Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.
In March of 1994, I became the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. I have written extensively about my time at Community in the series I am a Publican and a Heathen. My seven-month tenure at Community quickly turned into buyer’s remorse, and in late September, I resigned and returned to Ohio. Community is a Calvinistic (Sovereign Grace) Baptist church, started by Pat Horner — a former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. Horner ruled the church with a rod of iron, using church discipline to “deal” with all those who crossed him. Community’s disciplinary practices weren’t viewed as a tyrant’s attempt to silence those who refused to play by his rulebook. Instead, church disciplinary meetings were dressed up with Bible verses meant to give the illusion that the church (Horner) was following the Apostle Paul’s and Jesus’ teachings when errant, unrepentant church members were excommunicated. Numerous members were “disciplined” during my tenure at Community. People were excommunicated for everything from not regularly attending church to refusing to submit to pastoral authority. On the day that I resigned, Horner informed me that I could not resign without the church’s permission. Taking a “watch me” approach, I packed up my family and moved back to Ohio. As we were pulling out of the church’s compound, Horner was addressing the church about the “Bruce Gerencser problem.” I was excommunicated, and to this day, I am considered a publican and a heathen (Matthew 18:15-19).
Fifteen years later, I wrote the letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. In this letter — which was sent to numerous ministerial colleagues, family members, and former church members — I detailed the reasons why I was no longer a Christian. Of course, the Calvinistic preachers in San Antonio — men such as Pat Horner, Tim Conway, and Jose Maldonado — saw my letter as “proof” that my ex-communication from Community Baptist Church was justified. See! See! See! Bruce Gerencser never was a “real” Christian! One would think, having thrown me out of the church, that would be the end of the story. However, what Horner and his fellow Calvinists didn’t count on is me publicly writing about my time in San Antonio. When Horner and the Church excommunicated me in 1994, they could control the storyline. Horner could lie about me, and there was little I could do about it (He told several people that the church I was pastoring in Ohio was filled with unsaved people). The Internet, of course, changed things dramatically, allowing me to tell my side of the story to thousands of people. Karma’s a bitch.
I check the search logs daily, and rarely a week goes by without someone searching Pastor Pat Horner, Pastor Jose Maldonado, Pastor Tim Conway, Grace Community Church San Antonio, Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church, or Community Baptist Church Elmendorf that brings them to this blog. To combat the influence I might have on people, the San Antonio Calvinists have taken to mentioning me in their sermons. Here are two examples:
Futile, vain, empty, pointless, to no avail. And right here in Ephesians chapter 4, futility of mind is the characterization of the Gentiles. That’s how you are no longer to be. Christian, we are to put away futility. No longer. You must no longer. Futility of mind is a picture of people using their mind in ways that are just a waste of time. They are a waste of effort. You want some examples? Brethren, I know this about all of us. We all want to be happy. That is what mankind is striving after. Mankind wants to feel good, and mankind strives after that. You want an example of futility of mind? Futility of mind is man who is forever and always trying to figure out how to be happy while he is an enemy of God. That, folks, is futility. That is vain. That is worthless.
Or how about this: The futility that people walking around just spending their time; I was thinking about, some of you know about Bruce Gerencser, who was one of the co-elders down at Community Baptist Church when Ruby and I were down there, who apostatized and basically became an Atheist. What futility to spend your life trying to convince yourself there is no God. You see, these are the futile ways or futility that comes to nothing. Nothing at all.
Conway mentions me at the 25:48 mark.
In 2010, Jose Maldonado, pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church (link no longer active), preached a four-part sermon series about my apostasy. Here’s a short audio clip from one of the sermons:
If you have the stomach for it, you can listen to the Apostasy and Its Awful Consequences! (also titled “why Bruce Gerencser Was NEVER, EVER a Christian!) series on Sermon Audio.
If you would like to read the sermons and not listen to them, here are PDF transcriptions of the sermons.
Why are preachers such as Conway and Maldonado still preaching about me years later? What is it about my story they find so threatening? Perhaps they just want to use my story as a warning or a cautionary tale, as Ralph Wingate, Jr. did in a 2013 sermon at Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Illinois:
Whatever the reasons, my story remains a burr in the saddle of those who once considered me their colleague or pastor. Numerous prayers have been uttered on my behalf, yet God has not seen fit to save or kill me. I remain a red-flashing-light reminder of the fact that pastors — men who once preached the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ — can and do apostatize. And if men of God can lose their faith, well, anyone can.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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