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Fundamentalists Must Face Child Abuse by Pastors!

Published Aug 18, 2006
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I wept as I saw the photographs of Dr. Bob Gray led away in handcuffs. Dr. Gray, thought of as one of America’s greatest preachers and church builders, was arrested for molestation of little girls under his jurisdiction.  Gray was pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, a large independent church in Jacksonville for 38 years until his resignation in 1992 to serve as a missionary to Germany.  He invited me to preach in his church and college and helped facilitate one of our mission trips to Switzerland and Germany. I considered him my friend.

He was a good friend but no more. He betrayed his Savior, his ordination vows, his wife, his church, and his friends who greatly respected him. As of May 27, at least 17 women have accused him of molesting them while they were students at his Christian school when they were small children. According to the police report Gray has admitted “French kissing” girls in his office. Some of the women charge that he “fondled them and touched their genitals and kissed them” during visits to his office at the school when they were 6 years old.

I don’t like to kick a man when he is down and I believe in loyalty to friends but when a man repeatedly commits horrendous sins and presents himself as  a man of God (with all that implies) then I consider him  my enemy when he proves that he was not what was represented.

On May 23 another woman charged Gray with molesting her in 1949 when she was 9 and he was a young assistant pastor in Hampton, FL. Question: Did his pastor/boss permit him to go to the Jacksonville church without any warning to the church?  Did the Jacksonville church even check out Gray’s references?

 I don’t like to kick a man when he is down and I believe in loyalty to friends but when a man repeatedly commits horrendous sins and presents himself as  a man of God (with all that implies) then I consider him  my enemy when he proves that he was not what was represented.

His wife told the Times-Union, “I believe he’s an honest and honorable man, and I believe he tries to do what’s right.” While it is normal for a wife to react that way, she is wrong. He was not honest or honorable, and if fundamental Baptist pastors come to his defense while being critical of the massive Roman Catholic sex scandal it will be pure hypocrisy.

We independent Baptists have a problem that Roman Catholics and denominations with a hierarchy ruling system don’t have. With Independent Baptists, there is no bishop or pope to move an erring pastor from one church to another. When a priest goes bad, he is moved from Atlanta to Anchorage and often continues his lechery. Often the Baptist stays in town, denies everything, hunkers down and stays in the same pulpit for 30 years. And after a few months or years following the revelation of his sins, he is accepted by his peers as if he was guilty of speeding!

The non-hierarchal way is the Bible way but it is failing in our day because of weakness and vacillation of laymen and pastors. Laymen must hold their pastors accountable, but that very seldom happens either because of intimidation by the pastor, or love for the pastor, or a desire “not to cause a disruption of the ministry.” Not hurting the church is the excuse leaders use for not dealing with a pastor’s sexual affairs. They often say, “Let God take care of it,” however, God has told the church to take care of it. Most Baptist churches are failing at this and other matters of church discipline.

The molested women told First Coast News (TV) that church officials knew about the abuse for years, but tried to “sweep it under the rug.” According to First Coast News the present pastor Dr. Tom Messer, in a letter with a handwritten note to alleged victims, indicated that the church “dealt with the issue of Dr. Gray’s relationships with children and brought church discipline” against Gray and “instituted accountability” for him in 1992 and 1997.  Church leaders broke the law when they refused to report the charges to authorities. But now they are  cooperating with those authorities.

Trinity’s website says that the church “wants the truth to be ascertained and to become fully known.” That is admirable but was that their desire when the charges first surfaced? Were these charges the catalyst for Gray resigning the church and going to Germany? Why was Gray permitted to present himself to other churches raising financial support without informing supporting pastors? Why was he kept on various boards and permitted to be the headliner for various Baptist conferences? If pastors and conference moderators were aware of his past and continued to invite Gray to preach to other pastors then they are  participants in Gray’s sins. Knowledgeable pastors who preached with Gray in various conferences are guilty of compromise.

It is time to recognize that there is a “good ole boy” network in Independent Baptist circles where our “heroes” are protected by their peers. After all, we don’t want to appear to be self-righteous or judgmental or unkind or whatever.  So we who claim to believe, follow, and preach the Bible have become unbiblical! We are more loyal to sinners than to the Savior!

That great host of Independent Baptist pastors who live godly lives are harmed by those who think being a pastor means they can get away with any kind of sin and “work” really hard for God to balance it all out. However doing a great amount of good never negates the evil.

One famous Independent Baptist pastor (himself charged with indiscretions and adultery) said “If I walked into Dr. (Lee) Roberson or Dr. (Lester) Roloff’s office and saw them on the floor on top of their secretary I would assume they were doing mouth to mouth resuscitation, not sinful activity.”  That sounds so gracious but it is cultic in thinking if not in theology.  

Not the least responsible for pastor indiscretions are the laymen who refuse to pursue charges brought against a pastor. Some laymen have been taught that they should not do so. It is supposed to be disloyalty to ask a pastor to explain accusations against himself! It is time for Christian men to act like men and fulfill their responsibilities as board members and get the facts. If a pastor is guilty, report it to authorities if that is required, then seek to help him and help him find another occupation. He has lost his right to be in the pulpit.

Some suggestions:

*All pastors should demand they be held accountable by their church officers.

*Everyone must realize that preachers are simply humans who are ordained. There are all kinds: highly educated, poorly educated, gracious, mean, greedy, generous, all prone to the same failures, foibles, and faults of others.  Respect them if they deserve it and flee from them as if your hair is on fire if they are cultic.

*No accusation against a pastor should be believed until it is proved beyond a doubt, but it should be investigated. 

*Laymen must deal with charges against a pastor and biblical injunctions must be followed.

*A pastor should not be in a room with a girl or woman without an open door.

*Pastors and staff offices should have glass doors or windows so that the office areas are visible.

*No pastor should be permitted to occupy a pulpit if he is found guilty of sexual sins whether it be with little girls, big girls, little guys or big guys!

Dr. Bob Gray, preacher extraordinaire, educator, church builder, and missionary is in jail as I write. How many other Independent Baptist pastors should be sitting with him?

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2 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Kayla Taylor
Jul 6, 2008 2:29pm [ 1 ]

Good posting Brother. My preacher thinks the same as you, he never meets with a lady or girl without his wife present.

charles pentland, jr.
Aug 31, 2016 7:31pm [ 2 ]

it’s sad, not only immoral but greedy because they don’t want to give up their paycheck. What about Tom Messer not reporting it? He wants to hold on to his wallet too. I was at Trinity the spring of 1969-1970 while in the navy before we went to Vietnam. Some of the illustrations from Bob Gray shows the pure hyprocisy. One time he said, “If I find anyone bringing drugs into this school, i’ll kill them with my own hands…” Another time he preached against adultery and one man followed him with a pistol. He said he turned around and said to the man, “Buddy, if the shoe fits, wear it.” He also said he was “…filled with the Holy Spirit from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and I didn’t know if I was going to get a bullet in me at any moment”. Too bad Tom Messer didn’t take his advice,”buddy, if the shoe fits, wear it.” A hundred years ago he probably would have been hanged by the neck in the town square. God evened the score somewhat for bob gray’s death shame. The victims are hurting. Let’s clean house and not backslide ourselves.

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