MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A longtime minister at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis was fired last week after he admitted to sexually abusing his son 17 years ago, according to a report issued by the church on Sunday.
Paul Williams was fired last Monday after an internal report conducted by the church was given to its personnel committee, which cited a "moral failure" 17 years ago as the basis for Williams' departure. Williams had been on a leave of absence since December.
The report was released on the church's Web site and distributed to church members on Sunday.
"Paul Williams engaged in egregious, perverse, sexual activity with his adolescent son over a period of 12 to 18 months," according to the report.
The report says that after Williams stopped the abuse, he asked for forgiveness and sought counseling.
Several people at the church throughout 2006 learned of the sexual abuse, including current pastor Steve Gaines, according to the report.
An internal investigation into Williams' alleged action began in December, when his son asked Gaines why Williams was allowed to continue as a minister at the church.
The report said that the son is the only known victim and there was no evidence Williams endangered any other children at the church.
The church, however, said it has contacted the Department of Children's Service and has agreed to cooperate fully.
The report recommended the church review its policies, including requiring background checks for all employees as well as procedures on how to handle cases of child abuse.
"The events relating to the Paul Williams issue have vividly brought to light the need for change," the report states.
Many members of the church have questioned why some church officials knew of the sexual abuse and did not immediately respond.
"In the past, the circle of information on any problems of a sensitive nature in the church was kept very tight to protect the families of the individuals and to protect the church from embarrassment," according to the report.
Instead, officials should have considered the safety of the congregation, the report said.
"I accept full responsibility and could have handled this in a more appropriate way," Gaines told the congregation on Sunday.
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.
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