Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Jon Jenkins Moves to New Church After Decades of Controversy

jon jenkins

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Earlier this month, I published a Black Collar Crime story about David Beckner, a school teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan. Beckner stands accused of sexually abusing a female student. Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School is owned and operated by Grace Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. (Please see Grace Baptist College, Gaylord, Michigan: Rules and Regulations)

In May, Jon Jenkins, pastor, CEO, and head bwana of Grace Baptist, celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church.  And now, two months later, Jenkins has exited stage right, moving on to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina (formerly pastored by Charles Ennis for fifty-one years).

The Gaylord Herald Times reports that Jenkins leaves behind a trail of scandals and controversies:

In a previous Herald Times story, Jenkins commented on instances of abuse or alleged abuse involving former teachers. Jenkins said he had reported two of the school’s former teachers to police for sexual abuse of students years ago.
Jenkins said he reported former teacher Aaron Willand to Michigan State Police, and later, another former teacher to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department.

Willand was convicted in Washington state of raping a child and child molestation in 2006. The survivor, now an adult, is also seeking charges in Otsego County for abuse she said also occurred in Michigan. Willand has not been charged in Michigan.
Jenkins said he also reported former teacher David Beckner to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department in 2011. Eight criminal sexual conduct charges have been officially filed by Otsego County courts against Beckner. The case was bound over to Otsego County’s 46th Circuit Court Thursday.

The sheriff’s department showed no records of Grace Baptist reporting either former teacher to police.
Herald Times’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for Michigan State Police reports filed by Grace Baptist show no police reports filed by Grace Baptist with any references to Aaron Willand or David Beckner.

Clark Martin, a former congregation member and volunteer bus driver, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct against a former Grace Baptist student in 2002 and 2003. According to Otsego County court records from that case, Martin had also molested another youth, a 12-year-old boy, in St. Clair County in 1966.

Martin also pleaded guilty in May to criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly molesting a teen boy in 1991 and 1992.

Former Grace Baptist congregation members Jennifer Mahoney and Matthew Mahoney were convicted in 2013 on felony charges against a 15-year-old girl in Indiana, according to previous coverage by the Tribune Star (Terre Haute, Indiana) newspaper and court documents.

A former Gaylord Teen Spectacular youth conference guest speaker, Jack Schaap, was convicted in 2013 in federal court in Indiana after he transported a 16-year-old girl to his cabin in Northern Michigan for the purpose of having sex with her, according to court documents.

According to previous Herald Times coverage of the Teen Spectacular, Schaap, of Hammond, Indiana, was listed as a visiting guest speaker during the 2011 youth conference, an event that draws hundreds of teens to Gaylord.
Jenkins previously confirmed that each of the above was connected to Grace Baptist as a teacher, through the congregation or as a guest speaker.

….

One former staff member whose daughter was molested by a fellow student previously told the Herald Times she had taken issue with the way Jenkins handled the situation after the abuse occurred off campus.

Sarah Sundelius said Jenkins had not kept the teen offender away from the church and school where her 5-year-old daughter attended and where Sundelius had taught from 2016 to 2018.

Several former Grace Baptist students have also shared their stories about the former teachers who have either been convicted for criminal sexual conduct against minors or are currently facing charges for the same thing.
Several of the victims and alleged victims have also pointed to Jenkins’ role as leader of the church during the time and the requirements to report allegations to police.

While Jenkins has not been accused of sexual misconduct, his lack of leadership and refusal to require background checks for church employees and volunteers until this year certainly has contributed to the sexual misconduct that permeated Grace Baptist and its ministries under his watch. Jenkins’ critics say that he was a heavyhanded authoritarian who ruled Grace Baptist as if it was his own personal kingdom and fiefdom.  I know, I know, typical IFB behavior.

Attorney David Gibbs, long known as a “fixer” for IFB preachers and churches who find themselves facing sexual misconduct allegations, had this to say about Jenkins and his new gig at Fellowship Baptist Church:

His preaching and communication skills are outstanding. His doctrinal positions lined up with our historic Baptist faith. His spirit of compassion for church members and hurting people in the community were exemplary.”
His prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.

It is scandalous that Gibbs could say with a straight face “His [Jon Jenkins] prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.”

Really? I mean really, Attorney Gibbs? Have you no shame?

Such is life in the IFB church movement. Obfuscation, misdirection, and lies, praise Jesus, three people were saved last Sunday. All that matters is that the soul-saving machinery keeps on turning, regardless of who might be shredded in its gears.

Note

Support group for Gaylord Grace Baptist Church survivors and their supporters, Blind Eye Movement.

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10 Comments

  1. Kittybrat

    And on it goes. Mindboggling, really. Why do they not care about children? They have wolves there and they KNOW it, yet they continue as if the victims are the ones who are in the wrong.

    Reply
    1. Brian Vanderlip

      Kittybrat, I think that in time, with more science and less religious delusion, we will better understand why we harm ourselves and why it is important that we harm our children too. Evangelical fundamentalism is organized, systemic abuse and those who offer up their children to it are sick bipeds, as Bruce was as a preacher and as my own dad was when he took to the pulpit. When I first met the person who would become my wife, I was a sick Baptist too and almost rejected her for Jesus because she was not strictly Baptist but practiced in the ‘cult’ of Bahai. When I look back at the person I was back then, I am humbled and so very thankful to have somehow regained my health. I married a woman with a generous, wonderful heart instead of choosing to stay in the fold… And on it goes, indeed.

      Reply
      1. MLC

        So, you expect science to explain why we harm ourselves and our children? I’m sorry, but I just have to laugh at that statement. Of all the animals on earth why are humans so different. Oh, science knows! We have a greater capacity for love, creation, hate and destruction than any other animal on the planet. Yup, science will explain.
        Umm, I think it’s already been explained.
        Also, quit lumping every evangelical together into your bigoted and close-minded category. There are some bad people out there in the community. I know, I’ve met a few. I’ve also met hundreds and thousands of very good people.
        I’m sure there aren’t any “bad people” in whatever group you associate with, are there? I know all atheists are upstanding people and there has NEVER been a predator among them! I certainly hope you can infer the sarcasm.
        I knew every one of the people from Grace in these articles. The articles don’t misrepresent what they are. It was also correct in it’s description of J. Jenkins style of leadership. It doesn’t mention the Pastors there that sat with dying people for days for comfort or church members that took collections to help out families who lost someone or needed help. Nope, that couldn’t have happened in the den of evil.
        Lesson here is that you’re just as bad as the people you judge.

        Reply
        1. Astreja

          MLC, some of the pastors doing good things does not negate the egregious failures that happened on Jenkins’ watch.

          Given the myriad abuse scandals in multiple denominations, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is no divine Early Warning System that can prevent assaults on members of the congregation, and an unacceptable amount of denial and victim-blaming.

          And quit it with the tu quoque nonsense. Just fix your damn problems before someone else gets hurt.

          Reply
        2. Brian Vanderlip

          ” Yup, science will explain.
          Umm, I think it’s already been explained.”

          Stand aside from yourself for a moment and consider what you do to your children. You inform them of their evil selves, their fallen natures. You call this Love! Then you expose them to how God killed his only boy for them, for the evil they are and that now they can live free. Get some serious help, MLC. You do not need to pass on this sick legacy of horror for children. Believe in yourself as you are, imperfect biped. Love your children with all your heart and do not condemn them to the shadow caves of belief, the shadows of dark delusion. I don’t judge you, only speak to your actions in this world. Evangelical belief is a virus. There is help to be had…

          Reply
      2. Kittybrat

        You seem to have struck a nerve.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Ya think? 😀😀

          Reply
  2. Goyo

    Hey, Brian, I once taught a training union lesson series on cults in my baptist church, and I invited different “cult” leaders to our class…the only one that actually responded and came, was a rep from the Baha’i faith in our city. She is a local doctor, and was very intelligent, and explained how she had become a believer…she had had an emotional experience with that religion, and accepted it.
    Exactly like the rest of us in our class, except, of course, our experiences were real, and hers were fake!
    There’s no telling what was going on in my church for years…all those people that were in places of responsibility, and yet, my parents trusted them. “Why, brother so and so wouldn’t ever hurt anyone”…

    Reply
    1. Brian Vanderlip

      Comparing what the church does with its ‘soldiers’ of the Cross and what the Marines do with their soldiers reveals shocking similarities. First, go after appearance and ‘encourage’ conformity in appearance. Second, demean and break the individual so they understand they are only valuable and viable as a part of the whole. Alone they are nothing and worthless, complete garbage. The Marine Jesus died for his fellow soldiers. With the group they become meaningful and worthwhile. Obey the orders, the rules. Lean not on your own understanding! Give up and obey. Now, recognize the enemy and spend all your life and energy in defeating that enemy. Be a strong Christian patriot. I love Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket because it is about evangelical belief in the world. It perfectly parallels the sick training, the destruction of humanity into a bitter machine, a machine that would never hurt anyone on the right side of things, the righteous, smiling Christian who wants so much to ‘help’ their neighbor so anothe soul can be saved.

      Reply
  3. Autumn

    It must be hard to teach cult avoidance when your own group gets high marks on cult danger scales.

    Check this out and think about churches you’ve attended. http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html

    Reply

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