JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (ABP) — An African-American preacher once popular in preaching circuits of the Southern Baptist Convention completed his three-year prison sentence for sex crimes with two girls in his congregation Dec. 28 and is now a registered sex offender on probation in Jacksonville, Fla.
Darrell Gilyard, 49, pleaded guilty May 21, 2009, to molesting a 15-year-old girl and sending lewd text messages to another. He was arrested Jan. 14, 2008, on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct after a church member told police she found inappropriate text messages from Gilyard on her daughter's cell phone. Another girl recorded alleged sexual conduct with Gilyard in her diary.
Gilyard resigned Jan. 4, 2008, after 15 years as pastor of Jacksonville’s Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, a 7,000-member predominantly African-American congregation. As a young minister in the 1980s, he was mentored by prominent Southern Baptist Convention leaders including Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines and promoted on Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour.
Gilyard's relationship with SBC leaders soured in 1991, when he resigned under pressure after admitting to several adulterous affairs with women he was counseling while pastor of a multi-racial SBC church in Richardson, Texas.
Over the years Gilyard resigned from a total of five churches over charges of sexual misconduct. Many SBC leaders disbelieved the accusations, and continued to support him until the Dallas Morning News published stories in 1991 saying dozens of women had accused him of sexual misconduct, with some alleging rape.
“I’m happy to have that dark part of my life over,” Gilyard told the Florida Times-Union Jan. 3, declining further comment.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.