Evangelist Ousley's ministry suspended

Rick Ousley

Friday, March 23, 2007

GREG GARRISON

News staff writer

Rick Ousley, founding pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and chaplain for the Samford University football team, has been suspended from his evangelistic ministry after he admitted to "moral and spiritual indiscretion."

Ousley's speaking engagements were canceled and his Web site shut down by the board of directors of Quixotic Ministries, which he founded after retiring from Brook Hills.

Ousley, 55, a nationally known evangelist who has given invocations at NASCAR races, admitted having an extramarital affair, said Ousley's attorney and spokesman, Gordon Pate.

"The board said let's cancel any outside speaking for the next three months and we'll re-evalate it at that time," Pate said. "It's something that the board and Rick agreed needed to be done."

Ousley issued a written statement Thursday:

"In the fall of 2005, I committed a moral and spiritual indiscretion with a woman not my wife. That woman has decided to make this public. I have acknowledged my sin to God, my wife, my family and to my ministry team. We are all now attempting to deal with this as God leads. I ask for your prayers during this difficult time."

Donna Jones of Katy, Texas, said that the reference to an indiscretion in fall 2005 refers to a weeklong trip she and Ousley took together to a cabin at Lake Fork near Dallas.

Wes Hendrix, who rented them the cabin, said Ousley and Jones spent the week together and he assumed they were old friends. "They were so upfront about it, they showed up together," Hendrix said. "I thought it was risky for him in the position he was in."

Jones, 43, said that she began a sexual relationship with Ousley in 1981 and met him twice in recent years for trysts on his trips with Samford's football team, to Waco, Texas, and Martin, Tenn. Ousley has been team chaplain for 15 years at Samford, where he graduated in 1975.

Pate said Ousley will no longer be chaplain for the team. "He is voluntarily stepping down from that position."

Samford spokesman Bill Nunnelley said university athletics officials were unaware of the situation.

Jones said her last trysts with Ousley were Dec. 10-17, 2006, when he preached two consecutive Sundays at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston.

She was 18, he was 29:

Jones said she began baby-sitting Ousley's children when she was 15, and began a sexual relationship with Ousley in Houston when she was 18 and he was 29, after he and his first wife divorced. Jones said Ousley continued the relationship with her after he married his current wife, Joyce.

Jones said she began telling supporters of Quixotic Ministries about her relationship with Ousley after Ousley told Jones he was getting anonymous e-mails from a woman and accused Jones.

"It's sad," Jones said. "I'm not proud of it."

Jones said Ousley called her, crying, on March 9, begging her to stay quiet. "He said, `Don't hurt my family, don't hurt my ministry,'" she said. "I said, `My God, you've done that to yourself. Don't put that back on me.'"

Student Life, a ministry to college students, had Ousley scheduled to speak at conferences this summer as he has done since 1992. He is no longer on the schedule, said Executive Director Randy Hall, a longtime friend of Ousley's. "The (Quixotic) Web site is down; Rick's next several speaking engagements have been canceled," Hall said.

Hall said Ousley's board members met Sunday and took the action to cancel speaking engagements.

Ousley also had been scheduled to speak last weekend at the "Celebrate Marriage Weekend" conference at Lakewood Baptist Church in Northport.

"Ours was the first event canceled," said Pastor Scott McQueen, who said he found a replacement speaker a day before the program for married couples. "It really is kind of ironic."

Ousley, who helped grow The Church at Brook Hills from 30 members in 1990 to worship attendance of 4,000, retired as pastor in 2005 amid serious health problems. He survived two brain surgeries, including an emergency operation after an aneurysm caused bleeding on his brain. But he continued to work as a traveling evangelist through Quixotic Ministries.

Staff members of The Church at Brook Hills said they want to be sensitive to Ousley's family.

"We don't have much comment," said current Pastor David Platt. "We want to be a source of prayer and support for Rick Ousley and his family."

Hall said money raised during a March 9 benefit for Quixotic Ministries may be put into escrow.

"We're in control of the finances, nothing's being spent without our approval," said David Wilson, president of Quixotic's board of directors.

Praying for him, family:

Wilson said Ousley and his wife have been married more than 20 years, and she remains supportive of him. Efforts to reach the Ousleys for comment were unsuccessful.

"Our first and foremost thoughts and prayers are for he, Joyce and the family, to work through this and have healing for their marriage," Wilson said. "That's our main focus."

Pate said this has been a difficult month for Ousley.

"He's devastated, emotionally and spiritually devastated," Pate said. "God has used Rick in a great way. I don't think he's through with him."

E-mail: ggarrison@bhamnews.com

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