Let me say up front that I DID try to reach out to Jerry Vines to get his side and get some of my questions answered. I do not have his phone number but I did send an email at the Contact page of his website, asking for him to call me about the Darrell Gilyard section of his book. I left my phone and email, but as of the date of this blog post, I have heard nothing from Jerry Vines.
Jerry Vines and his publisher, B&H Publishing Group - a division of the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources - have some serious explaining to do on why Vines' book is not truthful on a pivotal aspect of Vines involvement in the Darrell Gilyard saga: the attempted attack by Gilyard on one of Vines' own teenage church members back in 1991.
Here is the excerpt from Vines' book (with my emphases) that I'm going to address:
"There were rumors [about Gilyard]. Accusations of moral improprieties began to surface. All of them were denied by Darrell. Dr. Patterson checked them out as best he could. There were inconsistencies and contradictions in the stories. Some were made by church members who had moral failings themselves. One accuser was a member of the KKK. As it turns out, all the rumors were true. A young person in our FBC, Jacksonville church met with me about a matter of impropriety as well. I didn't understand it to go beyond some flirtation. They were both single at the time. Perhaps I misunderstood."That "young person" Vines refers to is Tiffany Thigpen Croft, a high school senior who Gilyard attacked in 1991 while Gilyard was the traveling evangelist for the high school choir and orchestra of Vines' church during the spring of 1991.
Did you get that? Darrell Gilyard was supposed to be the "man of God" to give spiritual teachings to Tiffany and her fellow high school students, but instead Gilyard used the privilege - after grooming Tiffany for a period of time prior to that - to attempt a sexual attack on Tiffany. Thankfully Tiffany escaped, and she was able to report the attack to her parents.
And Tiffany reported it to her pastor, Jerry Vines.
Now let's go back and look at the last sentence again:
"...A young person in our FBC Jacksonville church met with me about a matter of impropriety as well. I didn't understand it to go beyond some flirtation. They were both single at the time. Perhaps I misunderstood."There is almost nothing in that sentence that is true. To characterize Gilyard's attack on Tiffany as a "flirtation" is an insult to Tiffany and her parents, and every other young woman who has been victimized by an abusive pastor - especially the multitudes that were victimized by Gilyard. When most people use the word "flirtation" or "flirt", it is in the context of a female "flirting" with a man - this seems as a direct attempt to imply that Tiffany's own actions invited or in some measure caused Gilyard's attack.
Vines says "Perhaps I misunderstood". How could he have misunderstood, past tense? Tiffany was brave enough to report the details of the attack to her parents and to Vines immediately after it occurred. And according to this 1991 Dallas Morning News article, Paige Patterson and presumably Vines, knew of multiple allegations of Gilyard's sexual improprieties with young women all the way back to 1987! Let that sink in!! The obvious question Vines should have answered in his bio: why on earth was Gilyard given the opportunity to be around his high schoolers in 1991 when Vines and Patterson knew of allegations against Gilyard all the way in 1987? To say "perhaps I misunderstood" and that he thought Gilyard's attack on Tiffany was a "flirtation" defies common sense and is just not believable.
Also in the excerpt above, Vines claims "...they [Tiffany and Gilyard] were both single at the time.". A very clever way to characterize the situation to make it appear as though Tiffany and Gilyard were very close in age, or peers, or mutually consenting young adults.That could not be further from the truth. Of course Tiffany was single - as are 99.99% of HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS, Jerry!!! But Gilyard absolutely was NOT single at the time. He was married with at least one child. Why didn't Vines write something like, "...the young person was only a high school senior, and Darrell was a married 29-year old very influential pastor?" Not that it matters if Gilyard was married - an attack on a teenager is an attack on a teenager - but why would Vines and his editor at B&H get this fact wrong in his book and leave out the important fact of Tiffany being a teenage high school student, and Gilyard a predatory preacher with prior allegations, preying on a very young woman who looked up to Gilyard? Are we to believe Vines and B&H Publishing were so careless that they didn't fact check this? And even more disturbing: why did Vines not call Tiffany or her parents BEFORE publishing? How about the courtesy of a phone call to Tiffany to let her know what's coming out, and to make sure Vines has his facts straight? Where was the B&H editor? Or perhaps this was Vines' attempt to minimize the validity of Tiffany's claim and the seriousness of the incident now 23 years later?
Perhaps the explanation for Vines' misrepresentation of Tiffany's encounter with Gilyard in 1991 is so Vines can partially deflect the criticism he has taken since Gilyard's arrest in 2008, for choosing to go and preach at Gilyard's church twice after he retired in 2006. I and others have been very critical of Vines for not using his influence and raising the warning flag here in Jacksonville when Gilyard came to pastor Shiloh Baptist in 1993, and I have been critical of Vines' decision to preach at Gilyard's church knowing Gilyard had attacked one of his own teenage church members. I've often wondered if Vines' preaching at Gilyard's church in 2006-2007 affirmed Gilyard, giving him a renewed sense of power, and thus more opportunity to attack young people at Shiloh. But I guess that doesn't matter, because as Vines says "There were 35 professions of faith the first time..." he preached at Gilyard's church.
One of the questions I have: did Vines have a legal, or at least a moral duty to report this incident to the authorities? That is an answer I would have liked to ask Vines if he had called me. As Tiffany will explain in her own words very soon, Gilyard began the "grooming" process of Tiffany when she was 17. What obligation did Vines have as a minister to report this attack? Did Vines report this attack to Homer Lindsay? Did Homer Lindsay know of the prior allegations of Gilyards abuse? I think not. Those who knew Homer would agree that Homer would never allow Gilyard within 10 miles of high schoolers with multiple allegations of sexual abuse. But maybe Vines will tell us himself.
So while Vines writes his book to make himself and Paige Patterson look like heroes who did everything in their power to stop Gilyard - the truth is the real hero in this ugly saga was Tiffany Croft. Paige Patterson was for SURE not a hero. As I said above, Patterson knew of multiple allegations of Gilyard's sexual improprieties in Dallas dating all the way back to 1987. It is safe to assume Vines knew of these as well - being a close friend of Patterson and the one who recommended Gilyard to attend Patterson's Criswell College - yet Vines now claims in 1991 he thought Gilyard's attack on Tiffany was a "flirtation".
No, the hero was Tiffany, not Jerry Vines or Paige Patterson. Let me explain why Tiffany was the hero.
What was not put in Vines' chapter on Gilyard is that "young person" - Tiffany Croft herself - played an important role in 2008 in putting Gilyard behind bars. Seventeen years after Gilyard's attack, when Gilyard was charged with sex crimes against minors at Shiloh Baptist Church, Tiffany started a blog "Let's Stop Darrell Gilyard Together", to encourage Gilyard's victims to come forward to testify and help put Gilyard in jail. Gilyard was a powerful man in Jacksonville. He was a member of the Mayor's anti-crime task force. Many of his church members were people of influence and were thought to be exerting pressure on victims' families to not follow through with talking to the police. But Tiffany told her story to, and worked with the Jacksonville Sherriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office to gather information that could be used to help prosecute Gilyard. Gilyard was successfully prosecuted and spent several years in jail for having sex with minors in his church.
At the time Tiffany was writing her blog back in 2008, many people accused Tiffany of attacking God's man, of stirring up trouble and "dissension" with her blog. There were many very hateful comments directed to her on her blog by local church members meant to shame and intimidate her into silence. Then, imagine Tiffany's shock to find out that Detective Robert A. Hinson of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office - one of Vines' long-time church members - requested a subpoena from the State Attorney's office to force Google to give him information about Tiffany's blog, at the same time Hinson was "investigating" my blog to uncover my identity. Tiffany ignored all the pressure and criticism and did what she knew to be right, as I wrote about here.
So the part of the story where Tiffany used her blog to put Gilyard away didn't make it in Vines' book. But Vines did have something to say in his autobiography about blogs in general:
"I don't care for blogs too much. A lot of negative blogging brings an ugliness to the Christian community. I suppose it is like every other form of communication; you can use it for positive or negative purposes. I just see it abused so often, I guess."Well, maybe so. But at least one blog - Tiffany's blog - was used for a positive purpose: helping send Darrell Gilyard to jail. Too bad blogs weren't around in the late 1980s when Gilyard started his abuses, as word would have reached Tiffany in 1991, and the parents of the minors Gilyard abused in 2007, and Gilyard's dastardly deeds could have been prevented. Blogs and free-flowing information via social media can do what cowardly "men of God" too often refuse to do: protect people from predatory pastors.
Did I just say that? You better believe I did.
And this blog is being used for a "positive purpose" today, Jerry: to set the record straight on Gilyard.
I'm assuming Vines, even more so now, still does not care for blogs too much.
And when Tiffany tells her entire story in her own words - which is coming soon - I imagine Vines will like blogs even less than he does now.