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.
I have a question, Bruce: What were your (and your congregants’) relationships like with more liberal churches in the towns where you preached?
My relationships with non-Evangelical churches/pastors changed from the time I entered the ministry until I preached my last sermon in 2005. I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, and worked for and pastored three IFB churches from 1979 to1989. During my tenure as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio (1983-1994), I left the IFB church movement I was raised in and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. By the time I pastored my last church in 2003, my theology had moved leftward, as did my politics. A parishioner who heard me preach in the 1990s and then again in 2003, was astounded by how much my preaching had changed. He believed I had left Calvinism and embraced works-based salvation (social gospel). He was right. I was still in the Evangelical tent, but I had moved from the extreme right to the liberalism found on the left.
As a Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, I only fellowshipped with my own kind. In the late 1980s, I received a letter inviting me to attend the monthly ministerial meetings for Somerset area pastors. I responded with a letter of my own, stating that I was a separatist, that I did not fellowship with liberals. Besides, the meetings were held at a local restaurant that served alcohol — a definite “sin” in the eyes of IFB preachers. I received a kind, thoughtful reply from the local Lutheran minister. He reminded me that even Jesus fellowshipped with sinners. Smack! 🙂 It would be years later before I dropped my exclusionary practices and adopted the tag line for my church that stated: “the church where the only label that matters is . . . Christian.” In the late 1990s, I joined the local ministerial association, embracing all those who called themselves Christians. At the end of my time in the ministry, my Fundamentalist colleagues in the ministry considered me an ecumenist and a liberal — two labels I wore proudly.
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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