Mom accuses Jacksonville pastor of sending lewd texts to daughter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A church pastor has temporarily left the pulpit while detectives investigate whether he sent lewd text messages to an underage girl.

Darrell Gilyard, 45, head of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, took a voluntary paid leave of absence on Friday. He also resigned an appointment to a committee aimed at reducing violent crime in Jacksonville.

It is the second time accusations of sexual misconduct kept Gilyard from preaching. In 1991, he resigned his post at Victory Baptist Church near Dallas after reports he slept with church members came to light.

A mother filed a report with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Nov. 29, alleging that she found obscene text messages on her daughter's cell phone in October from a number belonging to Gilyard, The Florida Times-Union reported.

The girl is a minor, according to the police report, but it did not list a specific age. The girl said she didn't notify authorities for a month because church deacons had told her they would handle the matter.

Gilyard could not be reached for comment Monday. A message left with his attorney, Brian Coughlin, was not immediately returned.

"The issues and situation that have been presented to us are ones that we take very seriously," Coughlin wrote in a statement published by the newspaper. "Once those are known, we will proceed accordingly."

Shiloh is a fast-growing church that televises its services and boasts a membership of at least 7,000, according to its Web site. The church is committed to a thorough review of the allegations against Gilyard, an attorney representing the church said.

Shiloh's offices were closed Monday for the holidays. A recorded message still mentioned Gilyard as pastor.

Gilyard was considered a rising star when he was forced to resign from his Texas ministry in 1991. He was hired to lead Shiloh two years later.

Some church members expressed support for Gilyard, while others withheld judgment.

"I think it should be thoroughly investigated to see what the facts are," congregation member Robert Anderson said.