First Methodist Church lays out its position amid sex abuse allegations

by Steve Wiggins
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SHEFFIELD – In response to our story on allegations of sex abuse from within, late Tuesday afternoon the spokesman for The First United Methodist Church laid out his timeline of events. The events that led to the firing of their Minister of Music, were laid out in an e-mail from Staff, Pastor/Parish Relations Committee Chairman, Billy Don Anderson. Oliver Brazelle, who came to the church in 1956, is accused by some members of his own congregation of repeatedly sexually molesting at least 3 boys who attended services there.

A police investigation that, according to Chief Greg Ray, will most likely involve the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and possibly even the F.B.I. is already underway.

Published here in its entirety is the public statement from the church:

“First United Methodist Church of Sheffield

July 31, 2012                              

 On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Senior Pastor, Zeke Haselden, of the First United Methodist Church of Sheffield, was informed of possible child abuse involving the Church’s Minister of Music, Oliver Brazelle. Rev. Haselden immediately contacted the Northwest District Leadership for advice. The attorney for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church was also consulted.

 On Thursday, July 26, 2012, Rev. Haselden met with the Chairman of the Church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee, Billy Don Anderson, and shared the information Rev. Haselden had received. At this time, church officials had not been given any names of potential victims, or any dates of any alleged abuse.

 On Friday, July 27, Rev. Haselden and Mr. Anderson met again and made the decision to talk with Mr. Brazelle regarding the information they had heard about him.  A meeting with Mr. Brazelle took place Friday afternoon, during which Mr. Brazelle was  terminated from his position as Minister of Music of the First United Methodist Church of Sheffield, effective immediately.  

 On Saturday, July 28, officials of First United Methodist Church received a three-page letter that contained a summary of accusations against Mr. Brazelle regarding events which allegedly occurred while Mr. Brazelle was employed as the Church’s Minister of Music.  This information was shared with the Church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee members in a meeting the next morning.  During that meeting, the SPRC confirmed the termination  of Mr. Brazelle’s employment and also asked the Chairman of the Church’s Administrative Board to contact the Sheffield Police Department and the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to ask those agencies to investigate the allegations of child abuse.  Additionally, the Committee’s Chairman was asked to prepare a letter to the Church’s membership, to inform them of the events of the past four days. Members of the Church’s staff were informed of the termination of Mr. Brazelle’s employment at a meeting Monday morning, July 30, 2012.

 The First United Methodist Church recognizes that our children are our most important, yet our most vulnerable, assets.  Words cannot express the pain and sorrow that this devastating news has brought upon our church and our community.  We pray for the healing of any and all victims of child abuse who may be revealed, or who may come forward, and we commit our resources to help in this healing process.  The Church will cooperate fully with any and all investigations conducted by law enforcement officials and/or DHR.  We ask for all in the faithful community to offer their prayers for all of these concerns.

 Please contact Billy Don Anderson, Chairperson of Staff Perish Relations Committee for further information.  Only Mr. Anderson is authorized to speak on behalf of Sheffield First United Methodist Church. ”  

ED. note: Some of the events on this timeline do not jibe with earlier statements by Anderson and Haselden. We do not know why there are discrepancies. When Monday’s story was published by The Quad-Cities Daily, we fact-checked the story in its entirety with both men. At that time, they agreed that we had our facts straight.

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