(WMC-TV) - Reported on December, 26 2006 - Bellevue Baptist Pastor Dr. Steve Gaines got right to the point at Wednesday night's church service. "I'd really like to stay and be your pastor, if it would be all right," he said.
Gaines has been under fire for keeping a disturbing secret from his congregation for the past six months. That was when one of his ministers, Paul Williams, confessed to Gaines he had molested a child relative 17 years ago.
Williams claimed it hadn't happened again and told Gaines he was in counseling.
At Wednesday night's service at Bellevue Baptist Church, Gaines made it clear he knew critics wanted him to step down. "Just this morning, perhaps you read that Dr. Mike Spradlin called for my resignation," he said.
Michael Spradlin is president of the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, which is right across the street from Bellevue Baptist. Gaines said he had the utmost respect for Spradlin, but will stay on while an independent team evaluates Bellevue's hiring practices and other policies.
"We are going to get an outside consultant of a blue ribbon reputation to come in and look these over and make sure that we are doing everything possible to protect our church family, especially our children," said Administrative Pastor, David Combs.
For now, Gaines will remain at the helm of a church in crisis. "God wants us to respond in grace and love, and as I said this past Sunday, if Jesus forgave us, we can forgive anyone," he said.
The minister at the center of the controversy has been placed on paid leave at least until a report is completed in thirty days.
Reported by Brooke Sanders:
Wednesday afternoon, Action News 5 spoke with the widow of long-time Bellevue Pastor, Dr. Adrian Rogers. Mrs. Joyce Rogers said she wanted to set the record straight, and said her husband knew nothing about claims that Bellevue minister Paul Williams molested a child.
"Mr. Williams told me that himself, that my husband did not know," Rogers said.
When asked why it was important that the public knew Dr. Rogers was unaware of the situation, Joyce Rogers replied, "I think it has to do with his integrity, and his manner of dealing with things like this. He would have dealt with it immediately."
Wednesday, some Bellevue members, like Josh Manning, were calling on current Bellevue pastor Dr. Steve Gaines to resign.
"I think Dr. Gaines should resign," Manning said. "A pastor should be a shepherd, someone who protects his members. From what Dr. Gaines himself has said for six months, he knew a child molester was walking our halls interviewing the people who work with our children."
David Brown, a former Bellevue Member and a spokesperson for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he would not call for Gaines to resign. "That is a church matter for them to decide," he said. "That is not a concern of mine."
However, Brown was concerned that a person accused of molesting a child was allowed to have contact with children at Bellevue. "You must remove this man immediately," Brown said. "There is no excuse for leaving that man on campus over there for six months."
Manning said Williams commonly counseled molestation victims within Bellevue.
While Gaines may have waited to tell his members about the claims of molestation, a spokesperson for the Department of Children's services said that agency would not wait, and that an investigation was underway to make sure there were no victims at the church.