Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

January 7, 2013

From porn to born again

‘I know I have some trust issues to face,’ minister tells church

 

The preacher who rocked a Cleburne church last week after reports of his sexual assault conviction surfaced went public with his past on Sunday. 

Preaching to a full house, the Rev. Claude Gilliland III poured oil on the troubled waters at New Heart Family Worship Center, saying that when he became senior pastor, he had been too embarrassed to tell his flock that he’d spent four years behind bars in the 1990s. 

“I told you before I had some things in my life that were dark,” he said, pacing in front of the worshippers and once stopping to wipe away tears. “I never thought it would be dragged out in the media and newspapers.”

Church leaders knew his history when they hired him, but when word surfaced that he was convicted in 1995 of sexual assault of a 35-year-old woman, Gilliland, who identified the victim as his then-estranged wife who is deceased, members were shocked and in some cases, skeptical of his ability to lead them. 

On Sunday, however, the 54-year-old novice preacher, ex-con and admitted former methamphetamine and LSD dealer found acceptance and empathy.

“Our church is going to grow in a big way. This man is anointed,” said Phyllis Kaylor, who last week told the Times-Review that learning her minister was a sex offender was “terrible.” “We’re all washed in the blood.”

After the service, Dorothy Vaughan, a member for five years, agreed, adding that she believed God put Gilliland in the pulpit.

Gilliland was by turn defiant and remorseful as he spoke to the packed room.

“I didn’t want to share my secret because it was so hideous,” he said. “You don’t just go up to people and say ‘I’m a felon and a sex offender’ ... I didn’t really want to confess my past because it’s embarrassing.”

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