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Category: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor George Swain Indicted on Child Rape Charges

greater victory temple

In November 2020, George Swain, pastor of Greater Victory Temple in Mattapan, Massachusetts, was arrested on child rape charges. Boston-25 reported:

A Boston pastor facing child rape charges involving three different victims was arraigned over the phone in a hospital bed on Monday.

71-year-old Reverend George Swain, of the Greater Victory Temple in Mattapan, was originally set to appear in court in Dorchester.

….

Prosecutors allege that the abuse involved boys between the ages of 8 and 16, and that two of those victims were sexually assaulted inside the church.

The charges stem from allegations that date back to the late 90′s and early 2000′s.

Last week, Swain was indicted on child rape charges.

Boston-10 reports:

Prosecutors say Swain sexually abused three boys between the ages of 8 and 16 from 1997 to 2004.

The three victims, who are now in their 30s, were members of the church and trusted Swain, investigators say.

“Bishop Swain is accused of using his position of trust and authority to ingratiate himself to his victims and their families, grooming them in order to gain access to targets for his sexual abuse,” Suffolk County District Attorney Rollins said in a statement Thursday. “He allegedly preyed on his victims’ faith and used it as an entryway into their lives.”

“He was seen as a role model, and the victims’ families all looked up to him,” Assistant District Attorney Audrey Mark said in court last year.

Investigators allege Swain abused two of the boys at Greater Victory Temple and the third boy at his Dorchester home where the youngest child sometimes spent the night.

The abuse went on for years, prosecutors allege.

Greater Victory Temple is a Pentecostal church that has been part of the Boston community for 19 years, according to the church’s website.

….

In her statement, Rollins commended the strength and courage of the survivors who came forward in order to make sure Swain has to answer in court for his actions.

“It can be incredibly difficult to disclose childhood sexual abuse, whether as a child or as an adult survivor. The survivors who came forward to disclose abuse by Bishop Swain showed a tremendous amount of strength and bravery,” she said. “It can take decades for victims to make the decision to come forward about sexual abuse, as is what happened here.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor David Evans Murdered by His Wife and Her Lover

pastor david evans

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

David Evans, pastor of Harmony Freewill Baptist Church in Ada, Oklahoma, was allegedly murdered by his wife, Kristie, and her lover (and threesome partner), Kahlil Square.

The Daily Beast reports:

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on Friday said Kristie Dawnell Evans, 47, had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after confessing her role in her husband’s murder. Her lover, Kahlil Deamie Square, 26, was also arrested on Thursday on the same charge.

Authorities say that Kristie Evans asked Square to kill her husband in a sinister plot the two hatched while the pastor was away in Mexico. According to an affidavit, obtained by The Daily Beast, the mother-of-three later told police her husband “was verbally abusive and controlling of her” and “called her names like ‘slut, fat, ugly, and whore.’”

“Kristie gave David’s gun and a box of bullets to Kahlil,” the affidavit says, based on interviews Evans had with investigators. “Kristie and Kahlil agreed upon an approximate time Kahlil would come to the Evans’ residence to kill David. Kristie left the backdoor unlocked so Kahlil could make entry to the resident.”

In a bizarre twist, the pastor’s wife told investigators that she and Square “had a sexual relationship that also included David at one point as well.”

“Kristie and David first met Kahlil months ago at a Super 8 Motel,” the affidavit states. The trio had sex at the Super 8 Motel on more than one occasion. One time, “Kristie secretly dropped her phone number on the floor for Kahlil. Kristine continued to communicate by phone daily with Kahlil without David’s knowledge,” the affidavit continues.

Evans admitted that Square stayed over for three nights while her husband was in Mexico, too. She told Square that her husband was verbally abusive, that he mistreated her, and that “it would be nice to have more freedom.” “Kahlil simply responded with, ‘damn,’” the affidavit says.

Then, at around 1 a.m. on March 22, Evans called 911 to report that “someone had shot her husband” inside their home in Ada, about an hour outside of Oklahoma City. When officers arrived, David Evans was “lying in bed, bleeding from the nose and mouth” with a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Wayne Aarum Accused of Sexual Misconduct

pastor wayne arrum

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Wayne Aarum, a former senior high minister at The Chapel at Crosspoint in Getzville, New York, current pastor of First Baptist Church in Arcade, New York, and the operator of Circle C Ranch youth camp in Delevan, New York, stands accused of sexually assaulting at least twenty-one girls in the 1990s.

According to a report released by Ministry Safe, Aarum engaged in the following illicit activities:

-stroking legs (outside clothing and on bare skin)

-stroking genital area- outside clothing

-touching vaginal area- outside clothing (in shorts or jeans)

-touching, rubbing and stroking breasts, outside clothing

-stroking labia, outside clothing

-stroking from hips to breasts, clothed, on the side of the body

-touching legs and knees

-hand placed on upper thigh

-pressing penis into back of girl (hugging from behind)

-rubbing penis repeatedly in a girl’s presence

-extended hug of a partially dressed girl”

Other alleged inappropriate behaviors are mentioned in the report.

7-WKBW reports:

The report stated that 27 people came forward to corroborate some of the alleged behaviors, including “hand rubbing inside of thigh…failing to honor preference NOT to be touched” and “meeting 1/1 with girls late into the night.”

Leaders at The Chapel said they, through MinistrySafe, also reported the allegations to law enforcement.

The Chapel at Crosspoint released a statement, which you can read here.

Aarum denies the accusations leveled against him. When asked if he had ever touched anyone inappropriately, Aarum replied:

No. I have zero recollection of that. I can honestly say no.

Aarum added:

“I still don’t know, although they [the church and the victims] have accused me and pretty much condemned me, I don’t know what I’m accused of. We’ve asked for any information they can give us . . . they’ve given us nothing.

In classic “stand by your man” fashion, Daryl DeKalb, a board member at Circle C Ranch, said the accusations against Aarum were bogus:

There is absolutely no credibility to any of these things. I worked in the ministry, my wife and I have worked in this ministry, all of those same years that they’re talking about. We never saw anything even approaching this.

It’s all lightweight stuff they’re bringing up anyway. It’s common for women as they get along in life…to see how their lives are not going well and when they sit down, like with a social worker…and they start hearing stuff from a social worker that says to them, ‘Well, have you ever had something in your life where maybe this is set off, the condition that you’re in now?’ I mean, none of these women had any complaints at all until they were contacted by this group and suggestions were made to them.

According to DeKalb, putting your hands on the genitals and breasts of teen girls is “lightweight stuff.” Makes one wonder what kind of man DeKalb really is. Instead of, at the very least, withholding judgment until the alleged crimes have been investigated, DeKalb says he didn’t see the crimes happen, so he’s sure Aarum is innocent of all charges; that the accusations are just a smokescreen meant to cover up an attempt to take over the camp.

Several news reports say that Aarum may not face criminal persecution for his alleged crimes due to the statute of limitations running out.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Stan Thompson Charged With Sexual Battery

pastor stan thompson

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Stanley “Stan” Thompson, pastor of Toms Brook United Methodist Church in Toms Brook, Virginia, stands accused of sexually assaulting a child under the age of thirteen.

The Northern Virginia Daily reports:

Stanley Alvin Thompson, 63, of 168 Cliffside Drive, Edinburg, was charged with aggravated sexual battery of a victim less than 13 years old. He is being held without bond at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail and due in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Thursday.

Thompson was appointed the pastor of the Toms Brook United Methodist Church, 3263 S. Main St., Toms Brook, at the 2015 Virginia Annual Conference. He resigned from the church on March 18, according to Paul Steidler, a spokesperson for the church.

“Toms Brook UMC is fully cooperating with law enforcement on this important matter,” Steidler said in an emailed statement. “The church urges anyone with knowledge about this situation to immediately contact law enforcement. Our fervent prayers are with the child and the child’s family.”

According to a 2015 Northern Virginia Daily report:

Thompson, of Eugene, Oregon, is a graduate of Northwest Christian University in Eugene and Emmanuel School of Theology in Johnson City, Tenn., where he received a master’s of divinity degree. He also received a doctor of ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

According to a news release, prior to joining the Toms Brook church, he served at Crenshaw United Methodist in Blackstone, Virginia.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Evangelical Christian Robert Aaron Long Murdered Eight People in Georgia

robert aaron long

Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, stands accused of a string of Asian massage parlor shootings that left eight people dead. Long, a devout Southern Baptist who frequented massage parlors, felt guilty over his “sin” and decided to atone for his sins by murdering eight people.

Long attended Crabapple First Baptist Church, a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist congregation in Alpharetta, Georgia. The church has made its website and social media accounts private. Last Sunday, First Baptist’s pastor, Jerry Dockery, had this to say in his sermon:

We’ve had, what, 45 presidents in our brief history as a nation? How many other kings around the world? How many other rulers have sat upon thrones, claiming to be in charge? The King is coming again.

When Christ returns, he will wage war against those who have rejected his name.

There is one word devoted to their demise. Swept away! Banished! Judged. They have no power before God. Satan himself is bound and released and then bound again and banished. That great dragon deceiver — just that quickly — God throws him into an eternal torment. And then we read where everyone — everyone that rejects Christ — will join Satan, the Beast and the false prophet in hell.

This sermon has since been deleted. I wonder why?

First Baptist is a member of Founders Ministries — a Calvinistic group dedicated to reclaiming the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for the glory of John Calvin’s God and five-point Calvinism.

According to Ryan Burton King, a Calvinistic pastor, Long is a:

guy who was very active in his Baptist church. He prayed a prayer and was baptised at 8 but later confessed that he had been a false convert, who was now truly regenerate. He was baptised in 2018 and his testimony circulated online.

Most news media sites have focused on the victims’ race, treating these murders as a racially motivated hate crime. Long has already disputed that claim, but that narrative continues to drive discussions about his crimes. I want to posit a different motivation for Long’s murderous rampage: Evangelical teaching on sexuality.

Long frequented massage parlors, I assume even after he really, really, really got saved. Getting re-saved is common in churches with Calvinistic leanings, especially Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregations. People who walk the aisle, pray a prayer, and are pronounced born again, often have second born again experiences later in life after hearing the TRUE gospel of sovereign grace. I recently read a book about a Sovereign Grace congregation in Texas (which I pastored for a time in 1994) that detailed some of its members’ conversion stories. Almost to the man (and women), the members testified that they had made false professions of faith, and upon hearing the TRUE gospel, they repented of their sins, and Jesus saved them. This happens so often in Calvinistic churches that I think it is fair for me to conclude that this is the norm.

Despite Long’s latest conversion experience, he still struggled with what new reports are calling “sex addiction.” While I know nothing about Crabapple First Baptist Church and its pastor, I think I can safely assume that Pastor Dockery preached the gospel of sexual purity; that he preached against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, premarital sex, masturbation, and pornography. As many Evangelical teens and men do, Long struggled with staying on the straight and narrow sexually. Instead of being taught to embrace and own his sexuality, Long likely heard guilt- and fear-inducing sermons about how the thrice-holy God viewed sexual “sins.” While I am in no way justifying what Long did, I can envision how overwhelming guilt drove him to massacre those he believed were the locus of his sin problem. Long planned to murder more sex workers, but fortunately, he was stopped before he could. Imagine how great a blood atonement he planned to make to Jesus to expiate his sexual sins.

Evangelical church leaders are falling all over themselves to “explain” Long’s heinous behavior. I wonder if they will take a long, hard look in the mirror and see that their “Biblical” teachings and preaching are the problem? Evangelicals will distance themselves from Long, deconstructing his life, and even saying that he was never a REAL Christian. However, the evidence suggests that Long was a Jesus-loving man who took his faith seriously. A man who attended high school with Long had this to say about him:

He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.

Let me conclude this post with Long’s own words about his life:

“As many of you may remember, when I was 8 years old I thought I was becoming a Christian, and got baptized during that time. And I remember a lot of the reason for that is a lot of my friends in my Sunday school class were doing that.

And after that time, there wasn’t any fruit from the root that is our salvation.

[Long goes on to say that when he was in seventh grade he attended a youth group and a speaker was discussing the biblical story of the prodigal son.]

“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him. And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”

There’s little doubt that Long was a born-again Christian, that he truly loved Jesus. There is also little doubt that he had problems with his sexuality, and this led to the deaths of eight innocent people. While race and misogyny played a part, they were secondary to his religious beliefs.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Ravi Zacharias Scandal and the Billy Graham Rule

jesus alone with a woman

Recently, William Thornton, a semi-retired Southern Baptist pastor, wrote a post about the Ravi Zacharias scandal and the Billy Graham Rule (BGR). Zacharias, a darling in the Evangelical apologetic community, has been exposed as a sexual predator.

Regarding Zacharias, the New York Times reported:

The influential evangelist Ravi Zacharias, who died last spring, engaged in “sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape,” according to a report released on Thursday by the global evangelical organization he founded.

After initially denying accounts of his misconduct, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries announced that an investigation had found credible evidence of sexual misconduct spanning many years and multiple continents.

The announcement was the result of an investigation by a Southeastern law firm, Miller & Martin, which RZIM hired in October to investigate accounts of sexual misconduct by Mr. Zacharias.

“We believe not only the women who made their allegations public but also additional women who had not previously made public allegations against Ravi but whose identities and stories were uncovered during the investigation,” the ministry’s board of directors said in a statement accompanying the report. “We are devastated by what the investigation has shown and are filled with sorrow for the women who were hurt by this terrible abuse.”

When Mr. Zacharias died of cancer in May at age 74, he was one of the most revered evangelists in the United States. Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at his memorial service in Atlanta, calling him “a man of faith who could rightly handle the word of truth like few others in our time” and comparing him to Billy Graham and C.S. Lewis.

Though the report adds shocking new details, accounts of Mr. Zacharias’s sexual misconduct had arisen in recent years. In 2017, he settled a lawsuit with a Canadian couple whom he had accused of attempting to extort him over intimate text messages he had exchanged with the wife.

Then last fall, several months after Mr. Zacharias’s death, the magazine Christianity Today reported on allegations that Mr. Zacharias had groped and masturbated in front of several women who worked at two day spas he co-owned near his ministry’s headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga. After initially denying those claims, RZIM acknowledged in December that an interim report from Miller & Martin confirmed that he had engaged in “sexual misconduct.”

The full report paints a stark portrait of that misconduct. The law firm interviewed more than a dozen massage therapists who treated Mr. Zacharias. Five of them reported that he had touched or rubbed them inappropriately, and four said he would touch his own genitals or ask them to touch him. Eight said he would either start the massage completely nude or remove the draping sheets during the treatment.

….

The law firm also found a pattern of intimate text and email-based relationships with women. In reviewing his electronic devices, they found the phone numbers of more than 200 massage therapists and more than 200 selfies, some of them nudes, from much younger women. Mr. Zacharias also used the nonprofit ministry to financially support some of his long-term therapists. The report also reveals that he owned two apartments in Bangkok, where he spent 256 days between 2010 and 2014. One of his massage therapists stayed in the other apartment.

Mr. Zacharias said in 2017 that in 45 years of marriage, “I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind.”

….

In 2014, Mr. Zacharias met a Canadian couple, Brad and Lori Anne Thompson, at a fund-raising luncheon in Ontario. They stayed in touch, and eventually Mr. Zacharias invited Ms. Thompson to correspond privately on BlackBerry Messenger. The evangelist was 30 years older than Ms. Thompson, and she saw him as a “spiritual father,” she has said. After she confided in him about her history of abuse and trauma, she has said, Mr. Zacharias began soliciting sexually explicit messages.

When Ms. Thompson told Mr. Zacharias that she needed to tell her husband about their relationship, Mr. Zacharias threatened suicide, according to leaked emails first published by the blogger Julie Anne Smith.

….

After a lawyer for the Thompsons approached Mr. Zacharias privately in 2017, he sued the couple, portraying them publicly as serial extortionists and saying that Ms. Thompson had sent him the explicit messages against his will. The suit ended in private mediation, and all parties signed a nondisclosure agreement.

RZIM’s board expressed regret on Thursday for its response to Ms. Thompson’s allegations. “It is with profound grief that we recognize that because we did not believe the Thompsons and both privately and publicly perpetuated a false narrative, they were slandered for years and their suffering was greatly prolonged and intensified,” it said in the statement accompanying the report.

Mr. Zacharias co-owned two day spas near RZIM headquarters between 2004 and 2015, an unusual venture for an evangelist but one he made no attempt to hide. At the grand opening of Jivan Wellness at a strip mall in 2009, speakers included the comedian Jeff Foxworthy; Sonny Perdue, then the governor of Georgia; and the pastor Johnny Hunt, who was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time.

As they are wont to do, Evangelicals are busy removing Zacharias’ visage from the Mt. Apologetics Rushmore. Some self-righteous Evangelicals are even saying that Zacharias was never a True Christian® Which makes one wonder about the lack of discernment among Evangelical pastors. Thousands of pastors attended Zacharias’ apologetics conferences and read his books, yet not one of them “discerned” that he was a sexual predator. Even J.D. Hall, the editor of Protestia (Pulpit & Pen) — a site known for its muckraking reporting on Evangelical sexual peccadilloes and alleged heresy — failed to sniff out Zacharias’ perverse behavior.

ravi zacharias
Ravi Zacharias

As of today, only Zacharias’ son, Nathan, thinks he is innocent:

First, RZIM does not speak for me. They have formed their own opinion. But it does not dictate mine. I do not agree with them for legitimate reasons. I will not, however, debate those differences publicly.

…Regarding some specific individuals who were once my colleagues, how “brave” you are to aggressively take on a man who can’t even defend himself, as well as attack his grieving family who is far more blindsided and hurt by this situation than you can ever be. And how “righteous” you are to think that we must continually pile on our punishment AFTER he has already faced the ultimate judge.

…God chose to spare Dad from all this by calling him home when he did. But how “virtuous” of you to insist that you hand out the relentless punishment and humiliation that God saw no place for in dad’s lifetime.

Even *if* these allegations are true, there is no doubt that God actively blessed my dad and did so right up until he passed. His impact was only getting greater. So what these individuals are saying – along with any person or organization that wants to cancel my dad – is that God was wrong to do so, so we must now correct God’s blessing/mistake by erasing my dad and his voice. To that I say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.”

Finally and most importantly, nothing could change how much I love my dad and miss him. I am still proud to be his son.

Now back to Thornton’s post. Thornton used the Zacharias scandal to talk about how male pastors should handle their interactions with women — especially privately. Thornton also discussed what is commonly called in Evangelical circles the Billy Graham Rule (BGR).

Here’s an excerpt from Thornton’s post:

One aspect of it that has arisen is that the BG Rule, the man of God (pastor, evangelist, or other male Christian figure) will not be alone with any woman not his wife, Billy Graham and his team establishing that practice early on in his evangelistic ministry.

The rule has been adopted by many of the brethren (it was recommended to me as a ministerial standard when I was ordained decades ago) and is held up as a shield against the wiles of the devil and all those devilish women who would “take a pastor down.” The phrase with quotes is the way I’ve often heard it described.

If a brother wants to pattern his relationships and interactions with females in this manner, he may do so. But he might be apprised that such is highly sexist, presumes all women to be potential steamy seductresses, and makes it appear that he, the pillar of male rectitude, is powerless to resist; thus, the hard and fast rule about ever being with any woman alone other than his beloved wife.

Zacharias, as you probably know, was a BGR follower, except when he needed those medical massages. One can see how that played out with numerous victims, accusations of rape in some cases, and a lifetime of ministry totally undermined by his own decisions and choices.

I’m curious if the rule which is in its seventh decade now, is still applicable, useful and practical. The changes since the 1940s are considerable: females in the workplace, including church staffs; the manner business is conducted; the ubiquitous use of social media for relationships and contacts.

I was a single staff guy most of my ministry. If my church had an administrative assistant, always a woman, it was impossible to always have a third person at the church at all times. It’s also a brazen and thoughtless insult to all women to be treated thus.

In 2018, I wrote a post titled, The Absurdity of the Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule.

Here’s what I had to say on the matter:

Embedded deep into the thinking of Evangelical pastors is the notion that women to whom they are not married are dangerous creatures who must be kept at a distance, lest they tempt men of God to commit sexual sin. As a young ministerial student, I was taught that there were Jezebels in every church, and that I must never, ever allow myself to be alone with any woman who was not my wife. According to my professors and chapel speakers, there would always be women lurking in the shadows of the steeple, ready and willing to “steal” my sexual purity. Men, including pastors, were, by nature, weak-kneed, visually stimulated horn dogs. Allow the doors of your office or study to be shut with you and a woman alone, and, why, anything could happen! This kind of thinking, of course, teaches men a warped view of women and human sexuality. While I agree that humans are sexual beings — a trait necessary for our species’ propagation — it does not follow that every time two people of the opposite sex are alone with each other, sexual intercourse is a real and distinct possibility. Common sense tells us otherwise.

This view of women and human sexuality found its nexus with Fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Billy Graham. Graham had three rules he lived by when it came to women who were not his wife. Graham would not travel alone with a woman, meet alone with a woman, or eat alone with a woman. These rules, over time, were called “The Billy Graham Rules.” While Graham was viewed as a liberal by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers, his three rules were taught and preached in IFB churches and colleges alike. Simply put, stay away from women who aren’t your wife. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!  Abstain from the very appearance of evil, the Bible says. Eating a meal with a woman who is not your wife, offering her a ride in your car, or counseling her alone with the door closed, all give forth the appearance of evil. I knew of some pastors who wouldn’t even counsel female church members out of fear that their ministry could be compromised.

Most non-Evangelicals had never heard of the “Billy Graham Rule” until Vice President Mike Pence let it be known that he, too, avoided being alone with any woman who was not his wife. Moderns were astounded by the Vice President’s Puritanical view of women, but to my ears his words were what I had heard over and over again as an Evangelical pastor.

….

According to Ellis [Can Men and Women be Friends], all men should live according to “Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule.” I say all, and not just married men, because Ellis, who describes himself as a conservative Christian, likely believes that it is a sin for unmarrieds to have sex. Thus, not only should married men abstain from being alone with women who are not their wives, so should unmarried men. Women, for married and unmarried men alike, are the problem. If married men want to keep themselves morally pure, then they must never, ever put themselves in positions where they are alone with women. For married men, the wife of their youth awaits, legs spread wide, ready and willing to satisfy their sexual needs. Unmarried men have no such fire extinguisher awaiting them — the Apostle Paul said it is better to marry than to burn — yet they, too, are implored to avoid being alone with the opposite sex. So what are these young men to do? Many of them, if they marry at all, do not marry until their late twenties. This means that they must wrestle with unsatisfied raging hormones for twelve to fifteen years. And remember, masturbation — lustful self-gratification that leads to homosexuality — is verboten too. (Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!)

This kind of thinking breeds immature, juvenile men; men who are weak; men who are not in control of their sexuality; men who see women primarily as objects of sexual gratification. Ellis, Graham, and Pence would likely object to my characterization of their beliefs, but it seems clear, at least to me, that women are treated as dangerous, seductive beings who must be avoided lest being alone with them leads to intercourse on office and study floors. This kind of thinking objectifies women, turning them into chattel used for male sexual gratification. Since the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God condemns all sexual behavior except married heterosexual vaginal intercourse, (preferably in the missionary position, and primarily for human propagation), any relationship or circumstance that could, even remotely, lead to moral compromise must be resolutely avoided. (A separate discussion is whether consensual adult sex with someone other than your wife or sex between unmarrieds is necessarily “wrong.”)

As I have stated time and again on this blog, Evangelical men need to grow up and own their sexuality. If they can’t control themselves when around physically and sexually attract women, the fault is theirs. Plenty of men are around women publicly and privately, yet they, somehow, keep themselves from having sex with them. These men have learned how to control their thoughts and behaviors. I have viewed countless women whom I have found attractive. My wife and I, now that we no longer concern ourselves with thoughts of God, judgment, and hell, are free to say to the other, that’s an attractive man/woman. Both of us have found it interesting the type of people the other is attracted to. Men I thought Polly would consider hot often elicit a meh from her — she really likes gay guys. Similarly, the kind of woman Polly thinks I would be attracted to often elicits a shrug from me. It’s liberating to be able to express my thoughts, interests, and desires without worrying that it could lead to adultery — a sin, according to the B-i-b-l-e, that lands offenders in the Lake of Fire.

While I generally agree with Thornton’s sentiments, many of the Southern Baptist pastors who commented on his post didn’t.

One commenter wrote:

The BGR isn’t just useful because there might be certain unholy women after the man of God. It also helps the man of God [pastor, elder, brother] avoid his own internal temptations to act unbecomingly with a younger woman.

More often than not, at least lately, I hear of the minister grooming the younger lady.

The BGR helps him by helping him “flee” from lusts and sexual immorality.

Ah yes, Baptist preachers need to watch out for those younger women who are out to seduce and fuck them. These “men of God” must battle their “internal temptation” to give in to these temptations or take sexual advantage of young women who come to them for help. (For the record, I only had one woman try to seduce me in the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches.)

If you can stomach it, take a gander at the rest of the comments. My conclusion? If you are a young woman, I advise you not to be in the same zip code as a Southern Baptist pastor. These horn dogs can’t be trusted around women.

Thornton, to his credit, took issue with such comments:

Makes all the females in your church to be latent seductresses. Care to find out which is the greater problem? pastors preying on women on their church or women who seduce or falsely accuse their pastor? When men, especially clergy, discuss this, why does it end up being so degrading and demeaning to women in general and women in the church specifically?

We don’t have a huge scandal in the SBC of women falsely accusing their humble and selfless pastors but of pastors abusing women and children.

The absurdity and lack of awareness of some of these comments is astonishing.

And to that, this atheist preacher says, AMEN!

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor John McFarland Sentenced to 15 Years to Life for Sex Crimes

pastor john mcfarland

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Previous posts about McFarland can be read here and here.

John McFarland, pastor of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, California, was charged with sexually assaulting seven children. Before his tenure at  Orangethorpe, McFarland was the pastor of Surf City Church in Huntington Beach from 2011 to 2016, Fountain Valley United Methodist Church in Fountain Valley from 1988 to 2016, and from 1981 to 1988, he was the pastor of Calexico United Methodist Church in Calexico — all located in California. McFarland was also a chaplain for 20 years for the Fountain Valley Police Department until his retirement a few years ago.

Fox-11 reported at the time:

John Rodgers McFarland, who has been the head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton since 2014, was arrested on a warrant Thursday charging him with seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14 and four counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor 14 to 15 years old.

The 56-year-old Fullerton resident is accused of molesting the children between 2003 and 2017, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which did not release the genders of the alleged victims.

….

McFarland, who’s being held in the Orange County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, faces up to 179 years to life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

In San Diego County, McFarland was arrested and charged in December with molesting a girl younger than 14 in Escondido between 2012 and 2013. The alleged molestation occurred when he was visiting relatives, said Lt. Chris Lick of the Escondido Police Department.

McFarland is due in court in San Diego June 18 for a pretrial hearing and July 9 for a preliminary hearing, according to Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office in San Diego County.

Last week, McFarland pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for his crimes.

The LA Times reports:

McFarland initially pleaded not guilty to all charges in 2019. In response to his guilty plea Friday, he received a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison with 12 other sentences to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay restitution, be tested for HIV/AIDS and participate in an AIDS prevention program, court documents indicate.

McFarland is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 22 for a firearms relinquishment hearing at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Christopher Lawton Accused of Sexual Assault

busted

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Christopher Lawton, the former pastor of Lamplight Christian Church– an independent, non-denominational Christian congregation — in Greenfield, New Hampshire, has been charged with thirty counts of sexual assault.

The Union Leader reports:

A former pastor who tried to start a church in Greenfield is charged with 30 felony counts of sexually abusing a child in his congregation.

Christopher D. Lawton, 43, of Francestown Road, allegedly assaulted the girl between 2015 and 2016 while he was her pastor.

Lawton was initially charged in October on 10 counts. The investigation continued and a grand jury recently handed up scores of new indictments.

The enhanced felony charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault accuse Lawton of using his position to coerce the alleged victim. Each count carries a 10- to 20-year prison term.

The new charges allege that the abuse took place in Francestown, Greenfield and Peterborough, according to the indictments. No affidavit has been made available in the case, and there are few public details outside of the indictment sheets.

Lawton tried to start a church in Greenfield around 2015, renting the town’s historic Meeting House for his services. He reportedly had a small congregation of 20 to 30 people before a domestic violence arrest in 2015.

Greenfield Police Chief Brian Giammarino has said the 2015 arrest brought Lawton and the sexual abuse allegations to the attention of police. The victim in that case left town, according to Giammarino, and the case fell apart.

However, it was during that domestic violence investigation that police learned of the sexual assault accusations, according to Giammarino.

The alleged victim denied there was anything inappropriate in the relationship with Lawton, Giammarino said. Two years later, the victim came forward and report the alleged sexual abuse, Giammarino said.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.