August 11, 2008

Message To Bellevue Baptist, Memphis, Tennessee

Bellevue Baptist began in 1903 in a small, log-cabin-like facility. The church completed a 3,000 seat building in 1952, which was one of the first air-conditioned churches in Memphis. Bellevue became one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the United States in the 1950s with more than 9,000 members. The church relocated to its current building (2000 Appling Road), which seats more than 7,500, on a 400 acre (1.6 km²) campus in Cordova, a Memphis suburb, in 1989. Current church membership is more than 30,000, making Bellevue the second largest Southern Baptist church in the United States. Based on attendance, Bellevue is the 65th largest Protestant church in the country. The church's location near Interstate 40 is marked by a display of three crosses that are visible from several miles away. The center cross is 150 feet (45.75 m) tall, flanked by two 120-foot (36.5 m) crosses.
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is located on 51 acres across the street from Bellevue (35 of the acres were donated by Bellevue). Wikepidea

The Church was nearly controversy free until the new Pastor, Steve Gaines, came and Adrian Rogers died. Rogers had pastored with the concept of the church being "pastor-led, deacon-served, committee-operated and congregation-approved." While this worked for the benevolent and charismatic leadership of Dr Rogers it did not serve Dr Gaines well. What Dr Rogers had been able to do, Steve Gaines couldn't. In September/November 2006 an investigation ensued within the Church for Gaines pastoral misconduct. The controversy was covered extensively by the local media.
In December 2006 the straw that broke the camel's back came with the announcement 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. When it was learned that Gaines had kept the issue silent from June to December then he was charged by dissenters for covering up the molestation and in February 2007 the issue became national with the SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest).

The focus of their concern was not so much Paul Williams but Steve Gaines' cover-up. This served the purpose of the dissenters who were eager to confront Gaines with misconduct.

My sympathy goes out to Steve Gaines and his wife who have suffered needlessly and I am sure that no one would be more disappointed in the actions of the dissenters than Dr Rogers himself. The Rogers family have been swept away from their beloved Bellevue because of the force of this dissent. This is not Gaines fault nor making, rather the pervert himself, Paul Williams, who has brought upon Bellevue shame no Church should have to bear. He should be the focus of the situation and not Gaines. Mr. Williams attends another Church in the area and I have warned the pastor that he needs to be cautious in dealing with him. The son attends a different Church from his father and Bellevue.
I would like to submit for consideration these things:
1.) Dr Rogers' involvement in so many important things, local and national, kept him distant from the knowledge of the deep pain that this young son endured. One of the reasons for Bellevue's success lie at the feet of this young man. The revelations of what his father had done would have had IMO disastrous effects on the integrity of the leadership of Bellevue. Dr Rogers' aura would not have been able to sustain the damage. The son bore this reality and it had to have been salt in his wounds.
2.) Dr Rogers' death may bear the effects of "premature dying"; taken out of the way by the will of God. Negatively, due to the negligence of Bellevue's leadership that caused the son to suffer needlessly. Positively, due to the possible weight that this would bear upon Dr Rogers and his family. The proximity factor plays in this as it is so hard to fathom 17 years of Rogers not knowing about this and just a few months that Gaines became aware of it after Rogers' death.
3.) Where is the line drawn for a man to know when his charisma and personality are in the way of the will of God in prospering a Church? Bellevue was Dr Rogers' Church and all the outsiders in the area knew that with the exception of the loyal attenders. Are not most of our American mega-Churches built on this false foundation? Was Bellevue a "personality cult"?
4.) Is there an under lying theology that has fostered this demise? Is there a hint of mortal goodness reflected in Rogers that said that we are after all not as bad as we seem. Is there a false "order" that is a suppression of a deeper hidden truth, an evil that erupted in Paul Williams' crime against his own son and in the end a blasphemous and godless chaotic rebellion?
5.) Finally a lot can be accomplished by the son coming forward (very painful suggestion).
He needs to tell his story if integrity will ever be restored at Bellevue. Criminal charges should be brought against the father. He should stand trial for his crimes. Those who contributed to the cover-up should be tried for criminal negligence. Any influential Bellevue members who stand in the way of justice should desist immediately. Bellevue Baptist will need to repent of their sitting by and letting the Gaines family and the son be neglected. The Church will have to seriously ask themselves, how could such a crime take place in our midst and we react so dispassionately.
The son's silence will only contribute to more sorrow, later. This is a case of national spirituality.


Anonymous said...

My comment is this: What does Dr. Rogers have to do with any of the allegations of Paul Williams? Paul Williams is the person in question not pastor Rogers. Dr. Rogers was a man and only a man. So what if he was the pastor of the church and the leader. He had decons and other pastors as well to help him just like any other large organization that has vice presidents, CFO ect. It was his job to shepard and to guide his congration not make confession for all their sins and ask for forgiveness. I BELIEVE THAT IS THE INDIVIDUALS JOB TO CONFESS THEIR SINS TO GOD AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. Dr. Rogers could not do that for anyone only for himself. I know CEO's who run large corporations,they run extensive background checks and still they may hire an unethical person. People make mistakes and sometimes do wrong things and when they are caught they pay the consequences for their actions. We are all human, only Jesus Christ was the perfect one. I attend a very large church, and my pastor knows only what is told to him as we all do. People can be very spirtual when they are at church. I believe Dr. Rogers preached "It is what God sees that determines true character not what man sees". Anyone can keep secrets and never tell anyone else. Another question is: Why did Paul Williams son decide to come forward after the death of Dr. Rogers and, by the way he says that Rogers had no knowledge of the allegation? To my knowledge Paul Williams has not been charged with any crime,and I do not in any way mean to make light of the situation. If Pual Williams is guilty of this crime then he shuold by all means be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But that is for the judge and courts to decide not the church at large.It is a shame that people have been hurt by this and a strong church has been challenged by allegations. I pray that God will bless Bellevue and begin to heal the church. I continue to pray daily for the Rogers family that God will strenghten them and give them comfort through all of this.

WatchingHISstory said...


Bellevue Baptist is not a corporation like we know today but a mystical spiritual body directed by the Holy Spirit. Like Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira's sin was revealed by the HS to Peter.

I hear your appeal for the good of the Rogers' family and Bellevue but there is a deeper need for the church to be more reliant on the Holy Spirit to direct it's affairs and not merely men, yours and my church. That is my prayer.

Thanks for dropping by. keep reading.

christian said...

To Watching His Story,please do not refer to the Holy Spirit as an initial. It is very disrespectful. I can not believe that this blog is still here. How many years now has then been out and nothing ever came of it. Hum imagine that. Maybe God has covered and forgiven his sin. Wow what a concept God forgives!!! I was reading anon comment and I have to agree, why would the Holy Spirit reveal sins to a minister. If that were the case and the Holy Spirit revealed everyones sins to the pastor I do believe the church pews would be empty. No one likes for there sin to be revealed.It is the Holy Spirit of God that convicts of sin not man, and man must repent. God puts messages like Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible so that we know what could happen. I'm positive there have been more things than what this man has been accused of and no one ever knew it but God. Because He forgives and He shows mercy to those who ask for it.It sounds to me as if are on a witch hunt. I can tell you, if you dig long enough you will find something and it may not be what you were digging for. God has forgiven this why can't you. God is not pleased I can certainly assure you of that. Let God do the watching He is better at than you are I'm sure.