It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

                                                     CS Lewis


Here we are in one of the swankiest cities in the South and in one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country which had a world renowned pastor who was a three time president of the SBC.  Can it possibly get any better than that? 

When Steve Gaines succeeded Adrian Rogers at Bellevue, he must have thought he had died and gone to heaven!  The congregants were likely thrilled to have a dynamic young pastor and his “trophy” wife.  Great things lay in store for this megachurch in Cordova…

Then the unthinkable happened which is described in the Wikipedia article on Bellevue Baptist Church:



Handling of minister misconduct

“On December 17, 2006, the church announced that Paul Williams, a minister and staffer at the church for 34 years, had been placed on leave with an investigation pending regarding a "moral failure," identified by Gaines and others as alleged child molestation in the 1980s.  The next day, December 18, Gaines released a statement that acknowledged that he had been aware of the allegation since June 2006 but that he did not address it for several months because Williams had been attending professional counseling, because of confidentiality concerns, and out of compassion for the staffer.”

According to a December 21, 2006 article in the Associated Baptist Press:  “Gaines also told the church the personnel committee would conduct an investigation of the situation and issue a statement after the inquiry.”  Here’s the link: 


What did the church investigation reveal?  Here’s the shocking headline that reveals the answer:

Bellevue report:  Assistant pastor guilty of sex abuse against son

What happened to Paul Williams as a result of this investigation?



Bellevue Baptist Church has terminated a minister whose admission of sexual misconduct put the suburban Memphis mega-church in the center of a scandal that has received national attention.

Bellevue's personnel committee voted Sunday to dismiss Paul Williams, minister of prayer and special projects, after 34 years on the church staff, effective Monday, Jan. 22, according to a statement on the church web site.

“Williams…was dismissed without severance after initially being place on administrative leave with pay”, according to an Ethics Daily article at this link:  http://ethicsdaily.com/news.php?viewStory=8471

Paul Williams, who allegedly admits to having been molested as a child, began sexually assaulting his son in the 1980s (probably during pre-pubescence).  According to the church investigation, this illicit activity occurred over a 12 to 18 month period.  We don’t understand why the time frame is not more precise. Williams’ son is now approximately 30 years of age and is married with children. 

We want to be candid — it’s extremely difficult to investigate and report on cases such as this, but we do it because our motherly instincts are very strong!  We can’t imagine this happening to our own children.  If our efforts will help prevent children from being molested in the future, then we are willing to do it. 

Now here’s the REAL PROBLEM in this “Memphis Mess”.  Pastor Steve Gaines told the church that Williams had confessed a "moral failure" to him SIX MONTHS EARLIER.  Apparently, Gaines didn’t see any urgency in the matter because the molestation occurred 17 years prior. 

Here’s why Bellevue’s pastor kept the confession confidential:  “Gaines described it as a ‘church matter’, and said he agreed to honor the confidentiality of the confession for six months because Williams told him it was a one-time occurrence and the family had resolved the problem.” 


See “Bellevue Fires Minister at Center of Sex-Abuse Scandal” http://ethicsdaily.com/news.php?viewStory=8436

A one-time occurrence?  Did Gaines take this child molester at his word?  As the pastor of a 30,000 member church, didn’t Gaines know that child molesters are chronic liars?  In the article referenced directly above, there is an interesting statement:

“The committee made the decision after reviewing a report by an investigative committee appointed in December, after Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines told the church that Williams had confessed a moral failure to him six months earlier that occurred 17 years ago. Gaines did not disclose the nature of the transgression, but a Web site critical of his leadership said it involved sexual abuse of Williams' own son.”

Did Gaines FINALLY inform the congregation of this “moral failure” (after keeping it confidential for over six months) all because of a blog?  Please see Dr. Jon’s August 5, 2009 post on The Wartburg Watch entitled:  “Pastoral Accountability and Christian Blogs:  A New Form of Quality Assurance”.  Here's the link:


Christa Brown, who manages the Stop Baptist Predators web site is passionate about identifying child molesters, particularly predatory pastors.  You see, she was sexually abused by a Baptist pastor when she was a teenager.   She had compiled extensive information on this tragic case at Bellevue, which can be found at this link:



There is so much more to discuss about the tragic situation, and we plan to pursue different topics related to it over the next several days.  For example, what are the legalities involved in this case, particularly when it comes to abiding by mandatory reporting laws in Tennessee?  How about those who publicly stated that Steve Gaines should step down?  Should bloggers just “butt out”?

Last Saturday I promised a commenter who goes by the handle “Junker” that I would thoughtfully respond to his questions, which are as follows:
This is a sincere question, not an attack. So how does "digging up dirt" or "reporting the facts", whichever term you use, advance the cause of Christ? How is it loving God or loving your neighbor?
Saturday, September 26, 2009 – 09:13 AM
(Junker’s comment can be found on the September 25, 2009 post)
Here goes…

First of all, the “digging up dirt” accusation originated with Cooper, and I corrected him by explaining that we are “reporting the facts”.  That should be patently clear in today’s post.  Practically everything that has been written on The Wartburg Watch has been documented.  The Bellevue pedophile case, for example, has drawn national attention, and we are trying to effect change in churches nationwide by bringing these problems out in the open.  We believe transparency is the answer.    

How is The Wartburg Watch advancing the cause of Christ?

We believe this forum is advancing the cause of Christ because we are demonstrating to a watching world the sincerity of our Christian faith.  We are passionate about our love for Jesus Christ, and we want to bring Him honor and glory.  By shining light into the dark places in Christendom (as God’s Word clearly commands), we are trying to purify the bride of Christ. 

Unfortunately, there are so many who label Christians as hypocrites, and after reading many of our blog posts, it’s easy to see why they would come to that conclusion.  We want Christians to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, especially those in church leadership.  We pray that this forum is encouraging all Christians to do just that. 

Finally, we are trying to clean up the church like Jesus cleansed the temple.  What we are doing in this forum is exposing the “dirt” that is already there.  By bringing attention to it, we believe that it can be removed so that others can remain clean in the house of God.
How is it loving God or loving your neighbor?

We believe we are loving God as we post on The Wartburg Watch by attempting to purify the bride of Christ.  This forum is not unlike what Nathan did when he confronted David’s sin with Bathsheba.      

With regard to “loving your neighbor”, do you have any idea how many hurting Christians there are who have been maligned and/or neglected by their pastors and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Dee and I are reaching out to them in this public forum, demonstrating our love and compassion, and giving them the opportunity to share their hearts.  If only their pastors would do the same.

Thanks Arce, Lydia, and Dee for responding to Junker’s questions.  I also want to thank Junker for his thoughtful comment in yesterday’s thread, which he posted today.  I pray that we can keep this important dialogue going… Dee and I are mindful that all of us in this little Wartburg community are living out our Christian faith before a watching world.
As always in our Walking in Memphis series, we leave you with a popular Elvis tune. 

Here’s Heartbreak Hotel. 

Of course, the lyrics of this song have nothing to do with today's topic, but the Memphis Mess is truly “heartbreaking” for everyone in the body of Christ.


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