RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
Former Richmond Outreach Center Pastor Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar, who was indicted on child sex charges in Texas, says he will no longer participate in a Good Friday speaking engagement in Richmond.
Aguilar was one of seven religious leaders scheduled to preach at “Rush Hour to Calvary” at Cedar Street Baptist Church of God on April 18. But given the fact that Aguilar has been indicted on multiple charges of child sex abuse, Aguilar’s inclusion in the panel didn’t sit well with many members of the Richmond community.
On Wednesday, Pastor Dr. Roscoe Cooper III of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church and Pastor Tyrone Nelson of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, who were both scheduled to speak at the Good Friday Event, announced they had decided not to participate.
“I didn’t know all the details,” Nelson said. “But now that I do, I will not be participating this year.”
Other members on the panel, who wish to remain anonymous, were shocked to hear Aguilar was scheduled to speak and said they did not wish to be associated with him.
Aguilar’s scheduled participation in “Rush Hour to Calvary” also angered members of SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests. SNAP Leader Becky Ianni said Pastor G’s involvement was a slap in the face to victims.
ABC 8News obtained the following statement from Pastor G on Thursday morning:
“Due to all the controversy over me preaching at Cedar Street’s Good Friday service, I have decided it is best for all involved that I step down from participating in the event. I have spoken with Dr. Chandler, pastor of Cedar Street, and we both believe this is the best thing for all those concerned. Good Friday’s is supposed to be about the love, grace, and forgiveness that Jesus showed us on the cross, and we don’t want anything to take the focus off of that.
I want to thank all of those who have poured out their love and support to me over the past few days. I especially want to thank my dear friend Dr. Chandler, and the amazing people at Cedar Street for loving me as a brother in Christ. Hopefully when my legal issues are behind me and I am cleared of the charges, we won’t have these distractions any longer, and we can all get back to being one as the Lord commanded us to be.
Dr. Anthony Chandler Sr., the pastor of Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, issued the following statement:
“I planned the service again this year because I thought it was significant to remind the Richmond community that this was why Christ died. If we were all perfect, Christ would not have had to die. Calvary is about redemption for those who have made mistakes. Pastor G and I agree that the focus of the Good Friday service should be on Christ and not man. I appreciate the support of my congregation who have affirmed my stance in the words of Dr. King that "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
I respect the decision of the two pastors who withdrew their names from the program. The Good Friday service will still take place and additional clergy will be added to the program.”
In May 2013, Aguilar, 43, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl and her 13-year-old sister while he was their youth pastor in Fort Worth, Texas in 1996 and 1997. In September 2013, a grand jury indicted him on two counts of aggravated sexual assault in the case involving the younger sister.
In January 2014, Aguilar was indicted by a grand jury in Tarrant County, Texas on eight counts pertaining to the case involving the older sister: two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14, three counts of sexual assault of a child under 17 and three counts of indecency with a child. The first two counts are first-degree felonies that carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The latter six are second-degree felonies punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Aguilar maintains he is innocent of all charges.
Ianni says that although SNAP is grateful that Aguilar will no longer participate in "Rush Hour to Calvary," Chandler owes victims an apology.
"We are grateful that Pastor G will not speak at the Good Friday Cedar Street Church service. Rev. Chandler, however, still owes child sex abuse victims, especially those hurt by Pastor G, a public apology. Inviting an indicted serial child molester to have a place of honor in a church is at best insensitive and at worst intimidating ... Pastor G should never [have] been invited."
Cedar Street Baptist Church of God is located at 2301 Cedar St., Richmond, VA 23223. “Rush Hour to Calvary” begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18.
Stay with ABC 8News on air, online and on the go for updates on this developing story as they become available.
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