From Sex Offender to Pastor
In 1993, Claude Gilliland III was convicted of sexually assaulting his estranged wife. He served four years in prison for the crime. But earlier this week, the congregation of New Heart Family Worship Center in Cleburne, Texas voted for Gilliland to be their next senior pastor.
Talk about redemption.
When I first heard this story, I was as shocked as many of you may be as you read this post. However, there are always two sides to every story and in Gilliland’s case, his side is pretty compelling.
Gilliland and his wife went through a nasty divorce in the early 1990s and she claimed that he had raped her, an accusation he has always denied. Unfortunately, Gilliland could not afford a lawyer and eventually ended up behind bars. Since his release four years later, he has been an upstanding citizen with a clean record.
The church’s retiring pastor, Carl Roye, hired Gilliland, who immediately informed him of his past and gained a strong supporter. Roye believes that Gilliland is a good, godly man and continues to stand by his replacement.
“The whole thing about the church is forgiveness,” Roye said recently as he referenced the Bible. “David was an adulterer and a murderer. Paul the apostle was a murderer and God forgave them and used them in a great way.”
At this point, the only potential complication for Gilliland’s ascension to senior pastor is the fact that some congregation members were unaware of his “dark past” before they voted. The church’s youth pastor has already resigned following this revelation (no pun intended).
Personally, I think Gilliland should stay on as senior pastor because some of the most spiritual people in history were far from perfect. Pastor Roye even pointed out a few from the Bible. To me, only those who have experienced sin are qualified to speak against it. This eliminates hypocrisy and makes truth and understanding easier to attain.
And let’s face it. Gilliland’s wife could have been full of shit and even if her accusation was true, he served the sentence imposed on him for the crime. Now he wants to make a positive change and I say more power to him.
Congratulation, Pastor Gilliland. I, for one, wish you well.