RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Controversy quickly spread over the upcoming Good Friday service at Richmond's Cedar Street Baptist Church when the word got out that Pastor Geronimo Aguilar, known as “Pastor G,” was part of the lineup.
The pastor cancelled his appearance at the event after two preachers withdrew and members of the congregation and public protested the engagement. There were also those who defended the Aguilar.
“I was going to talk about how Good Friday really was for believers and for Christians because Good Friday represents the day that Jesus died on the cross and paid for our sins," Aguilar said. “We didn’t expect this or anticipate this type of controversy with Good Friday’s [sermon].”
Aguilar spoke exclusively with CBS 6 about the backlash over his now cancelled sermon. He said that he preached at the same event last year, and had been invited back by Cedar Street's Pastor Anthony Chandler.
He told CBS 6 that he understands why some people would not want him involved in this event. “Sure. I definitely respect people’s opinion and decisions," said Aguilar.
"And if they feel offended that I’m speaking there because they maybe have already made up their mind about me and the accusations, I can understand why they would be offended and I respect that,” he said.
Aguilar used to be one of Central Virginia's most popular and respected preachers. For years, he served as Senior Pastor at the Richmond Outreach Center, a Southside mega-church known locally as the ROC.
He resigned from the ROC last year, after he was arrested by police in Fort Worth, Texas, and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault of a child.
Investigators say the charges stem from inappropriate relationships Aguilar had with two teenage girls when he lived in the Fort Worth area in the 1990s. The indictment is graphic and alleges that one of the victims was younger than 14.
Aguilar says he is innocent. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Last week, after learning of Aguilar's involvement, Reverend Tyrone Nelson and Reverend Dr. Roscoe Cooper III told CBS 6 that they were stepping away from the event.
Days later, Aguilar announced he was cancelling his appearance. We reached back out to Reverends Nelson and Cooper.
Nelson sent CBS 6 this statement:
“I was appreciative of the invitation extended by Pastor Anthony Chandler, Cedar Street Baptist Church. I have spoken with him and I look forward to continuing our relationship and the relationship between our churches," said Reverend Tyrone Nelson.
We’re still waiting to hear back from Cooper.
We also reached out to Dr. Chandler, the man who invited Aguilar to preach.
He declined an interview. But last week told CBS 6 that he respected the decision of both Aguilar and the Pastors who withdrew from the event.
Prior to that Chandler tweeted that the controversy “will work for glory of God and provide free publicity for the service.”
“Of course, as a human being it hurts when another Christian brother is offended by you. I don’t know them personally and truthfully their decision to pull out is between them and God. I don’t judge them one bit for it," said Aguilar.C
CBS 6 Reporter Sandra Jones asked Aguilar if he thought it would’ve been better to keep a low profile
“Obviously, I’ve been keeping a low profile and just trying to focus on my family and my wife and kids," said Aguilar. “We didn’t expect or envision this type of publicity over this event. It happened over night and we took care of it right away."
Aguilar's attorney told CBS 6 that he hopes to stay in Richmond and fight the charges against him. He's scheduled to appear in a Texas courtroom on June 20th.
We asked Aguilar how he felt about the ROC moving forward without him.
“I expect the ROC to move forward without me. As I’ve said all along, the ROC was never about me. It’s about Jesus. It’s about God and reaching people, and the City of Richmond. So, I’m excited that the ROC is still going,” he responded.