Setting the Record Straight on Dr. Patterson

Once again, the Houston Chronicle has endeavored to malign Dr. Patterson by their portrayal of his handling of a very public and difficult situation that happened in the 1980s regarding a young pastor named Darrell Gilyard.

Although Dr. Patterson did not ask me to post his response to the Houston Chronicle, I requested his permission to do so, which he granted. Here are two other articles regarding the character of Dr. Patterson, who I have known for almost forty years. Dr. Paige Patterson: Things You Need To Know and Dr. Patterson’s Counsel to Pray for My Enemies.

The following is Dr. Patterson’s response.

Dr. Patterson’s response to the Houston Chronicle article of August 23, 2019 re: Darrell Gilyard

In the late summer of 1985, a prominent pastor from another state called me. He explained that a very poor young man who had been attending his church felt the call of God to preach and showed more than average potential. This pastor and I had shared before about addressing systemic racism in the Southern Baptist Convention, and both of us agreed that a strong theological education was an essential piece of that puzzle. He was hopeful about this young African American preacher. The pastor called me to ask if a scholarship could be available for him at the Criswell College. The Criswell College had no dedicated scholarship money available, as we existed for the most part on small donations from God’s people. But sensing the burden of addressing the racial dilemma even before the SBC’s public apology for what our forefathers had fueled, I replied that I would certainly take care of this pastor’s request to assist Darrell Gilyard, who began with us that fall. Quickly, his extraordinary linguistic and social skills manifested themselves. As I always have done, I encouraged the faculty to note carefully students who had exceptional gifts, explaining that the greater the gifts, the more the student would be targeted by Satan.

When Gilyard arrived, we were all regaled with the incredible story he told of his short life. His story was phenomenal and most, though not all, believed it. Retelling significant truths aided Darrell in expanding the tale and in remembering the expanded version so as not to be found in contradictions. The godly aunt who reared Darrell later observed that she could not understand why Darrell embellished his story, since the actual events were astounding enough.

Early signs of trouble arose when Darrell was called as associate pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Dallas. The position was of short duration since the pastor soon accused Darrell of becoming involved with a female church member. The sordid details, the extent of this, and the persons involved, though some have passed on, will not be made public because they were vouchsafed to me in a session of pastoral counseling. Some reading this will know very well that these accusations were not concerning Darrell alone. Consequently, all charges were unverifiable. I am not a police officer, a criminal investigator, or a judge. I am a pastor, trying always to minimize hurt and maximize healing.

There was soon a confrontational conference with Darrell. He denied the charges, explained how they came about, and asserted a biblical lifestyle of purity. Straightly, I informed him that if it ever came to my attention that he was untruthful, I would no longer support his ministry and would do what I could to bring it to a conclusion. Assuring me again of his undaunting commitment to Christ, he departed.

Rev. Dan Maxwell, pastor of a church in Norman, Oklahoma, called and asked, if memory serves me well, about Darrell’s potential to be a co-pastor. I assured Maxwell of the diverse giftedness of Darrell Gilyard but raised questions about the assignment based on my uncertainties that an essentially rural congregation in Oklahoma was the place for the verbose young minister and my concern over the recent nature of the incident at Concord Church. The church worked it out nevertheless, and Darrell accepted the position. Then during a long illness through which Maxwell walked, I again began to hear that Darrell was involved with a married woman other than his wife. Suspecting that I had been told an untruth by Darrell, I drove to Oklahoma and talked to the only person whose name I had as an accuser. While convincing to me, his possible connections to the Ku Klux Klan arose. In a situation involving a gifted black preacher, everything he shared became suspect.

Eventually I was approached by a godly female counselor whose integrity I have always trusted completely. She said that she had at least one woman (maybe more) with whom Gilyard had been involved. Hearing the testimony of this person plus a phone call to a central Texas motel used by Gilyard, I was convinced that he was not telling me the truth. I now believed that he was guilty of all of which he had been accused and probably more.

The results of all these developments left only one course of action available. Darrell lacked only one three-hour course to complete his baccalaureate degree at the Criswell College. To our knowledge, Gilyard had broken no law; but, as I’ve explained, promiscuous behavior was not tolerable for anyone entering the ministry, and he was aware of the consequences of this from the beginning of his schooling. Consequently, I expelled him from school with no option for reentry at a later time.

Two further actions were also taken. First, I asked Gilyard to call for a meeting of his church at which I would be in attendance and explain my insistence that he resign effective immediately. On what I remember to be a Sunday night, Dr. Danny Akin, now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, accompanied me to the church Gilyard served. Akin, then a vice president at Criswell College, has been well known for his opposition to racism.

The meeting lasted for two hours and was both sorrowful and confrontational. For example, one woman demanded that I show proof that a pastor could not be an adulterer. To her credit, when given the evidence from the Bible, she sat down and later even wrote to thank me for meeting with the church.

Finally, there is a rumor that I was actively promoting Darrell in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not only is that not the case, but my influence was not necessary for Gilyard to become immensely popular among many. Part of this was doubtless his giftedness. As I have indicated before, if Darrell had chosen to walk with God, surely now he would have been among the most famous preachers ever to stand in a pulpit. His fame expanded under its own momentum. I did not promote him because I knew of the question marks surrounding his character. Until that was resolved, I could do nothing further to assist him in his preaching ministry.

Through the state news magazines and the newsletters of many individual churches, I was aware of some who already had him scheduled to preach. Each pastor deserved to know what had happened at the Criswell College and at Darrell’s church. I called or talked to all whom I knew and explained the tragedy. In a year or so, virtually all Southern Baptists ceased to schedule Darrell.

And what of the victims no one has mentioned. Gilyard had a wife and two precious, lovely children: a son and a daughter. The end of a marriage and the humiliation of the wife and children will also never depart. May God diligently pour out heaven’s kindness upon the three of them along with every other victim of Gilyard. They were not the perpetrators of great wrong.

One final word. Did I make mistakes? Unquestionably, I did. Were any such mistakes designed to hurt anyone, least of all the women Gilyard preyed upon? Absolutely not. I was a young minister trying my best to handle difficult situations I could only partially fathom. Do I wish these events had never transpired? Emphatically. Do I wish Darrell Gilyard had run a straight race? More than anyone will ever know.

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Ronnie W. Rogers