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Church Elects Registered Sex Offender As Senior Pastor

CLEBURNE (CBS 11 NEWS) - A Johnson county church has voted in a sex offender as its new leader.

Some say they didn't know that piece of information about Claude Gilliland III before they voted on whether or not to put him in place as the senior pastor of New Heart Family Worship Center.

The church's retiring leader says, Carl Roye, says he knew about Gilliland's past and stands behind him.

"I believe he's a good man. I believe he's a Godly man. He puts God first," said former Senior Pastor Carl Roye.

So far, one person has resigned - the church's youth pastor.

Though the church board knew about Gilliland's past, the congregation didn't find out Gilliland was a registered sex offender until after the vote.

Gilliland was convicted in 1993 of sexual assault.

Pastor Roye said, "He was going through a nasty divorce. His wife claimed he raped her."

"He said he never raped her and they patted him on the back and sent him to court. He didn't have the money to get a lawyer," Pastor Roye said.

"He ultimately spent four years in prison," Pastor Roye said.

Pastor Roye, ailing and retiring, is the one who brought Gilliland to the church he started. Roye said Gilliland was upront with him from the beginning.

"About two weeks ago, I told him it would be a good idea to tell the church about it. He wasn't as forthcoming as I hoped he would," said Pastor Roye.

"He just said he had a dark past. He'd be glad to talk to anyone about it if they wanted to talk to him. He never had anyone come to him," Pastor Roye said.

Pastor Roye said he is standing behind Gilliland based on a principal in the Bible.

"The whole thing about the church is forgiveness. The Bible states if we can't forgive our brother, then God can't forgive us of our sins," Pastor Roye said.

Roye pointed out great men of God in the Bible who sinned too.

David was an adulterer and a murderer, Roye said.

"Paul the apostle, he was a murderer and God forgave them and used them in a great way," Pastor Roye said.

"I think He loves Claude Gilliland just like He loves Carl Roye and just like He loves you or whoever," Pastor Roye said.

Pastor Roye doesn't know what's going to happen next.

"If he wants to continue as pastor, we're going to stand behind him," Roye said.

Whatever the outcome, Pastor Roye believes this. "The church is going to make it," he said.

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