I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.
Are there any famous/successful pastors who have not had affairs, committed crimes, been guilty of fraud, etc?
They’ve fallen one after another like dominoes . . .
Tammy, along with her husband Jim, has been my friend for years. When Polly and I walked away from Christianity in 2008, Tammy and Jim walked the path with us, providing love, kindness, and support.
I suspect there’s a bit of sarcasm in Tammy’s question. That said, rarely does a day go by without me receiving a Google Alert about this or that preacher committing a crime — usually sex crimes. In 2017, I started the Black Collar Crime Series. This series primarily focuses on crimes perpetrated by Evangelical preachers. As of this date, I have published 800+ articles. I also have 200+ stories that I have not yet posted.
While most Evangelical preachers, famous or not, do not commit crimes, thanks to the Internet, we now know that Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sexual assault, rape, and other predatory behaviors perpetrated by pastors, evangelists, youth directors, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, parachurch leaders, college professors, and other church leaders. When I first started the Black Collar Crime Series, Evangelicals told me that predatory preachers were just a few bad apples. Four years later, it’s evident that there are more than just a few bad apples in the proverbial apple barrel. We now know Evangelicalism’s sex scandals are every bit as pervasive as those found in Roman Catholicism.
Are Evangelical churches “safe”? Maybe. If I were a member of or visiting an Evangelical church, I wouldn’t let my children out of my sight. I would NEVER allow my teen children to attend youth-focused classes or ministries. If the Black Collar Crimes Series has taught me anything, it is this: predators hide in plain sight. The same goes for seeing a pastor for counseling. I wouldn’t recommend ever being alone with a pastor. Sadly, way too many pastors “prey’ on vulnerable church members, using their positions of authority to engage in sex with “consenting” adults (which is illegal in most states, but rarely prosecuted).
I know some Evangelical preachers will be butthurt over me painting with such a broad brush. I also know most preachers are decent, thoughtful, caring people. However, there’s an awful stink coming from the apple barrel, and little is being done to eliminate the smell. Everywhere we look, we see coverups. The largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has an alarming sexual abuse problem. What has the SBC done to address this problem? Nothing outside of referring the “problem” to a board for study.
Most clergy sex crimes go unreported; thus, we can’t know the percentage of Evangelical preachers committing crimes. Famous, big-name, megachurch pastors surround themselves with handlers. It is common for megachurches to have security forces. In addition, pastors have personal handlers/assistants. Often, when church members report misconduct by their pastors, these handlers make the “problems” go away. Brave is the person willing to go public about their pastor’s misconduct. Such people often have their lives ruined by the defenders of predatory preachers. That’s why when people contact me and share stories of abuse, I believe them.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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