Gaines Wants to Remain at Bellevue
Congregation Lines up in Support of Its Pastor

By Jody Callahan
Commercial Appeal [Memphis TN]
December 21, 2006,2845,MCA_25340_5228058,00.html

Appearing subdued and distraught, Steve Gaines told members of Bellevue Baptist Church Wednesday night that he'd like to remain their pastor.

The embattled Gaines, under fire from some in the religious community for various controversies at the massive church, spoke to several hundred members before their usual midweek service.

"The past few days have been very difficult times," said Gaines, who took over leadership of the church from the late Adrian Rogers in July 2005. "I'd really like to stay and be your pastor."

Gaines' comments came after Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary head Michael Spradlin called for the pastor's resignation in Wednesday's editions of The Commercial Appeal.

Gaines said he had nothing but "good thoughts and feelings" toward Spradlin.

Spradlin's call followed a series of other controversies, chief among them Gaines' handling of allegations that Bellevue minister Paul Williams committed a "moral indiscretion" 17 years ago that potentially included sexual abuse.

Gaines found out about the incident in June, but the congregation was only recently told. The delay inflamed some who questioned why the information was not released sooner.

Earlier Wednesday, Joyce Rogers, widow of the former pastor, said Williams told her that her husband had had no knowledge of the situation.

"I want to preserve my husband's integrity," she said. "He would not have handled the situation this way. Had he known he would have acted immediately."

Most of those at Bellevue Wednesday night, though, clearly supported Gaines, forming a line to greet him before the service and rising for several standing ovations.

"I don't think Steve Gaines has done anything wrong," member Brian Hunter said. "I think pastor Gaines is taking the appropriate measures dealing with the investigation."

That investigation was the topic of a separate talk by administrative pastor David Coombs, who outlined the steps the church plans to take.

The investigation, expected to be concluded within 30 days, will include Williams' "indiscretion" as well as his subsequent time at the church, where he has been a staffer for 34 years.

"We have put together a team of outside legal counsel as well as outside personnel consultants to assist in this investigation," Coombs said. "As people come forward with facts, we will investigate each one of them."

Coombs said that, by the end of the investigation, they will bring a recommendation on Williams' future at Bellevue. The group will also bring recommendations to church leadership regarding any changes necessary in hiring policies.

"I'm also a parent and member of this church. I have grandchildren I entrust to the care of the staff on a regular basis," Coombs said. "I have complete confidence in that staff.


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