Bellevue details "moral failure"

Former minister abused his son; report criticizes pastor's inaction

By James Dowd

January 29, 2007, commercialappeal.com

Bellevue Baptist Church leaders issued a report Sunday night detailing allegations that former minister Paul Williams was sexually abused as a child and repeated that cycle of abuse by molesting his own son two decades ago.

The report by an investigation team was released following Sunday's evening service and included sharp criticism for the cover-up of the abuse:

"On Paul's part, there appears to never have been any time in 17 years that any consideration was given to the effect that having a child molester on the ministerial staff of Bellevue Baptist Church would have on the church. His only consideration appears to have been to keep his job and, in the Team's opinion, to stay out of jail.

"If he had considered the welfare of the church family he would have resigned. The molestation of a child is bad enough, but to continue on in a ministerial capacity with responsibility for sensitive areas of our church is without excuse."

The report followed a month-long investigation initiated after the congregation was informed on Dec. 17 that Williams had been placed on paid leave since news surfaced that he committed a "moral failure" 17 years ago.

The report states that Williams "engaged in egregious, perverse, sexual activity with his adolescent son over a period of 12 to 18 months."

Later, Williams became remorseful, asked for his son's forgiveness, and "never touched him inappropriately again."

Several years later, Williams informed his wife of the abuse and then sought counsel from a retired Bellevue associate pastor. The now-deceased associate pastor's identity was not made public.

According to the investigation, Williams did not tell anyone else at the church about the abuse for nearly two decades, including Bellevue's late pastor, Rev. Adrian Rogers.

In May 2006, Williams informed Jamie Fish, the church's minister of biblical guidance, of his past actions. The report said Fish erred by not coming forward with the information, particularly since Williams' job duties included interviewing adult lay ministry volunteers who had indicated they had been sexually abused.

The following month Williams and his wife met to discuss the issue with Dr. Steve Gaines, Bellevue's senior pastor. Williams indicated that he confessed and repented to his family and there had been no further sexual abuse. The meeting was kept confidential and Williams remained on staff.

But in early December, Williams' son met with Gaines "for an explanation, in light of scriptural qualifications for ministers, as to why Paul should be allowed to continue as minister on the church staff."

Williams was later placed on paid leave and prohibited from performing any ministerial duties during the investigation.

The report said Gaines made a mistake by not immediately relieving Williams of his duties and seeking counsel on the matter.

Williams, who could not be reached for comment Sunday, was employed at the 30,000-member Cordova church for 34 years and most recently served as minister of prayer and special projects.

He was terminated on Jan. 22 and received no severance compensation. His ordination at the church is under review.

The report found no other examples of sexual abuse and said no other children were molested. Counseling will be made available either through the church or by a Christian counselor to any members who have been harmed by Williams' actions or hurt by the way in which the matter was addressed.

The 19-page report is available on the church's Web site, bellevue.org

-- James Dowd: 529-2737


On the web

www.bellevue.org

Report Highlights

Here are excerpts from the 19-page report on sex abuse allegations against former Bellevue Baptist Church minister Paul Williams.

The report was filed Sunday and is available on the church Web site, bellevue.org.

"When looking at the sequence of events over the 17-year period based on interviews with all witnesses, one glaring fact stands out. Starting with Paul, there appears to have been no serious consideration given by anyone to the health and safety of the Bellevue family."

"No evidence whatsoever was found suggesting that Dr. (Adrian) Rogers knew. Mr. Williams stated, without contradiction by any witness, that he had not told Dr. Rogers."

"At minimum, Dr. (Steve) Gaines should have taken steps to learn exactly what Mr. Williams' duties included, so he could ensure that there would be no harm to others. In fact, Dr. Gaines could have started investigating by asking Mr. Williams himself about his job duties, to ensure no unsafe exposure to children."

Copyright 2007, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN

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