The Rev. Bill Coates resigned as pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville in August following an accusation of sexual misconduct, according to a letter emailed to the congregation from church leaders on Monday, Oct. 15.
The misconduct with a female former church staff member allegedly occurred in 2005 or 2006, according to Kent Murphey, executive pastor at the church on Green Street.
Murphey told The Times the misconduct was not a criminal or civil offense, and that church leaders had worked with an attorney and gone “through a series of steps” to “make it possible for the church to avoid this in the future.”
The decision to release information of the alleged misconduct, Murphey said, came after this review and for the “purposes of openness and honesty.”
“Immediately upon receiving this report, the First Baptist Church leaders went to work to provide support for the well-being of the woman with whom Dr. Coates had the inappropriate relationship, in so far as they could, and also to assure that all current staff members are properly informed, educated, and provided with renewed training for appropriate professional ethical standards,” the statement, obtained by The Times, reads. “FBC will continue to work to maintain the highest ethical practices and the safety of its members in all ministries.”
In a text message, Coates told The Times, “I have been forthright and open with our church leadership in this matter.” He referred further comment to the church.
When his resignation was first made public, Coates, 63, told The Times there were several reasons he had decided to step away, including the toll of a lawsuit against the church stemming from allegations of abuse by a former Boy Scout leader in a troop sponsored by the church decades before Coates’ arrival.
Coates said he also was looking forward to spending time more time with his family and living a more normal life.
According to the church’s statement, the church’s transition leadership team requested late last week that administration release information about the alleged misconduct.
Coates voluntarily retired on Aug. 19, the statement reads, “after learning of a report having been made in which he was accused of sexual misconduct.”
Coates no longer has any affiliation with the church or its ministries.
Murphey said Monday he was aware Coates had been contemplating retirement for about a year before his departure, but that when confronted with the allegation, Coates decided leaving immediately was best.
“I’m grateful that he stepped down, unlike many others who have fought to maintain their position in the church,” and “split” the congregation as a result, Murphey said.