Pastors back out of Good Friday service where Pastor G is featured

Published: Apr. 2, 2014 at 11:30 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2014 at 10:35 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond church is drawing criticism regarding an event it will hold days before Easter. Now even some pastors are backing out from participating. Cedar Street Baptist will feature Geronimo Aguilar as one of its special guests for Good Friday. Aguilar resigned as pastor of The Richmond Outreach Center following a child molestation indictment.

Its services are spirited and inspirational. That's the same atmosphere leaders at Cedar Street plan on welcoming at its Good Friday service later this month. A flyer shows seven pastors were invited to attend.

Aguilar's participation is drawing criticism from many in the community since he's been indicted on child molestation charges in Texas.

"I sent word over to pastor chandler today, I'm not going to be able to participate," Pastor Tyrone Nelson said.

He and Pastor Roscoe Cooper are also advertised on the flyer. Now, both say they've had a change of heart.

"As a result of me not necessarily knowing everything about the service as far as the service itself, I just won't be able to participate this year," Cooper said.

Now a state victims advocacy group is also asking the church to re-consider.

"You're giving him the honor of speaking on one of the most holy days of the year…That hurts. That hurts those victims. It feels like 'what about what I went through? Aren't my feelings important?'" Becky Ianni of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Cedar Street Baptist pastor Anthony Chandler is responding in a statement sent only to NBC 12 Wednesday.

"This is the second year that we've hosted a Good Friday Service at Cedar Street. Pastor G participated last year and was outstanding. He and many of the other pastors participating again this year were invited prior to this unfortunate chapter in Pastor G's life and in the life of the church. Pastor G is my friend and he has not been found guilty of any wrongdoings," Chandler said.

"That should be canceled because things have happened that greatly changed…I think whether he's innocent or guilty should be proven first before he's allowed behind a pulpit," said Melanie Smith who lives near the church.

"He's innocent until proven guilty but by the same token, is that the message that the church really wants to send?" neighbor Robert Boisseau said.

Despite the controversy, church leaders say the Good Friday service will go on as planned. Even with pastors now backing out, the church is encouraging those who would like to attend to feel welcome.

Aguilar is charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl and her 13-year-old sister in Fort Worth, Texas. Last week, his former church announced a new pastor will be taking over.

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