Sex Abuse Investigation Continues Against Sheffield Church Leader

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Sheffield First United Methodist Church is located at 701 N. Montgomery Ave. (Photo: WHNT News 19)

Sheffield First United Methodist Church is located at 701 N. Montgomery Ave. (Photo: WHNT News 19)

SHEFFIELD, Ala. (WHNT) –  Sheffield Police are investigating claims of sexual abuse against a former official at a local church.  The allegations involve sex abuse against children.

Sheffield Police say the man is not charged yet.  Police said the claims surfaced over the last two days after Sheffield First United Methodist Church conducted an internal investigation.

Church spokesman, Billy Don Anderson says he commends those individuals for acting quickly and turning the information over.

The church released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying the man was dismissed from his job last Friday, July 27.  The church identified the man as Oliver Brazelle, the longtime Minister of Music.  Church leaders said they first received word of these allegations on Wednesday, July 25.

When sexual abuse allegations surfaced of inappropriate behavior between the minister of music, Oliver Brazelle and three male victims, the First United Methodist Senior Pastor and the Parish Relations Committee immediately called a meeting with Brazelle.

According to church officials, after speaking with Brazelle, the man who served the church for nearly 50 years was terminated from his position right away, during that same meeting.

Chief Greg Ray said there may be multiple victims over that long period of time.

"Unfortunately we could have hundreds, you could only have the three, I hope to God we only have the three. But I don't bet on that," said Chief Ray.

Police plan to interview church members starting on Wednesday.  Sheffield Police said they plan to call in the ABI and FBI to assist because of the magnitude of the investigation.

As a longtime member of the church, spokesman Billy Don Anderson says these allegations are the most devastating thing he could ever imagine.

As new details came to light regarding the sex abuse allegations, the church sent a letter to members to notify them of the situation.

Part of the church's statement to WHNT News 19 reads:

"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."

Calls to Brazell's home by WHNT News 19 went unanswered.

WHNT News 19 will continue to track down new details in the investigation.  We'll report new findings as they develop.