Byline: Jeff Brumley
Former Jacksonville megachurch pastor Darrell Gilyard is back in the pulpit less than two months after his release from prison for committing sex crimes against minors.
Gilyard, 49, said he accepted the late January offer to preach at Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church because he needed money and felt God calling him back into ministry. Being a registered sex offender was making it hard for him to get jobs in prison ministries or working with ex-offenders, he added.
About 150 attended his first service on Jan. 29 - up from a normal attendance at that church of five to 10, Gilyard and the church's lay leaders said Friday.
"It was refreshing and invigorating," Gilyard said of giving his first sermon in four years.
They said the arrangement is mutually beneficial because the 25-year-old congregation on North Davis Street had become almost as broke as Gilyard had become since completing his three-year state prison sentence on Dec. 28.
"He was down on the ground, and the church was down on the ground, and we both needed to get up," said Deacon Paul S. Newman Sr.
Gilyard said he initially intended to decline the offer because he didn't want to subject the church to negative press or go through it again himself. He also didn't want to violate the terms of his three-year probation, which include avoiding contact with minors.
"I was scared to death," he said.
But he acquiesced when the church agreed to bar minors from the services and accepted his refusal to perform any kind of marriage counseling or other pastoral work.
In 2004, Gilyard admitted to fathering the child of a woman who had accused him of raping her during a 2004 counseling session, according to court records.
Gilyard said his probation officer OK'd his arrangement with Christ Tabernacle. The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Gilyard remains in compliance with his probation as long as minors aren't present when he preaches.
"I'm simply preaching," Gilyard said on Friday. "I'm not the pastor of Christ Tabernacle."
Gilyard's detractors have said he shouldn't be the pastor of any church or in any kind of ministry leadership. Laity and clergy alike have argued his sexual indiscretions, with minors and adults, biblically disqualify him from spiritual leadership.
Tiffany Thigpen Croft wrote on her blog, Let's Stop Pastor Darrell Gilyard Together, that she prays for Gilyard and for any females who come into contact with him. …