Seminary Head Hears Gaines Reaction
Call for Bellevue Pastor's Resignation Spurs Comment
By Yolanda Jones
Commercial Appeal [Memphis TN]
December 23, 2006
Dr. Michael Spradlin, head of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, has gotten a lot of calls and e-mails in response to recent comments in The Commercial Appeal about a divisive situation at Bellevue Baptist Church.
In an article Wednesday, Spradlin said he believed Dr. Steve Gaines, senior pastor of the Cordova church, should resign if he knew about sexual abuse by one of the church's ministers but didn't take immediate action.
During Sunday services, the congregation was told Paul Williams, minister of prayer and special projects and a longtime Bellevue staffer, had been placed on paid leave pending an investigation into what church leaders called a "moral failure" that occurred 17 years ago.
Gaines has said he learned about the incident in June.
"If Steve Gaines found out that a child had been sexually molested by one of his ministers and if he did nothing to address it, then he needs to step down immediately," Spradlin said in Wednesday's article.
In a subsequent interview Friday, Spradlin said he has received a lot of support from Baptist leaders and parishioners about his comments, but has been criticized as well.
He said a meeting of the nine board of directors was called Thursday to discuss how to respond to people who have been concerned by the article.
Spradlin took part in the conference call and said he was not asked to resign, nor was he pressured to resign for speaking out.
A letter from Spradlin that appeared on the seminary's Web site Friday clarifies that he had not called a press conference to talk about the situation at Bellevue, and that the interview had been scheduled prior to Bellevue's announcement that Williams had been put on leave.
The nearly two-page letter is addressed to the "Mid-America Family" and in it Spradlin writes that he has been applauded by evangelical leaders such as James Dobson, who has a daily radio show called "Focus on the Family."
"Dr. Dobson emphasized to me that 'When prominent leaders have no accountability and make these kinds of decisions, other prominent leaders must stand up and hold them accountable.' "
Michael Reagan, a conservative radio talk-show host and oldest son of former president Ronald Reagan, was not mentioned in Spradlin's letter, but he discussed the Bellevue story on his nationally syndicated show on Monday.
Reagan said a friend sent him the story about Bellevue and he compared the Bellevue scandal to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal involving priests. He said churches need to deal immediately with these types of allegations.
-- Yolanda Jones: 529-2380
• Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary president Michael Spradlin's letter
• Statement from Dr. Steve Gaines
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