From Sex Offender to Pastor

Claude Gilliland III, new head of

Claude Gilliland III works for God now (courtesy of The Freethinker)

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.”

Doing God’s work (courtesy of CBS-DFW)

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.

Posted on January 6, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Sex crimes can be tricky, all it takes is the allegation and a person’s life can be ruined even if they did nothing wrong if you remember Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet lost his very popular PBS show and his cook book sales to accusations of sex crimes only to have those claims withdrawn after damage was done. He died never being able to completely get out from under the shadow of possibly having committed one.

    • That does seem to be the way things work sometimes, so I always take the label “sex offender” with a grain of salt until I hear more about the case. At least this time things seemed to work out for the best…

    False accusations are more rare than most men seem to think. Definitely can’t make a judgment without knowing all the facts, but I’d still feel pretty uncomfortable with a sex offender as my pastor. This might be my bias showing since some horrifying rape cases have been in the news recently (like Steubenville), but it’s hard to imagine rapists changing their behavior as well.

    • Thanks for the great comments, Caro. I definitely agree that facts should be known before judging people labelled as sex offenders. And no, I wouldn’t want an ex-rapist to be my pastor, either…

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