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Questions: Bruce, Why Are You an Advocate of The LGBTQ Community?

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A reader asked on social media:

Why are you an advocate of the LGBTQ community?

I am an advocate of the LGBTQ community because I believe all Americans should have equal justice and protection under the law. That’s it. I expect and demand that LGBTQ people have the same rights as I do. And when they don’t, I advocate for change.

I don’t have to understand or agree with LGBTQ people (or Evangelical Christians) to insist that they have the same civil rights as I — a heterosexual man — have.

This is not a complicated issue for me. Granted, it helps that one of my sons is part of the LGBTQ community, but I was a supporter and defender long before he came out.

Please see:

Bruce, What was Your View on Homosexuality When You Were a Pastor?

What Evangelical Christianity Taught Me About Homosexuality

My Journey From Homophobia to a Supporter of LGBTQ People

Bruce, Were You Transphobic as an Evangelical Pastor?

Bruce, What was Your View on Homosexuality When You Were a Pastor?

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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Questions: Bruce, Did You Deconvert Because You Wanted to Drink Alcohol?

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Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions. Spelling, grammar, and structure corrected and edited for readability.

Revival “I Lie for Jesus Fires,” asked the following question:

I have noticed on more than one post here that you talk about whiskey and beer drinking.

Sadly, a lot of people raised in church, and who have truly accepted Jesus, sometimes get it in their head that they “missed out” on partying and drinking from their teens and 20s and will want to do it in their 50s and 60s — such is the case with my mother-in-law.

Did you betray Jesus because you wanted to drink alcohol and get drunk?

I was in my forties before I drank the Devil’s brew for the first time. As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), I was a teetotaler — as were my fellow church members. As an atheist and a humanist, I am free to drink alcohol any time I want. We have a well-stocked liquor cabinet and beer in the refrigerator. Typically, I drink whiskey, mixed drinks, or wine three or four times a month. Polly is primarily a beer and wine drinker. Neither of us has been drunk. I take narcotic pain meds, so I must limit my alcohol intake. Polly will drink a couple of beers and glasses of wine on the weekends, as will our oldest daughter Bethany.

My desire to drink alcohol played no part in my deconversion. That would be a silly reason to deconvert, wouldn’t it? Hey Jesus, I want my sins forgiven and I want to go to Heaven after I die, but I want to drink whiskey, beer, and wine more, so no thanks on salvation. Of course, the Bible does not condemn alcohol drinking. Jesus drank alcoholic wine, as did most people alive during his time. The Bible calls drunkenness a sin, but not social drinking.

Revival Fires asks if I am trying to live my youthful years now; if I am trying to do things I missed out on as a young adult. Christian Fundamentalism robbed me of many normal experiences, so, yes, I am trying to do some of the things that were forbidden years ago. I only wish I had a young man’s body. Alas, I make do with what I got. 🙂

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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Questions: Bruce, Are You Losing Any Sleep Over Arizona’s Abortion Law?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Revival “I Lie for Jesus” asked:

How much sleep is being lost that the babies are gonna live in Arizona? Baby killers having a fit.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not losing any sleep over Arizona banning abortion. Women’s lives and rights are in the balance, so there is no time for me to sleep. Instead, I am doing all I can to legalize abortion, not only in Arizona, but every state in the Union.

A baby is a fetus that can live outside of the womb on its own. When the egg and sperm unite, potential life is formed. This potential life grows from a zygote to a fetus to a baby. I support unrestricted abortion up until viability. Most abortions take place in the first trimester.

It is forced birthers who are having a fit. They know they have overplayed their hand, and now they must contend with pro-reproductive rights initiatives on state ballots. In every state where abortion has been on the ballot, reproductive rights initiatives won. I proudly helped legalize abortion in Ohio last year. If this makes me a “baby killer,” so be it.

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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Dennis McCranie Charged with Child Sexual Battery

dennis mccranie

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.

Dennis McCranie, a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman, Georgia, stands accused of sexual battery involving three children under the age of sixteen.

The Georgia Gazette reports:

The GBI has arrested and charged Dennis McCranie, age 59, of Eastman, GA, with three counts of felony sexual battery. The GBI was requested to assist with this investigation by the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

The preliminary investigation indicates on Sunday, March 24, 2024, McCranie intentionally had inappropriate physical contact with three children under the age of 16 years old.   

On Wednesday, April 3, 2024, McCranie was arrested and booked into the Dodge County Law Enforcement Center.  

Before McCranie worked in Dodge County, he was employed for more than 30 years with the Georgia Department of Corrections. In 2013, he was promoted to Deputy Warden of Security at Wilcox State Prison. McCranie was also a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman but “due to the seriousness of these allegations, he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice”, according to a spokesperson for the church.

Lakeside Church released the following statement:

As many of you may have heard, Dennis McCranie was taken into custody. He was arrested on charges of sexual battery. The charges that have been made against him involve alleged misconduct towards children and/or underage minors. Dennis served as volunteer associate here at Lakeside and due to the seriousness of these allegations he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice. While the leadership of Lakeside regards these allegations very seriously, we have not, nor will we, prejudge those involved in this matter. We have taken all appropriate steps to protect the vulnerable and traumatized to the greatest extent possible in a responsible, professional, and Biblical manner. We pray for all involved and ask everyone else to kindly do the same.

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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Brett Bymaster Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

brett bymaster

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.

Bret Bymaster, a former youth pastor at The River Church Community in San Jose, California, stands accused of six felony counts of child sexual abuse.

The San Jose Spolightlight reports:

A prominent Silicon Valley leader and former pastor has been arrested and charged with six felony counts of child sex abuse, after being under investigation this year for allegations that surfaced about his time as a youth ministry leader at a popular South Bay church.

Brett Bymaster faces time behind bars for alleged lewd acts with a child who was as young as eight during his time at The River Church, according to charges by county prosecutors. He was arrested and booked at the Elmwood Correctional Facility on Thursday. His bond was set at $400,000, but at a Friday arraignment hearing, Judge Hector Ramon revoked his eligibility for bail at least until the next scheduled hearing on April 19, according to prosecutors. San José Spotlight first reported Bymaster’s alleged abuse in January.

Ramon ordered Bymaster not to contact the victim documented in the charges. He was also ordered not to contact another unnamed individual, according to the case’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Paynter.

Paynter said it’s too early to tell how much jail time Bymaster faces if found guilty of all charges. The trial date is a moving target.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Paynter told San José Spotlight.

Bymaster’s attorneys Renee Hessling and Dana Fite did not respond to requests for comment.

The arrest comes after a second investigation by The River Church in three years regarding Bymaster’s action, when five parishioner families say a 2021 probe led by church leaders failed to uncover the extent of his abuse and excluded one of the most serious claims — sexual abuse.

At the time, Bymaster denied the allegations in a statement to San José Spotlight.

“In recent months, we have discovered that there were profound flaws in the original pastoral inquiry process and in the denominational report (which was never released publicly but only summarized by senior leaders),” church families wrote in an open letter in January. “We now believe that the inquiry process and the senior leadership withheld crucial information about the nature and scope of the abuse.”

Bymaster, a recognizable figure in advocacy and political circles, was still listed as a founder and executive director of the Healing Grove Health Center, a clinic that serves low-income families, on its website as of Friday afternoon.

….

Bymaster served as a youth pastor and director at The River, nestled on Lincoln Avenue, for five years beginning in 2014. He quit after getting a critical job review in August 2019 based on complaints about his leadership from church families.

Yet two years later, youth from the congregation raised more significant concerns about Bymaster.

The church launched an internal inquiry in 2021 led by its own leader the Rev. Theresa Marks, according to an email sent in January from three top church leaders, including lead pastor Brad Wong.

Marks found that Bymaster was a “toxic leader who was spiritually abusive,” and encouraged church leaders to summarize her findings in a letter. The probe from Marks, which included interviews with 25 individuals, also questioned the church’s management of Bymaster.

“We take full responsibility for not doing the job of keeping our youth and youth volunteers safe in our youth ministry. We did not provide adequate oversight of the youth program or our former youth pastor,” church leaders wrote in an August 2021 letter.

But parents of the alleged victims say the letter swept damning details under the rug and questioned whether some of the incidents should’ve been categorized as sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse.

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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Questions: Bruce, Did You and Polly Try Other “Gods” Before You Deconverted?

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Question from social media:

Bruce, did you and Polly try other “Gods” before you deconverted?

The short answer is no. I have never thought I had to try every flavor and brand of whiskey to decide whether I like whiskey. While the flavors can be distinct and brands can differ from one another, whiskey is whiskey. I have four different brands of whiskey in our liquor cabinet. Each tastes slightly different from the others, but none to such a degree that I can’t tell I am drinking whiskey. Get a dozen whiskey aficionados in one room and ask them which whiskey is “God,” and you will get all sorts of answers. But none of them will say that this or that glass of whiskey is not whiskey. So it is with “God.”

I was born in a Christian nation, a country that prides itself in freedom of religion, yet is dominated by Christianity. I came of age in Evangelical Christianity. Saved and baptized at the age of fifteen in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, I later attended a small IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical (IFB, Southern Baptist, Christian Union, Sovereign Grace, and Non-denominational) churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. It is Christianity — particularly Evangelicalism — that I know well. It is the religion of my tribe and my culture. It is this religion I primarily deconverted from.

I pastored my last church in 2003. Between July 2002 and November 2008, my wife and I and our children personally visited the churches listed below. These are the church names we could remember. There are others we have either forgotten or vaguely remember, so we didn’t put them on the list. Churches in bold we attended more than once. All told, from 2002-2008 we visited about 125 churches.

Churches We Visited 2002-2008Location
Our Father’s HouseWest Unity, Ohio
First Brethren ChurchBryan, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Grace Community ChurchBryan, Ohio
Lick Creek Church of the BrethrenBryan,Ohio
First Church of ChristBryan, Ohio
Eastland Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Bryan Alliance ChurchBryan, Ohio
Union Chapel Church of GodBryan, Ohio
Celebrate Life Christian FellowshipBryan, Ohio
Faith United Methodist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Trinity Episcopal ChurchBryan, Ohio
Archbold Evangelical ChurchArchbold, Ohio
Sherwood Baptist ChurchSherwood, Ohio
Ney Church of GodNey, Ohio
Ney United Methodist ChurchNey, Ohio
Sonrise Community ChurchNey, Ohio
Farmer United Methodist ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Lost Creek Emmanuel Missionary ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Hicksville Church of the NazareneHicksville, Ohio
Community Christian CenterHicksville, Ohio
Grace Bible ChurchButler, Indiana
St John’s Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Harvest Life FellowshipDefiance, Ohio
Community Christian CenterDefiance, Ohio
Second Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Grace Episcopal ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Assembly of GodDefiance, Ohio
Defiance Christian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Presbyterian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
St John’s United Church of ChristDefiance, Ohio
Peace Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Pine Grove Mennonite ChurchStryker, Ohio
St James Lutheran ChurchBurlington, Ohio
Zion Lutheran ChurchEdgerton, Ohio
Northwest Christian ChurchEdon, Ohio
Restoration FellowshipWilliams Center, Ohio
Pioneer Bible FellowshipPioneer, Ohio
Frontier Baptist ChurchFrontier, Michigan
Salem Mennonite ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Waldron Wesleyan ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Lickley Corners Baptist ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Prattville Community ChurchPrattville, Michigan
Betzer Community ChurchPittsford, Michigan
Fayette Church of the NazareneFayette, Ohio
Fayette Bible ChurchFayette, Ohio
Fayette Christian ChurchFayette, Ohio
Morenci Bible FellowshipMorenci, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchMorenci, Michigan
Demings Lake Reformed Baptist ChurchDemings Lake, Michigan
Medina Federated ChurchMedina, Michigan
Thornhill Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
Rollins Friends ChurchAddison, Michigan
Canandaigua Community ChurchCanandaigua. Michigan
Alvordton United BrethrenAlvordton, Ohio
Pettisville Missionary ChurchPettisville, Ohio
Vineyard ChurchToledo, Ohio
Providence Reformed Baptist ChurchToledo, Ohio
Lighthouse Memorial ChurchMillersport, Ohio
Newark Baptist TempleHeath, Ohio
Church of GodHeath, Ohio
30th Street Baptist ChurchHeath, Ohio
St Francis De Sales Catholic ChurchNewark, Ohio
Bible Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Cedar Hill Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Eastland Heights Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Northside Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Newark Brethren ChurchNewark, Ohio
St John’s Lutheran ChurchNewark, Ohio
Vineyard of Licking CountyNewark, Ohio
Vineyard Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Faith Bible ChurchJersey, Ohio
Vineyard Christian ChurchPataskala, Ohio
Cornerstone Baptist ChurchNew Lexington, Ohio
St Nicolas Greek Orthodox ChurchFort Wayne, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchAngola, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchFremont, Indiana
Victory Baptist ChurchClare, Michigan
First Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Desert Grace Community ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Bible Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary ChapelYuma, Arizona
OasisYuma, Arizona
Faith Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Valley Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Foothills Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Morningside Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Faith Horizons Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Stone Ridge Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Old Order Mennonite ChurchYuma, Arizona
Grace Bible FellowshipYuma, Arizona
Calvary Temple of ChristYuma, Arizona
Maranatha Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Independent Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Community Christian ChurchYuma, Arizona
Church meeting in funeral chapelYuma, Arizona
Pentecostal ChurchWinterhaven, California
North Holtville Friends ChurchHoltville, California
Sierra Vista Baptist ChurchSierra Vista, Arizona
Hedgesville Baptist ChurchHedgesville, West Virginia
New Life Baptist ChurchWeston, West Virginia

As you can see, we covered our bases when it came to organized Christianity. We didn’t visit any IFB churches, nor did we focus solely on Evangelical congregations. Been there, done that, right? Seen one, seen them all? Go ahead and start whining now. I know, I know, your church is DIFFERENT! Sure it is.

We saw no need to visit Jewish or Muslim congregations. While there are differences between the three Abrahamic religions, not so much so that you can’t determine their veracity without immersing yourself in their writings. All three are text-based monotheistic religions that allegedly worship the same deity.

We understood that we were frail, finite beings, marching one step at a time towards death. Having been taught that non-Christians would spend eternity being tortured by God in a burning Lake of Fire, we were naturally fearful about choosing the wrong religion or worshipping the wrong God. Once we determined that the Bible was not what Evangelicals claimed it was and the central claims of Christianity were false, we lost our fear of Hell. Not right away. It took time to undo five decades of religious indoctrination and conditioning.

Granted, some Christians reject a literal Hell and eternal punishment, crafting all sorts of workarounds meant to not make God look like the monster he most certainly is. I read several books on annihilationism, universalism, etc., and concluded that all of them were intellectually lacking; written by authors who couldn’t bear to let go of God and their chosen religion. (And I am not suggesting their writing was without merit. I just concluded that their views were not intellectually compelling; not enough to sway me to their side.)

I am an agnostic atheist. While I can’t say for certain that no gods exist, I am confident that they don’t. I could be wrong, but I doubt that I am. When it comes to the Christian deity, I am convinced that he is a work of fiction. No amount of reading or study will convince me otherwise. I have studied the lay of land, having spent decades reading the Bible and Christian theology. I can’t imagine a Christian apologist saying something or making an argument that I have not heard before. Thus, I have closed the book on Christianity. Perhaps, in the future, a God not yet known will reveal itself to us. If that happens, I will consider that God’s or its follower’s claims accordingly (if he or she makes any).

Humans worship countless Gods. According to Wikipedia — the one true God — there are approximately 4,200 world religions or denominations. Need I study all of them, attend their worship services, or read their texts before I conclude they are false? No. It would take a lifetime to do so — a waste of time if there ever was one. Remove the religions that threaten judgment and eternal punishment, there is nothing left to fear. Religion then becomes personal and social in nature; that which meets felt needs and gives people meaning and purpose. I have no need of religion to find these things. Secular humanism provides the ethical and moral foundation for my life, and family gives me all the meaning and purpose I need. I have no thoughts about life after death. I don’t want to die, but I know it is inevitable. I don’t fret over that which I cannot control. I choose to live for the moment; to live each day the best I can, surrounded by those who matter to me. Even though my body is wracked with horrible pain, I try to find enjoyment in life. Having six children, sixteen grandchildren, and three cats gives me plenty of opportunities to enjoy life, as does watching wild animals and stray/ferals cats in our backyard, working in the yard, building my model train layout, taking country drives with Polly and Bethany, and writing for this blog. I have much to enjoy in life — all without God.

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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Update: Black Collar Crime: IFB Evangelist Benjamin Garlick Accused of Sex Crimes Against Children, Wife Charged Too

Benjamin-Garlick-Shaantal-Garlick

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.

In 2023, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist Benjamin Garlick was accused of five counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, five counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, one count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child. Garlick’s wife, Shaantal, was also charged with one count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and one count of Aggravated Child Abuse/ Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

WGNS reported:

An evangelist who calls the Blackman area home is facing a slew of charges that revolve around the rape of a child. Benjamin Garlick was taken into custody under a sealed indictment that was handed down by a Rutherford County Grand Jury.

According to court documents, Garlick was charged with 5-counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, 5-counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, 1-count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and 1-count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.

Prior to Garlick’s arrest, he led church services in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas, just to name a few. The suspect spoke Spanish fluently and frequented Spanish speaking congregations, events and organizations. Over the past few years, Garlick amassed thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook as a guest pastor, speaking at a variety of churches both large and small throughout the country.

The 32-year-old child rape suspect is currently behind bars in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro. Garlick is being held under a $750-thousand-dollar bond, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The suspect was taken into custody this past Tuesday on September 12, 2023, which was the same day that his wife Shaantal Garlick was arrested.

The courts show that Shaantal Garlick is facing 1-count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and 1-count of Aggravated Child Abuse / Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

Shaantal Garlick, who is free after posting a $75-thousand bond, was in court just one month prior to her arrest. Mrs. Garlick filed for an Order of Protection against Benjamin Garlick last month on August 14, 2023. The order was filed in the Rutherford County Chancery Court under the Honorable Howard W. Wilson.

MPD Public Information Officer Larry Flowers told WGNS News on Tuesday the detective over the investigation says the Garlick case remains active and is ongoing. The crimes that Mr. Garlick is accused of committing date back to February of 2021, but again, the investigation is ongoing.

The Messenger added:

Police told WKRN they don’t know how many total victims there are, where they occurred or how Benjamin Garlick knew them. Police say the rapes allegedly happened on Feb. 13, 2021, and that the case is still under investigation.

The pastor was indicted Sept. 12 and booked into the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, where he still remains. His was booked into jail and released on a $75,000 bond two days later.

One pastor in Murfreesboro told WKRN that he has known Garlick since he was a child, and called him a father with a “role model” family.

The preacher with the “perfect” family with the “perfect” wife, yet both of them are charged with sex crimes. Hmm . . .

benjamin garlick

The Roys Report added:

According to multiple reports, the couple has ministered as itinerant Christian evangelists with their six children. In recent years, the Garlicks have led church services in multiple states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and their home state of Tennessee. 

Authorities arrested Benjamin Garlick on Sept. 12 at his residence in Blackman, a suburb of Murfreesboro. Garlick remains in custody at Rutherford County Adult Detention Center on a $750,000 bond. 

Shaantal Garlick was also arrested on Sept 12. She bonded out on Sept. 15, paying $75,000 in fees. The charges against both Garlicks stem from actions that were alleged to have occurred on Feb. 13, 2021. 

The Garlicks have been supported in their itinerant ministry by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, a flagship church of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. As of publication time, the couple was still listed on the church’s website as church-supported missionaries.

Last month, a grand jury indicted the Garlicks on additional charges.

Hoodline reports:

Murfreesboro police are doubling down on their call for potential victims to speak up in the case against a traveling pastor and his wife, both facing serious child rape charges. Benjamin Sean Garlick, 32, a minister known for preaching across the nation, particularly within the Hispanic community, and his wife, Shaantal, 30, are presently entangled in a legal maelstrom following a spate of charges that have come to light surrounding their alleged sexual abuse of minors.

According to WSMV, Benjamin Garlick was slammed with a litany of charges in September but now faces additional ones after a Rutherford County Grand Jury handed down a new indictment in March. The new charges include seven counts of aggravated rape of a child, six counts of aggravated sexual battery, along with two counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor and violation of the child protection act.

His spouse, Shaantal, also faces updated charges. As reported by FOX17, she has been reindicted on two counts each of facilitation of aggravated rape of a child and aggravated child neglect. Shaantal made bond last year but found herself under arrest again last month after the new indictment was served.

….

Murfreesboro police have been highlighting the urgency for any additional victims to come forward, particularly those from the Hispanic community who may have crossed paths with the Garlicks in their nationwide ministry.

For those potentially affected, the call is not merely an announcement—it is a beacon, a chance to speak, to be heard, and to potentially find a semblance of justice in a situation where power and trust have been so flagrantly exploited. The Garlicks’ travel across this country was not, as it seems, a mission of faith healing and community building, but perhaps one that left behind a darker, indelible mark on the lives of the vulnerable.

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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Former Evangelical Youth Pastor Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Girls

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo

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.

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, formerly a youth pastor at Vida Abundante Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, stands accused of sexually assaulting multiple church girls over the past three decades.

Fox-31 reports:

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office arrested a former youth pastor in March on charges of sexually assaulting multiple children over the course of three decades.

The former youth pastor has been identified as Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, 65, of Fort Collins. He was involved with the Vida Abundante church in northern Fort Collins, where he served as a youth pastor. Before that, Gomez-Perdomo lived in Fort Morgan and Houston.

Because of his position and the pattern reported by several victims, police are concerned that there may be additional victims who have yet to come forward.

….

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after a report was made in early 2023. A teenage victim identified Gomez-Perdomo and told police that he sexually assaulted her in the early 2000s when she was a child. LCSO said she told law enforcement that she did not report the assault because she was afraid of the repercussions.

She came forward, the sheriff’s office said, because she learned other teenagers had allegedly experienced similar abuse by Gomez-Perdomo.

The sheriff’s office investigators found Gomez-Perdomo was reported for sexual assault in 2019 by a different victim, but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges then. Gomez-Perdomo is alleged to have left the Vida Abundante church after these allegations.

Investigators said the 2019 case was reopened in conjunction with the newer allegations.

During this, another victim came forward, according to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. She described a similar pattern of abuse during the late 1990s that occurred when she was a young child. She told investigators that Gomez-Perdomo met her family through church and after he was a trusted family friend he assaulted her.

Gomez-Perdomo was arrested in March on five counts of sexual assault on a child from a person in a position of trust and one count of sexual assault on a child. He was booked into the Larimer County Jail and a judge issued a $200,000 cash or surety bond. Additional charges are pending.

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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Michael Bryant Accused of Theft

pastor michael bryant

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.

Michael Bryant, pastor of Greater Sweetfield Missionary Baptist Church in Coconut Grove (Miami), Florida, stands accused of collecting the social security benefits of someone who died nearly 12 years ago. He faces numerous charges, including theft of government funds and making false statements to a federal agency. 

Channel 10 reports:

A pastor in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood is facing federal criminal charges after investigators said he collected on a dead person’s Social Security benefits for more than a decade.

Michael Gene Bryant, 57, is facing charges including theft of government funds and making false statements to a federal agency. He is the pastor of Greater Sweetfield Missionary Baptist Church, located at 3585 Plaza St.

According to a federal indictment, Bryant became the representative payee for a person identified in court documents as “H. L. G.” in 1996.

“H. L. G.” died on Oct. 17, 2012, but authorities said Bryant never informed Social Security and kept collecting payments until this January. Prosecutors said he lied on government documents and claimed the beneficiary still lived with him.

The documents don’t state how much money authorities are accusing Bryant of collecting.

No one came to the door when Local 10 News went to Bryant’s home to ask him about the charges.

A former parishioner said she’s “shocked” by the allegations and “in disbelief.”

“That is like unbelievable to me,” Charolette Smith, who lives right next to the church, said. “You go there to hear the word. Coming from a pastor, it’s like, what are you doing?”

He could face up to two decades behind bars.

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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What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity

william fiorini
Dr. William Fiorini

Originally posted in 2015

In the 1960s, the Gerencser family moved to California, the land of promise and a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. Like many who traveled west, my parents found that life in San Diego was not much different from the life they left in rural northwest Ohio. As in Ohio, my Dad worked sales jobs and drove truck. For the Gerencser family, the pot of gold was empty, and three or so years later we left California and moved back to Bryan, Ohio.

While moving to California and back proved to be a financial disaster for my parents, they did find Jesus at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego — a Fundamentalist church pastored by Tim LaHaye. Both of my parents made professions of faith at Scott Memorial, as did I when I was five years old. From that point forward, the Gerencser family, no matter where we lived, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church.

Not only were my parents Fundamentalist Baptists, they were also members of the John Birch Society. While in California, my Mom actively campaigned for Barry Goldwater, and later, back in Ohio, she campaigned for George Wallace. Right-wing religious and political beliefs were very much a part of my young life, so it should come as no surprise that I turned out to be a fire-breathing right-wing Republican and a Fundamentalist Baptist preacher.

If the Baptist church taught me anything, it taught me to hate Catholics. According to my Sunday School teachers and pastors, and later my college professors and ministerial colleagues, the Catholic church was the whore of Babylon (Revelation 17), a false church, the church of Satan and the Antichrist. I was taught that Catholics believed in salvation by works and believed many things that weren’t found in the Bible; things such as: purgatory, church magisterium, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, transubstantiation, infant baptism, confirmation, priests not permitted to marry, praying to statutes, worshiping the dead, and worshiping Mary. These things were never put in any sort of historical context for me, so by the time I left Midwestern Baptist College in 1979, I was a certified hater of all things Catholic.

In 1991, something happened that caused me to reassess my view of Catholics. My dogma ran head-on into a Catholic that didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted beliefs. In 1989, our fourth child and first daughter was born. We named her Bethany. Our family doctor was William Fiorini. He operated the Somerset Medical Clinic in Somerset, Ohio, the same town where I pastored an IFB church. Dr. Fiorini was a devout Catholic, a post-Vatican II Catholic who had been greatly influenced by the charismatic revival that swept through the Catholic church in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a kind and compassionate man. He knew our family didn’t have insurance or much money, and more than a few times the treatment slip turned in after a visit said N/C (no charge).

Bethany seemed quite normal at first. It wasn’t until she was sixteen months old that we began to see things that worried us. Her development was slow and she couldn’t walk. One evening, we drove over to Charity Baptist Church in Beavercreek, Ohio to attend a Bible conference. The woman watching the nursery asked us about Bethany having Down syndrome. Down syndrome? Our little girl wasn’t retarded. How dare this woman even suggest there was something wrong with our daughter.

Bethany continued to struggle, reaching development stages months after infants and toddlers typically do. Finally, we went to see Dr. Fiorini. He suggested that we have Bethany genetically tested. We took her to Ohio State University Hospital for the test, and a few weeks later, just days before Bethany’s second birthday and the birth of our daughter Laura, we received a phone call from Dr. Fiorini. He told us the test results were back and he wanted to talk to us about them. He told us to come to his office after he finished seeing patients for the day and he would sit down and talk with us about the test results.

The test showed that Bethany had Down syndrome. Her Down syndrome features were so mild that the obstetrician missed the signs when she was born. Here we were two years later finding out that our oldest daughter had a serious developmental disability. Our Catholic doctor, a man I thought was a member of the church Satan built and headed for Hell, sat down with us, and with great love and compassion shared the test results. He told us that many miscarriages are fetuses with Down syndrome, and that it was evident that God wanted to bless us with a special child like Bethany. He answered every question and treated us as he would a member of his own family.

This Catholic didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted picture of what a Catholic was. Here was a man who loved people, who came to an area that had one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in Ohio, and started a one-doctor practice. (He later added a Nurse practitioner, a nun who treated us when we couldn’t get in to see the doctor.) He worked selflessly to help everyone he could. On more than one occasion, I would pass him on the highway as his wife shuttled him from Zanesville to Lancaster — the locations of the nearest hospitals. Often, he was slumped over and asleep in the passenger’s seat. He was the kind of doctor who gave me his home phone number and said to call him if I ever needed his help. He told us there was no need to take our kids to the emergency room for stitches or broken bones. He would gladly stitch them up, even if we didn’t have an appointment.

Dr. Fiorini wasn’t perfect. One time, he almost killed me. He regularly treated me for throat infections, ear infections, and the like. Preaching as often as I did, I abused my voice box and throat. I also have enlarged adenoids and tonsils, and I breathe mostly through my mouth. As a result, I battled throat and voice problems my entire preaching career. One day, I came to see Dr. Fiorini for yet a-n-o-t-h-e-r throat infection. He prescribed an antibiotic and told me to take it easy. He knew, like himself, I was a workaholic and would likely ignore his take-it-easy advice. Take the drug, wait a few weeks, and just like always I would be good as new. However, this time it didn’t work. Over two months, as I got sicker and sicker, he tried different treatments. Finally, he did some additional testing and found out I had mononucleosis; the kissing disease for teens, a deadly disease for a thirty-four-year-old man. Two days later, I was in the hospital with a 104-degree fever, a swollen spleen and liver, and an immune system on the verge of collapse.

An internist came in to talk with my wife and me. He told us that if my immune system didn’t pick up and fight there was nothing he could do. Fortunately, my body fought back and I am here to write about it. My bout with mononucleosis dramatically altered my immune system, making me susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. A strange result of the mononucleosis was that my normal body temperature dropped from 98.6 to 97.0. I lost 50 pounds and was unable to preach for several months.

Once I was back on my feet, Dr. Fiorini apologized to me for missing the mononucleosis. I was shocked by his admission. He showed me true humility by admitting his mistake. I wish I could say that I immediately stopped hating Catholics and condemning them to Hell, but it would be several years before I finally came to the place where I embraced everyone who called themselves a Christian. In the late 1990s, while pastoring Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, I embraced what is commonly called the social gospel. Doctrine no longer mattered to me. Moving from a text-oriented belief system, I began to focus on good works. Tell me how you live. Better yet, show me; and in the showing, a Catholic doctor taught me what it really meant to be a Christian.

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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Bruce Gerencser