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Is There a Difference Between the IFB and the NIFB?

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In 2017, Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, gathered together a group of like-minded Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers to start a “new” IFB group. At its height, thirty churches were part of this group. Today, rocked by sex scandals, homophobic behavior, and internecine squabbles, the NIFB is no more. Its website is no longer active. Faithful Word’s website makes no mention of the NIFB, and Anderson’s YouTube channel has been terminated for violating YouTube’s terms of service.

Over the years, NIFB pastors Anderson, Donnie Romero, Adam Fannin, Jonathan Shelley, Grayson Fritts, and Logan Robertson, to name a few, have been in the news. Wikipedia states:

A split in the New IFB occurred in January 2019, after Donnie Romero, pastor at Stedfast Baptist Church-Fort Worth (SBC), resigned after it was revealed he had hired prostitutes, smoked marijuana and gambled. Adam Fannin, the lead preacher at SBC’s Jacksonville satellite campus, refused to acknowledge the authority of Jonathan Shelley, another Texas New IFB pastor who took over SBC–Fort Worth following Romero’s resignation. Anderson, Fannin and Shelley traded accusations of financial wrongdoing and running a cult. Fannin was later ejected as the lead preacher of SBC-Jax.

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New IFB pastors have been the subjects of controversy on numerous occasions. The New IFB is strongly opposed to homosexuality, with several pastors advocating the belief that homosexuals should be executed. Anderson and other New IFB pastors have praised the Orlando gay nightclub shooting. On the weekend of the third anniversary of the shooting, the New IFB held a “Make America Straight Again” conference at an Orlando-area New IFB church. Also in June 2019, Grayson Fritts, pastor at New IFB-affiliated All Scripture Baptist Church and a former detective for the Knox County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office, delivered a sermon calling for the execution of gays.

The New IFB considers the modern nation of Israel to be a fraud and it also teaches that Christians rather than Jews are God’s chosen people. Anderson has also produced videos in which he attacks the religion of Judaism and questions the official account of the Holocaust. The New IFB, like older independent Baptist churches, has been accused of being cult-like.

Auckland, New Zealand, New IFB pastor Logan Robertson was deported from Australia in July 2018 after being accused of harassing Muslims at two Brisbane mosques. Robertson had previously attracted media attention after he stated that gay people should be shot and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern should “go home and get in the kitchen”.

Anderson started the NIFB because he believed the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement was going liberal. This claim was patently untrue. Certainly, some IFB pastors are more “liberal” now than they were years ago. However, their liberalism has more to do with peripheral issues than core theological and social beliefs. I have seen no evidence for the claim that the IFB church movement, in general, is becoming liberal. IFB churches, colleges, and pastors remain ardently and resolutely Fundamentalist. I recently saw a picture of a bluegrass singing group from Bob Jones University — a proudly Fundamentalist institution. I was surprised to see that the women in the photo were wearing blue jeans — a definite departure from their no-pants rule of yesteryear. This is what passes for “liberalism” in IFB circles.

Now to the question at hand: is there a difference between the IFB and the NIFB? The short answer is NO. There’s no difference theologically or socially between the two groups. The NIFB is just a group of churches and preachers who disagreed with other churches and preachers. The NIFB is little more than a squabble among siblings.

I refuse to use the NIFB moniker for Anderson and his gang of Fundamentalists. Using the NIFB label suggests to the uninformed that there’s a difference between them and other IFB churches. It leads to wrong conclusions too. NIFB pastors are hateful, bigoted homophobes. Look at how awful these preachers are, bloggers and reporters say. However, the IFB churches they broke from aren’t any better (generally speaking).

The IFB church movement is known for its infighting, divisions, and church splits. Did you know that you can find the first IFB church in the Old Testament?

Genesis 13 says:

And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had make there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Abraham and his nephew, Lot, got into a squabble. Abraham’s solution was that they separate from one other. Lot agreed. The Bible says: “and they separated themselves the one from the other.” A crusty old preacher said at a pastor’s meeting I was attending years ago that this passage aptly described how IFB churches are started. Those in attendance laughed, knowing that he was right.

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church, an IFB congregation in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Much of the church’s adult attendance growth came from people leaving local IFB churches and joining Somerset Baptist (we also gained members from non-IFB churches too). In its heyday, Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in Perry County. Scores of people from IFB churches joined with us, and for a time, virtually every service at Somerset Baptist was buzzing with excitement. What was God fixing to do next? we wondered. Two years later, most of the people who came from local IFB churches were gone. Many of them went back to their old churches, while others moved on to other IFB churches. Our attendance went from 200 to 50, and our income dropped by fifty percent. Stories like this in the IFB world are not uncommon.

I see no evidence for the claim that there are differences between the NIFB and IFB church movement. What we have is an Abraham-Lot squabble, not the establishment of a new sect.

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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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Emersonian

    OK, so this is a dumb technical question from someone who has never been part of any evangelical denomination. I had the impression that IFB congregations were, by definition, completely independent of one another (though obviously they overlap doctrinally to a great extent); so how is it meaningful in any way for Anderson to have “broken off” and created an NIFB congregation? If there is no hierarchical uber-organization to the IFB movement, then aren’t all IFB congregations essentially their own “thing” as it were? What exactly were Anderson and his minions rebelling against, if there’s no single church authority saying “women in IFB churches should never wear pants” or whatever? Maybe I’d assumed more “I” to the Independent part of Independent Fundamentalist Baptists than there actually is…

      • Avatar
        Emersonian

        Thanks, Bruce and William! I had envisioned them as being each built around the charisma and preaching of particular individuals, like Anderson, and therefore had a hard time grasping how an IFB church would “break away,” per se, from a prior incarnation–I thought Steven Anderson’s church pretty much was whatever Steven Anderson said it was at any given moment, for instance. Appreciate the further clarification!

    • Avatar
      William

      They are independent but to use an analogy, it’s not like a league of nations (UN) or a conglomeration of countries like the EU, it’s more a step back from that to be like tribes/clans.

      So like tribal/clans, they are all independent. Some on occasion become more dominant (like 1st Baptist Church Hammond in its heyday of hundreds of thousands of members), or a particular warrior type figure emerges (Hyles, Rice, Ruckman) whom certain clans gather round as their are powerful inspirational types. Sometimes clans unite for a particular cause (some independent churches come together for a revival campaign for instance), but then go back to cordial or suspicious arrangements/views of each other.

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      I wrote to my MP and the Home Secretary to get Anderson banned from the UK for his hate speech. We succeeded and around 30 other countries did the same. I then followed his ‘soul-winning’ jaunt to Africa. He was met by Malawian police as he left a radio station after an anti-gay rant. They took him to the border and deported him, he was too homophobic for even homophobic Malawi. He then ranted again about the church that partnered him there and recommended not supporting it any longer, cos the pastor got a new car and Anderson disapproved…these folk just can’t keep from splitting. Oh, and Anderson’s teenage sons got caught sending vile sexts to girls in their church. Anderson excommunicated the girls’ family/ies, beat the boys and claimed it was all a private matter. The rotten apples obviously didn’t fall far from the putrid daddy-tree.

  2. Avatar
    Sage

    The only difference is these preachers use their so called religious belief to be even more extremely hateful than the “liberal” IFB. These are the same assholes who support the white nationalist Christian belief. I do not understand how this country can allow fucktards like these idiots to call for the execution of people they hate. This country is so fucked up.

  3. Avatar
    William

    I have met Andersonites and Ruckmanites, the Andersonites were much worse in terms of their rudeness, entitlement and plotting/scheming.

    Funnily, Steven Anderson tries to associate himself with Jack Hyles, the Hylesite camp don’t want Anderson in their camp, some Andersonites don’t want Hyles in their camp, and the Ruckmanites only want Ruckmanites in their camp 😀

    The last I heard Anderson was unwittingly beginning to embrace Calvin-esque type theology which he always preached against (as if his views on salvation being limited to straight people could ever be in agreement with salvation for all), so Andersonites were beginning to fight with Anderson 😀

    The differences aren’t as big as what each group imagine them to be, when it comes to it they are all really against the same type of things (it just seems big to them in the Evangelical gold fish bowl). Really it’s just arguments in the same family, like the scripture you quoted 🙂

    • Avatar
      Kel

      If I remember correctly, according to Muslim tradition (the Hadith), the Prophet once predicted that there would eventually be 70-or-so – can’t remember the exact number – of Christian sects, but only one of them would reach Heaven. That seems very prophetic indeed (though 70 seems to be an underestimation).

  4. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Matilda, and congratulations on being proactive and protecting your the UK from Anderson’s poison. And good for Malawi catching on to him so quick,lol. How sad for this planet, to have to endure these spores from America, spreading their contamination . Why doesn’t Arizona investigate this abusive bastard ?? I feel sorry for those kids of his, bad news though they are. There must be 11 or 12 of them by now. I was reading on spiritual abuse, and he popped up. Years ago on the library computer. He beat up the sons,did he ? That’s assault ! How did you find this out about this texting/abuse incident ? Trump was/ is pressuring AZ regarding voter restriction laws. The large Native population down there is aware this is directed at them. It would be great to see this Fascist get sidelined somehow. He’s bad for the country,and even Christianity ! How come no one hardly, can see this though ??

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      I was interested in keeping the obnoxious Anderson out of the UK so read all I could. The now defunct Patheos ‘No Longer Quivering’ blog followed the sexting story, the father of the girls went public which made Anderson furious and ex-communicate his family IIRC. The Anderson family moved, they said cos they needed a bigger home, but had lived next door to the victims’ family till then. Anderson said it was a private matter, he’d ‘disciplined’ his sons…which I’m pretty sure implies physical punishment. One son, there were 3 involved, again IIRC, got sent to live with grandparents. NLQ implied CPS got involved as it involved under-age teens, but that’s all I can recall.

  5. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Thank you , Matilda. I actually looked up the crazy shenanigans going on with Anderson and his progeny. It was so off the wall and hard to believe- this is how outlandish the whole thing is. Far from amusing, it made me depressed. Reddit also has a segment devoted to ” Fundie Snark”, and I read those comments too. Evidently, the Andersons don’t take their children to doctors, because doctors will report abuse. There must be signs of abuse,old bruises,etc. The brothers seem to have both violent and creepy opinions and intentions towards females, as Solomon,one of the sons, was dumped by his fiancee, Saer. She and her family fled on day, after a violent break- up. Solomon was very threatening. Leaving was a wise move, on their part. ” Solomon’s Engagement” was the subject heading in the Reddit post. I read stuff like THIS, and I think poor America ! BJW, you weren’t kidding when you said that Anderson was creepy,in Duggar sort of way. He though, is much worse, and belongs in a padded room. He’s chomping at the bit, to get involved in a civil war. Geeky- guy fantasies writ large.

  6. Avatar
    DoctorDJ

    Steven Anderson and his Death To Reprobates Club can suck a bag of dicks.
    And then get banned from every country on the planet, including the US.

  7. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Ok, which of them is moving to Avignon?

    Matilda, I second Yulya’s words of gratitude. Folks like Anderson should be moved some remote island. I am a 99 percent pacifist, but I would join any force that would quarantine him and his ilk on such an island

    And Sage, damn straight (I’m trans😏) that it’s all about who can out-hate whom. It really is a race to the bottom!

  8. Avatar
    Brocken

    I think the main difference between the New Independent Fundamental Baptist church and the obviously more apostate (I’m being sarcastic) Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church is the fact that the New Independent Baptist Church bunch is more offensively and blatantly Anti-Semitic. The anti-defamation league of B’nai B’rith felt the need to formally condemn the NIFB for their Anti-Semitic rhetoric.

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Bruce Gerencser