15 Northeast Florida church officials on Southern Baptist list of accused sex offenders

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen Jacksonville-area church officials were named in a recently released list of accused or admitted sex offenders.

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention released the 205-page list this week in response to an explosive investigation that accused the church of covering up allegations of abuse.

In a joint statement, those leaders called the move “an initial but important step in addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention.”

Enter the names of cases involving an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, trial, sentencing, and registered sex offenders. The list does not include cases that are not related to sexual abuse, nor those that ended in acquittal.

Fifteen of the more than 700 entries are listed as being from the Northeast Florida area.

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GALLERY: Photos of church leaders in Northeast Florida listed by the Southern Baptist Convention

The list cites Robert Gray, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. Gray died in 2007 while he was on trial for multiple capital sexual assault charges dating back to the 1940s.

Also on the list is Robert Browning, a former teacher at a church-run school and former youth pastor at Old Plank Road Baptist Church. In 2018, the then-60-year-old pleaded guilty to sexual activity with an underage girl and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

The former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Darrell Gilyard, was also on the list, after 44 women made accusations against him. Gilyard admitted to sexually abusing two girls and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009.

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William Henry Randall is a former pastor of St. Simon Baptist Church. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault after being accused of sexually abusing a child.

Stephen Edmonds is a former deacon and youth minister at First Baptist Church. He was convicted in 2003 of sexually abusing three boys and sentenced to one year in prison plus probation.

Jim Bruce, a former member of the priesthood at College Park Baptist Church in Palatka, was convicted in 2009 of two sexual assaults.

Jeffery Lamar Carter, Anthony Phillips Denton, Bobby Harold Epps, William Murray Hendricks Jr., Fritzner Jean, Alexie Kelly and Murrvin Sheppard were also named in the document and are connected to northeast Florida.

The Convention said in its statement: “Each entry on this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction wrought by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches proactively use this list to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.”

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With 47,000 churches and nearly 14 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant organization in the country and the second largest Christian denomination.

The SBC has established a hotline for reports of sexual abuse in churches: (202) 864-5578. All senders will remain confidential.

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