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Crazy Stories From the Church House: No White Dress for You

Bruce and Polly Gerencser with son #2, 1981

In February of 1979, Polly and I moved from Pontiac, Michigan to Bryan, Ohio. When I moved away in 1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College, I planned to never return to Bryan. However, marriage, an unexpected pregnancy, and job loss turned my “never” on its head.

Not long after we first moved to Bryan, Polly and I began attending my sister’s church, Montpelier Baptist Church in Montpelier, a community ten minutes north of Bryan. Jay Stuckey, a graduate of Toledo Bible College, was the pastor, and after a few weeks, Jay asked if I would be interested in becoming the church’s bus pastor (an unpaid position). I quickly told Jay yes!

Jay Stuckey was a typical Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher in the 1970s. Sermons on salvation, sin, and prophecy. Church teens were expected to refrain from all sexual activity before marriage. Despite Jay’s moralizing from the pulpit, one of the church’s teens got pregnant. Shock! Sermons are ineffective birth control. She was expected to immediately marry the boy before she started showing. Even worse, Stuckey forbade her from wearing a white dress. White was reserved for “virgins.” She was dirty goods in his (and God’s) eyes. Stuckey also told the girl that she could only invite immediate family to her wedding. No friends. No schoolmates. Of course, the goal was to sweep this girl’s shameful crime against humanity under the rug.

Plenty of “virgin” women walked down the aisle over the years at Montpelier Baptist Church. Fortunately, for them, they didn’t have to “prove” their purity. For this teen girl, all she likely remembers from her wedding day is the shame heaped upon her head by her pastor and church.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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  1. Avatar

    Minister ordered the teen girl to marry like a “dirty bride”? That makes her look like she failed the stay-virginal lectures, like the minister failed in his lectures with at least one girl… and boy. Never mind how “dirty bride” wedding made the boy and their families look, right? Like you said, many not-virgins passed themselves off as girls who did listen to the minister.

  2. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Why didn’t Stuckey show compassion, mercy and kindness toward the girl and the boy? His whole attitude lacked graciousness. He should put his holy book in the dustbin, where it belongs if it does not respect the dignity of others.

  3. Avatar

    Oh, yes. The old “no white dress for you” admonishment. So glad to be out of that. The harm this causes is immeasurable, as it’s all just part of the patriarchal structure. SMH

  4. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    I’m the daughter of a mother who wasn’t allowed to wear white. No church wedding pics either. Just a portrait in front of some photography drapes. I wonder why it is that the man still gets to wear a suit and tie?

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    My in-laws, both from big Catholic families, Catholic school-educated, bith 1st children, got married because my mother-in-law was pregnant. They didn’t inform the priest of that situation, and the priest tried really hard to convince my MIL that she shouldn’t marry my FIL. But….in the late 60s nice Catholic girls who were pregnant HAD to get married before they started showing. She stuck to the story for decades that the baby was stillborn because it was premature, but she finally admitted to my daughter that it was full-term and she was 2 months pregnant when they married. I was told that by other family members -the “secret” wasn’t a secret, everyone eventually knew. Anyway, because of the families keeping it a secret, she got to wear her white dress and veil and have a Catholic mass wedding….they divorced about 22 years later.

    When my mom and stepdad married, both divorced, the Southern Baptist minister wouldn’t marry them in front of the altar – they were to the side. Lol….

  6. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    My Aunt Roseanne, who I never had a chance to meet because of her early death from leukemia, was by all accounts a feisty person who didn’t tolerate fools, religious or otherwise, gladly. She got pregnant, either she or the sperm donor were reluctant (or they were unable quickly) to get married, so her Good Catholic Parents sent her away to have the baby and give it up for adoption. (This might have been during WWII, not sure of dates. Maybe her beloved was in the military, and she did live with her parents in rural Minnesota. My mother refused to talk about it.)

    The only wrench in this grand, family-honor-protecting scheme was that my auntie had to sign paperwork to allow her child to be taken away and adopted out, and she refused to do so. The nuns who ran the birth center (not sure of what it should be called) begged, cajoled, insisted, threatened, and so on, and she still refused. They finally sent her home with her baby. By the time she died, she’d had several children with a loving husband (though I don’t know if he was the father of the pre-marriage child). Her birth family were jerks, even my mom, who loved her very much. Thanks to religion, their heads were all in dark, smelly places.

  7. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    THATOTHERJEAN reminds us that those who like to parade ‘righteousness’ are guaranteed to be tainted with a mean streak. Once we abandon ourselves with denial (faith in sweet Jesus) we begin a long and winding journey of abdication. We glory in spreading the ‘joy’ of denial and we readily blame others with quoted scriptures to prove that our self-loathing is correct. “I love (HATE) my saved self and you should hate, I mean love yourself too!”
    The harm these ‘religious beliefs’ perpetrate is immeasurable and lifelong.

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