Sex offender elected senior pastor of Texas church

(CBS) CLEBURNE, Texas - A Johnson County church has elected a convicted sex offender as its new leader,  CBS DFW reports. 

According to the station, many who voted for Claude Gilliland III as senior pastor of the New Heart Family Worship Center in suburban Fort Worth didn't know about his criminal past.

These are the details some in the congregation say they didn't know before the vote:

Gilliland was convicted of sexual assault in 1993, and spent four years behind bars, according to CBS DFW..

Carl Roye, the church's exiting leader, says he knew about Gilliland's past.

"He was going through a nasty divorce. His wife claimed he raped her," Pastor Roye said. "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..."He ultimately spent four years in prison."

"I believe he's a good man. I believe he's a Godly man. He puts God first," Roye told CBS DFW.

Pastor Roye, who is ailing and retiring, is responsible for bringing Gilliland to the church he started, according to the station.

"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," Roye said.  "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."

The departing pastor says he's standing behind Gilliland based on a Biblical principle.

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

New Heart's youth pastor has resigned from the church since the news of Gilliland's criminal record came to light.