as reported in the article, there was an incident 17 years ago involving a Bellevue staff member and an illegal act, a fact-finding effort should have been conducted then.
We cannot ask (former pastor) Adrian Rogers what he knew or what action he deemed appropriate, but it appears that Bellevue is now following an appropriate course of action without Spradlin's assistance. I had only to read the statement on Bellevue's Web site to gain this information.
A. L. Patterson
What did Rogers know and when?
After reading your article about Bellevue Baptist, I cannot help but wonder why Adrian Rogers was not mentioned. The alleged incident took place 17 years ago while Rogers was head of Bellevue.
Did he know about it and choose not to inform the congregation? Or was he totally unaware?
He, too, should be held responsible. But it seems that only Steve Gaines is responsible for anything that happens at Bellevue, whether under his tenure or Rogers' tenure.
Hmm . . . Seems more like disgruntled members trying to hang a pastor. Someone said the other day that the members who don't like Gaines will only be happy when Rogers returns.
Spradlin's choice to suggest that Gaines should resign reflects very poorly on Mid-America Seminary. Maybe he is too closely involved in this and should resign.
Pouring fuel on the fire
I was taken aback by your Dec. 20 hit piece about Bellevue Baptist pastor Steve Gaines. The story gave Dr. Michael Spradlin seven lengthy paragraphs before it gave readers a response from Gaines. And after Gaines' statement, it then ran this paragraph: "By remaining silent, and by keeping (Paul) Williams on the payroll, inestimable damage has been done," without attributing that statement to Spradlin or anyone else.
That's either sloppy journalism or old tricks.
It helps to know a little background, which is that Bellevue is warring over the future look and feel of its worship services. Surely this newspaper, whose editorial leaders have never warmed up to Bellevue, was aware of that feud when it gave the green light to pour more gasoline on that already-burning fire.
No matter how Bellevue's members feel about their pastor and the ongoing problems, if they read that story closely, they will shake their heads at an obvious hit piece and keep their money in their wallets.
As a member of Bellevue for well over 20 years, it truly saddens my heart to see this happening...
Does Dr. Gaines need to resign? I honestly don't know yet... but the bottom line is that he did, in fact, cover up the child abuse and sodomy committed by a long term member of the staff. Based solely on that fact, I don't see how Dr. Gaines can remain on staff. He is an incredible preacher. But apparently lacks leadership or judgment skills. At the very least, the congregation needs an honest, heartfelt and humble apology from Dr. Gaines (and not simply a self-service sermon on forgiveness and grace followed by an "oh yeah... y'all need to forgive me now" kind of thing.
To the person that wrote in to the article asking what right does Spradlin have to make comments on Bellevue's business? Well, Spradlin is a member of Bellevue, so therefore, he does have a right to state his opinion.
Heh-heh. To NYers, "Bellevue" means the funny farm. It's one of those regionalisms, like "up the river" meaning "to prison" (Ossinging, or "Sing-sing" state prison is up the river from Manhattan; Bellevue is a hospital most famous for its psych wards.)