15 Northeast Florida church officials on Southern Baptist list of accused sexual abusers
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen Jacksonville-area church officials were named in a newly-released list of accused or admitted sexual abusers.
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention published the 205-page list this week in response to an explosive investigation that accused the church of covering up abuse allegations.
In a joint statement, those leaders called the move “an initial, but important, step toward addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention.”
Among the names of cases that involve an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgement, sentencing and registered sex offenders. The list doesn’t include cases that don’t relate to sexual abuse – nor those that ended in acquittal.
Fifteen of the more than 700 entries are listed as being from the Northeast Florida area.
The list cites Robert Gray, the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. Gray died in 2007 as he was being prosecuted for multiple counts of capital sexual battery dating all the back to the 1940s.
Also on the list is Robert Browning, a former teacher at a church-run school and former youth pastor at Old Plank Road Baptist Church. In 2018, the then-60-year-old pleaded guilty to sexual activity with an underage girl and sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Darrell Gilyard, was also listed — after 44 women made allegations against him. Gilyard admitted to molesting two girls and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009.
William Henry Randall is a former pastor of St. Simon Baptist Church. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery after being accused of molesting a child.
Stephen Edmonds is a former deacon and youth minister at First Baptist Church. He was convicted in 2003 for molesting three boys and sentenced to a year in prison plus probation.
Jim Bruce, a former priesthood member at College Park Baptist Church in Palatka, was convicted in 2009 of two sexual assaults.
Jeffery Lamar Carter, Anthony Phillips Denton, Bobby Harold Epps, William Murray Hendricks Jr., Fritzner Jean, Alexie Kelly, and Murrvin Sheppard were also named in the document and are connected to northeast Florida.
The Convention said in its statement: “Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.”
With 47,000 churches and almost 14 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant organization in the country, and the second-largest Christian denomination.
The SBC has established a hotline for reports of sexual abuse in churches — (202) 864-5578. All submitters will remain confidential.
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