MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A longtime minister of Bellevue Baptist Church was fired weeks after being suspended for what the church called "a moral failure" 17 years ago and after an internal investigation amid allegations of child abuse.
The church's personnel committee voted to terminate Paul Williams and a detailed report on its investigation will be presented to the congregation on Sunday, according to a statement issued Monday, The Commercial Appeal reported.
"The decision was made because of the nature of his past activities, even though there had been no evidence of any of those continued activities for the last 17 years," administrative pastor David Coombs told WMC-TV. Coombs headed the church's investigation for Bellevue.
Church officials have not described the nature of the allegations against Williams, but some church members have said the claims involve abuse of a child and that the Rev. Steve Gaines, senior pastor at Bellevue, didn't act fast enough when he found out about them.
"We feel like the church and the congregation has been well protected for all these years, even currently," Coombs told the television station when asked if Williams was fired to protect the church's children.
"We just felt that the sensitive nature of a church dealing with church family and children, it was important to be above reproach in the staff that we employ," he said.
The church has about 30,000 members and was previously led by the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Adrian Rogers, who died in 2005.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.