Web site hints at Bellevue concerns

Bellevue Baptist is one of the Mid-South's biggest churches. Tonight, a new website is hinting at battles brewing within the church.

This web site has only been up for three weeks and already it's had 35,000 hits. The church leadership says it's the work of a few people. Those few people say there are thousands of them worried about changes there.

Steve Gaines took over as pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church nearly a year ago. Longtime church member Jim Haywood says that's when things started to change.

"I love bellevue. Bellevue is one of the greatest churches in the world in my opinion. I just hate the way that it's going," Haywood says.

Bellevue administrators tell Action News 5 the church is thriving under Gaines' leadership, that attendance is up. But Haywood says the church - with its membership of 30,000 - is at a crossroads. His web site - savingbellevue.com - has had 35,000 hits since he put it online three weeks ago. And it's generating debate around the Mid-South.

Haywood says it's giving a voice to those critical of changes at the church, including a more contemporary worship style. On his web site, he says it's hard for church members to get information and that the administration is making decisions without consulting the people who worship here.

"It seems to me that a lot of the older people that have been there for years and years and years are the most dissatisfied," Haywood says.

Pastor Gaines was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson tells AN5 the church leadership makes a priority of responding to suggestions and concerns from church members and that the overwhelming majority of the feedback they get is positive. In response to our other inquiries, the media director here quoted the former pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers. He said, "Bellevue is pastor led, deacon served, committee run, and congregationally approved."