Olivet Baptist Church has fired its pastor after he was arrested Dec. 14 on charges related to the possession of child pornography.
William Dalton Milam, the 62-year-old former pastor, remained in Santa Rosa County Jail Dec. 16 on a $2.7 million bond. Milam was charged with two counts of promoting sexual performance of a child and 25 counts of possession of child pornography.
In a news release, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported arresting Milam after searching his Milton home and finding “multiple devices belonging to Milam that contained child pornography. The images depicted children as young as three years old engaged in sex acts.”
“The church was shocked to hear about the arrest of its former pastor,” Olivet Baptist said in a statement released Dec. 15 to several news outlets. “We are in fervent prayer for all involved; including law enforcement as they seek to uncover the truth in this situation.”
The statement did not say when Milam was fired. He preached Dec. 13 at the church the day before his arrest. According to the Pensacola News Journal, Milam was described as a former Army chaplain on the church website before the information was removed. Milam’s next court date is Jan. 7, according to the Santa Rosa County Circuit Court.
Milton, the county seat of Santa Rosa County, is located near Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle. Santa Rosa Baptist Association Director of Missions Richard “Chip” Fox said the church is not ready to offer any additional information to the media.
“At this time it’s such an early occurrence, we’re trying to work through things,” Fox told Baptist Press (BP). “We’re not really giving comment at this time. We’ve got to help the church that’s involved, and help them to move forward, and … that’s our statement right now.”
Milam became Olivet’s pastor in June 2014. He previously pastored First Baptist Church of Bagdad, Fla., from Sept. 2007-Sept. 2008, according to the Annual Church Profile. The Bagdad congregation is also in the Santa Rosa association, but the church was not available for comment to BP.
While each Southern Baptist church is autonomous, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, approved SBC bylaw and constitutional changes aimed at preventing sex abuse among congregations. SBC President J.D. Greear commissioned a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study that, in cooperation with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and LifeWay Christian Resources, released the free training resource “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused” to help churches prevent predatory behavior.
Among two constitutional changes approved in Birmingham, the SBC can declare churches “not in friendly cooperation” based on sexual abuse, but the change has to be approved at two successive annual meetings before taking effect. The 2020 SBC Annual Meeting was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next meeting is set for June 2021.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)