Billy Bob Burge

Billy Bob Burge

A Greenville minister, facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a teenager at First Baptist Church of Rockwall in the 1990s, has resigned.

Billy Bob Burge, connect minister at Grace Community Church, resigned on Thursday, according to Lead Pastor Adam Brind.

Burge is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing John Jeremy Sweet-Gomez when he attended the church in Rockwall as a teenager.

Sweet-Gomez, according to the lawsuit filed in Dallas County District Court by his parents, Carla Sweet and Ed Gomez, committed suicide in January 2015.

Sweet and Gomez filed the lawsuit against Burge and First Baptist Church of Rockwall on Monday.

They are, according to attorneys with Dallas-based Turley Law Firm, seeking justice for their son, who they allege was repeatedly sexually abused by a Burge, who was a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Rockwall.

The suit alleges that Burge began sexually abusing Sweet-Gomez when he was about 13 years old. The suit also alleges that the sexual abuse and assaults occurred on church property and during church-sponsored religious trips.

“At the Turley Law Firm, we have a long-standing commitment to representing victims of institutional and religious sexual abuse,” Windle Turley said. “Many organizations and their employees occupy positions of trust and confidence that make it possible to cause great harm under the guise of religion. When that occurs the wrongdoers, whether individuals or institutions, must be held accountable.”

Attorneys at the law firm would not answer questions about whether Sweet-Gomez or his parents went to police or church officials with their concerns.

Burge could not be reached for comment, and Don French, business administrator at First Baptist Church of Rockwall, said “it was 25 years ago” and would not comment.

Brind, though, on Thursday said he and the rest of the church staff were shocked by the allegations.

“Today, he tendered his resignation,” Brind said.

Church officials did not ask for Burge’s resignation, though. He worked at Grace Community Church since 2012.

“Obviously, we are shocked by it,” Brind said. “We do extensive background checks. It was done in this case.

“The safety of our children is paramount,” he said. “We are absolutely willing to be transparent.”

Brind said he has been in contact with Sweet-Gomez’s family and first learned about five weeks ago a lawsuit would be filed.

Prior to becoming a pastor at Grace Community Church, Brind said Burge worked at First Baptist Church of Greenville. He did not receive any negative feedback about Burge.

Brind said he had not seen any indications of misconduct on Burge’s part.

“He was absolutely fine,” he said.

Brind told Burge of the impending lawsuit.

“He, of course, categorically denied (the allegations),” Brind said.

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Gary E. Lindsley may be reached at glindsley@heraldbanner.com.

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