RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Scandalized former Richmond megachurch pastor Geronimo Aguilar, also known as Pastor G, will be back in the pulpit for just seven minutes during a special Good Friday service at a local church.
But even that seven minutes is too much for two other local preachers who were scheduled to share the pulpit with him during the “Rush Hour to Calvary” at the historic Cedar Street Baptist Church in Richmond’s Union Hill neighborhood.
“I’m making a decision this year not to participate,” said Rev. Tyrone Nelson with Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church. “There’s been a lot of conversation . . . some of my members are not comfortable with it.”
Also stepping away is the Rev. Dr. Roscoe Cooper III of Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church. “I won’t be able to participate as a result of additional details that have arisen.”
Both Cooper and Nelson participated last year in the event, which features seven pastors each delivering seven-minute messages about the final seven words credited to Jesus before his crucifixion. Both spoke highly of the event and of Cedar Street’s pastor, Anthony Chandler.
“I was invited by my friend Anthony Chandler to preach for this service,” Nelson said. “At that point, I was not aware of all the details surrounding the services. Now that I know, I am making a decision not to participate.”
Last year, Aguilar was one of four pastors that resigned for various reasons from the Richmond Outreach Center following a Board of Directors meeting and after news of the specific sexual assault allegations against Aguilar, the popular preacher credited with building the ROC megachurch.
Aguilar is out on bond, facing at least seven felony charges in Tarrant County, Texas, based on allegations that he sexually abused two girls younger than 14 during the mid-90s. He’s next court date there is June 20.
Aguilar and his family have found a home of sorts at Cedar Street Baptist. They have been going there fairly regularly, church members said, and Aguilar apparently spoke there in the summer.
“This is God’s home,” Cedar Street usher Gale Belton said. “Everyone’s welcome in the house of the Lord. (Aguilar) is welcome.”
Pastor G has long since left the ROC’s plush parsonage. And he’s no longer at his old home in Henrico, so CBS-6 couldn’t reach him for comment.
Cedar Street Baptist Pastor Anthony Chandler tweeted that the controversy will work for glory of God and provide free publicity for the service.
Both Cooper and Nelson said they expect other pastors to fill the gaps and believe the service will be a success again this year.
Pastor G is credited with reaching out to more than 11,000 people weekly through progressive ministries and programs.
Among its services, the ROC church provides religious and Bible studies, homeless and prison ministries, addiction programs, family counseling and annual holiday events. It is widely known for busing children from the inner city to its “6-o’clock rock” Saturday services.
Mayors, governors and other civic and business leaders previously praised Aguilar and the ROC. The success of the ROC and its outreach potential led to a partnership with the city of Richmond, including the Richmond Police Department.
Some city leaders says their constituents are demanding to know how tax dollars were spent at the church.
In May 2013, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said his administration would investigate the city’s financial dealings with the church. However, Jones questioned whether the charges against Aguilar were related to the city’s partnership with the ROC.
According to 2013 financial records, the ROC has more than $16,000,000 in assets that include a real estate foundation, thrift shop and clothing line.