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Sex offender returns to pulpit

After serving 3 years, Darrell Gilyard served as a guest pastor Sunday

Darrell Gilyard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three years after pleading guilty to sex crimes, a Jacksonville pastor returned to the pulpit Sunday.

Darrell Gilyard presided over Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church before pleading guilty in 2009 to lewd molestation and lewd conduct with two teenage girls in his congregation. He served just less than three years in prison and was released at the end of December.

On Sunday, Gilyard served as a guest speaker at Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on the Northside.

"He has a God given talent and I think he's paid his debts to society," said Fran Lewis, who attended services to hear Gilyard speak.

Members of the church said they are rallying behind their new guest pastor.

Minister Robert Greene said he recently met Gilyard for the first time and likes what he sees. He said he doesn't know of any members that turned away, expressed disappointment or were upset about Gilyard's work with the church.

"God is God of second chances, and third chances and fourth chances," Greene said. "He seems like he realizes that the past is the past and he's trying to make a new start."

Some changes had to be made to accommodate a registered sex offender. Greene said children can no longer attend the main Sunday service.

Rebecca Smith had known Gilyard for 15 years and said he spoke to the congregation about his crimes last week.

"[He's] very remorseful, but he's served his time," Smith said. "He shared with us last week what he did. He talked about how he's going to counseling for what he did, and you know, he served his time and there is not a need for him to keep apologizing over and over."

The church maintained Gilyard is only a guest speaker and not a fulltime pastor. Smith thinks he is being compensated for his time, but she couldn't say how much he is earning.