Group protests convicted pastor's return

Registered sex offender guest pastors after serving 3 years

Members of the New Black Panthers protest Darrell Gilyard preaching at a local church.
Members of the New Black Panthers protest Darrell Gilyard preaching at a local church.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a heated and contentious protest outside of a local church Monday, men and women divided over whether a registered sex offender should be allowed to preach from the pulpit.

The Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is allowing Darrell Gilyard to serve as a guest pastor. Gilyard used to be the lead pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. He recently served a three-year prison sentence for lewd molestation and lewd conduct with two teenage girls in his congregation.

The church said that to comply with his sex offender status, children aren't allowed in the main service.

Members of the New Black Panthers went to the church Monday with a clear message.

"This church would allow Darrell Gilyard, a predator, to come in and sneak through the backdoor and teach the congregation. The children have to go to another building," said Mikhail Muhammad, of the New Black Panthers. "He should not be allowed to pastor any churches."

As many people came to protest Gilyard's preaching at the church, just as many came to support him. Steven Johns said he's known Gilyard his whole life.

"If you read your Bible, your Bible tells you, 'Let him without sin,' -- and that came from Jesus' mouth -- 'Let him without sin cast the first stone,'" Johns said.

"What would Jesus say if he was standing here right now?" said Fran Lewis, a member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. "Jesus would not be doing what you're doing. Because I read my Bible and you should read yours."

Church members said children will not be allowed in the main sanctuary when Gilyard is on the pulpit. They said God allows many second chances.

According to court documents, the conditions of Gilyard's probation include no unsupervised contact with children younger than 18, not living within 1,000 feet of a park or playground where children congregate, and not working or volunteering where children congregate.

The state attorney's office said that based on what the church is doing to keep the children separate, it seems it is complying with the requirements.

The Department of Corrections said Gilyard is required to let his probation officer know when and where he gets work.

Either way, it is clear Gilyard's newest role is a hot-button issue.