Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Woman settles lawsuit against Jacksonville pastor, church

A woman who claimed Jacksonville pastor Darrell Gilyard sexually assaulted and impregnated her has settled her lawsuit against him and Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.But her paternity case against Gilyard, which he is challenging, continues. He has never been charged with assaulting the woman. An unrelated felony case that accuses
Gilyard, 47, of three lewd and lascivious acts with a teenager is scheduled for trial next month.Court documents show the civil lawsuit was settled in mediation last week. Terms are confidential.Kesha Emerson initially accused Gilyard of using a 2004 counseling session after her husband died to convince her she needed to have sex with him to hasten her healing.
Her lawsuit accused Shiloh of negligence in hiring, supervising and retaining Gilyard as pastor.Emerson amended the complaint last month to say that when she rejected Gilyard’s advances he pushed her to the floor and sexually assaulted her. When she later discovered she was pregnant, she said Gilyard persuaded her that only by continuing to have sex with him would she receive support, the amended lawsuit says.Emerson’s attorney, Barry Bobek, said at the time he hadn’t fully interviewed his client before filing the first lawsuit. He declined comment Wednesday; lawyers for the church and Gilyard didn’t return phone calls.Emerson’s paternity suit seeks child support, medical and life insurance from Gilyard for a 3-year-old girl. Gilyard filed a response denying a sexual relationship with Emerson.Gilyard was arrested last year after the mother of a teenage parishioner told police she found obscene text messages from him on her daughter’s cell phone. His criminal trial is scheduled May 26. Gilyard, a Palatka native, rose to prominence in his 20s, pastoring one of the nation’s 10 fastest-growing churches. He left that church, Victory Baptist in Texas, amid accusations of sexual impropriety and came to Shiloh in 1993.The West Beaver Street church quietly settled a 1996 sexual misconduct claim involving Gilyard for $300,000.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A call to awareness today by SNAP

There was a news conference held today by David Cohessey of the SNAP organization. I was invited to attend and take part. Channel 4 news covered the story.

I did not know what to expect as I was just notified yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of compassion that David has for victims. Just before the conference, he explained his usual process and what to expect. He was very easy to talk to and put my mind at ease immediately. David travels all over the country working with those abused by Pastors/clergy and I can't help but to think how sad that this provides a full time job. We would like to think that this is very isolated and uncommon, but the reality is that it has become a serious problem.

David is concerned not so much with justice, as he has learned that this rarely happens here on earth, but that there is some added prevention through awareness. He is also very heart broken over every life touched by this type of abuse, he was once a victim himself. He fully understands the entire painful process and can identify with every story, as different as they may be. He became teary eyed over and over again as we discussed things following the interview. Not to say that he is in any way weak for this emotion, I believe it shows so much humanity and Christ likeness to be compassionate about others. We only know of some of the stories and only if they become public, but David along with Christa Brown (among others) carry this burden in their souls, as they face hundreds (maybe more) of these victims each year.

One thing that rings true - there are many, many more victims (of Darrell and others) that are still trapped in their own bondage of secrecy. There are so many different individual reasons for this secrecy, but the common theme is pain and fear. This fear can be crippling and the pain overwhelming. Even if these efforts do not result in some consequence for Darrell, we have still created awareness, we may have kept one person from being victimized and we may have helped someone break the bondage of silence which ultimately leads to healing.

Let's applaud SNAP's efforts and their personal sacrifices while raising awareness and pursuing safety for all of us within churches. And I applaud many of you that have participated in helping to strengthen this case by bringing forth information that will ultimately make it tougher for Darrell to victimize again. Thank you.