Officially, there are no gays in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Neither are there any fornicators, adulterers, child molesters, drug users or booze drinkers. The members of an IFB church are blood-washed, saved, sanctified, children of God, and their lives are radically different from the lives of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.
This is the fantasy promoted from the pulpit almost every Sunday in countless IFB churches. From their youth up, IFB church members are frequently reminded of God’s holy, righteous standard for every church member. Church members are reminded that God sees and knows everything and so does the pastor.
While the IFB pastor is not God, he is often treated like a demigod, not God but not completely human either. The pastor has a special relationship with God, and as a man CALLED by God, he has been given the responsibility of teaching church members how to live. When the pastor speaks, he is speaking on behalf of God. (and this kind of thinking is found in many Christian sects)
A person exposed to this kind of thinking and manipulation week after week will eventually think that things really are just like the pastor says they are.
Yet, for all their preaching about moral failure, moral weaknesses and failures are frequently justified, reinterpreted, or explained away. When blatant moral failures can’t be justified, reinterpreted, or explained away, the “sinner” is called on to repent. If the “sinner” repents their moral transgressions are expunged and put as far away as the east is from the west. The Bible says in Psalm 103:11,12:
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
IFB church members are taught that they have a divine get out of jail free card. 1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Any act, no matter how vile, no matter who it harms, can be expunged by a prayer to God asking for forgiveness. (there is little difference between the Catholic and the Baptist in this regard)
The average IFB church is made up of people who either have just had their sin slate wiped clean or who need to have their sin slate wiped clean. The pastor, who must make sure his sin slate is wiped clean before he enters the pulpit, is called by God to point out the sins of the church members. He might have surfed porn sites the night before, but as long as he confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness, he is spiritually fit to call out church members over their transgressions of a thrice-holy God’s law and the pastor’s interpretation of that law.
This is why a pastor like Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana, could have sex in his office with a minor, and then go preach to church members the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. A divine-do-over was only a prayer away, and I have no doubt Schaap regularly availed himself to the ever-flowing fountain of the cleansing blood of Jesus.
Years ago, I knew of a pastor who would have sex in his office most every Saturday with a woman in his church. On Sunday he would use this very same office to counsel people about their own moral failures. Hypocritical? Sure, but this sin-pray for forgiveness-sin-pray for forgiveness behavior is very much a part of the belief system of most IFB churches. It allows people to have an instantaneous blood-washed cleansing from sin.
IFB church members find themselves in a constant cycle of sinning and getting right with God. Instead of owning their behavior and culpability for what they do, they blame Satan or the flesh. They see themselves as weak, sinful beings in constant need of God’s power, direction, and grace, and when they fail it is due to an attack by Satan or the weakness of their flesh.
We know that a certain percentage of people are naturally attracted to the same-sex. IFB churches deny this, saying that no one is born gay. In the eyes of the IFB pastor, a gay is made not born. Of course this way of thinking causes a big problem for them when one of their own professes they are gay.
Take the story of Jonathan Nichols. Jonathan Nichols was raised in the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath ,Ohio. James Dennis, the pastor of the Baptist Temple, is my wife’s uncle. He has been pastor of the Baptist Temple for almost fifty years.(he is a graduate of the college my wife and I attended)
I have known James Dennis for thirty-seven years. He and I have had a love-hate relationship for many years. Right now it is safe to say we have a hate relationship, both of us hating what the other stands for. He has his pulpit and I have mine.
The Newark Baptist Temple is a typical IFB church. It is a King James Only church that is known for what it is against. (and the list of what the church and its pastor is against is quite long) Church members are expected to live by a certain moral code. This code includes rules about what clothing church members can wear. The Baptist Temple is known as the “no-pants allowed” church.
Since the early-1970’s, the Baptist Temple has owned and operated the Licking County Christian Academy, a private K-12 Christian school. The school started as an ACE school and later morphed into a regular school with each grade having its own teachers. (most of the teachers received their training at schools like Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College)
Jonathan Nichols was raised up in the Newark Baptist Temple and attended Licking County Christian Academy. He was taught the IFB way of life and I am sure he made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was a member in good-standing of the Baptist Temple.
He likely heard countless sermons about the sin of homosexuality. (and numerous other sins) Like most IFB churches, the Baptist Temple is homophobic. In their eyes, there is sin and then there is THE SIN of HOMOSEXUALITY. Homosexuality is a special sin that deserves regular attention. Why is this?
Since IFB churches don’t believe anyone is born with same-sex attraction, a church member saying they are gay would cause quite a problem for them. If a gay person isn’t born with same-sex attraction, how do they become gay?
IFB churches think a person becomes gay because they choose to be.They also believe that many gays were abused and molested and this why they became gay. How then, do they explain, a person like Jonathan Nichols, the son of devoted IFB church members, a young man who spent his entire life in the IFB church and Christian School?
They don’t. Like other scandals in the past, the Newark Baptist Temple tries to conceal stories like Jonathan Nichols’s story, Stories like his are not only concealed from the public but also from church members. (the internet has made it harder for IFB churches and pastors to conceal their dirty laundry)
The secretive conduct of the Newark Baptist Temple is not unique and can be found in countless IFB churches, including the churches I grew up in and pastored.
I spent my teenage years as a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Sexual impropriety by church leaders and church members was routinely covered up. The church choir was a hot-bed of sexual misconduct. These things were never talked about from the pulpit but everyone knew what was going on.
I saw the same conduct at Midwestern Baptist College. From teachers having affairs, to students engaging in illicit sexual activity, the College had its hands full putting out the sexual scandal fires.
Every Midwestern Baptist College dorm student knew of the homosexual teacher that lived in the dorm. He had students who lived with him, students that heterosexual dorm students thought might be homosexuals.
As as pastor, I preached against sexual sin and, like James Dennis at the Baptist Temple, I considered homosexuality to be a sin above all other sins. (IFB pastors will tell you differently, but listen to their sermons to see what they really think) No matter how much I ranted and railed against sexual sin, church members still committed adultery and fornication.
However, when it came to homosexuality, (at the time, I thought all homosexuals were sexual predators who preyed on children) if I got wind of someone being a homosexual I immediately ran them off. Yet, for all my homophobic diligence, there were still some boys and girls raised under my preaching that turned out to be gay,
These children were exposed to hardcore hellfire and brimstone preaching that made it clear that homosexuality was an affront to God and that no homosexual would inherit eternal life. Some of these children attended the church’s private school and God’s moral standard was frequently talked about. Yet, they turned out gay.
Why? Because they were born that way. What other explanation can there be? Everything in their upbringing, both at home and church, promoted heterosexuality and condemned homosexuality. Every effort was made to make sure they turned out heterosexual. I protected them from being influenced by homosexuals and I constantly reminded them that God was the God of the heterosexual. Yet…they turned out gay.
The truth is, the IFB church movement is no different from the non-IFB public. The only difference is they live in denial over what is really going on behind closed doors. They convince themselves they are a called-out, chosen, separated, sanctified band of righteous people who live above the fray. They hate people like me because I not only know different but I dare talk about it in public.
Jonathan Nichols had to leave the IFB church to find people who would accept him as he is. Of course, by leaving, Jonathan proved:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:19)
You see, Jonathan being gay means he never really was a Christian, he never really was one of them. How else do they explain a son of the church now being gay, and not only being gay but being willing to tell the world about it?