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Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Worker Steven Winn Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Church Teen

steven winn

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  February 2018, Steven Winn, an unpaid youth worker at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a church teenager.

WFAA-8 reported at the time:

Police in Mesquite have arrested a youth pastor’s assistant at a local church and charged him with sexually assaulting a child.

On Feb. 18, police received a report about the sexual assault. Their investigation concluded that Steven Winn, 33, had an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenager for just over a year. She was 15 when the relationship began and 16 when police got involved.

Police said Tuesday that Winn is the assistant youth pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite. The victim was a student at the church’s Christian school, police said.

Pastor Bob Ross with the church said Winn was never employed by the church and was a volunteer who served as an assistant to the youth pastor.

“Mr. Winn’s primary duties consisted of helping to drive our teens to various activities such as camp, youth rallies, and summer camp,” Ross said. “He had no official duties or title of any kind.”

Police say Winn worked for the City of Mesquite as a construction inspector in the Public Works Department for 14 years. He was terminated on Feb. 20.

Two days later he was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Dallas County. His bond was set at $25,000 for each count. A few days later he was charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. His bond there was set at $1,000 for each count.

Police say sexual encounters between Winn and the teen occurred in both counties. There were multiple occurrences in each, but prosecutors settled on three cases to charge, MPD said.

Today, Winn pleaded guilty to three counts of sexually abusing a child and was sentenced to four years in prison. After release, Winn will have to register as a sex offender.  According to the Dallas News, Winn still faces one count of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. He was indicted on the charge last month.

larry winn

Several days after Steven Winn’s arrest, Larry Winn, Steven’s father, was also arrested on sexual assault charges. The elder Winn was the bus director at Open Door — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

The Star-Telegram reported at the time:

A Mesquite church staff member accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with an underage congregant may have additional victims, police say.

Larry Winn, 65, of Dallas, who coordinated a bus ministry for members of Open Door Baptist Church who needed a ride to and from worship, is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl [a different girl from the one assaulted by his son]. He was arrested Thursday.

“Due to Winn’s level of access to children, investigators believe there may be additional victims,” police Lt. Brian Parrish said in a news release.

The elder Winn remains free on a $25,000 bond. Evidently, the family that “preys” together, stays together.

pastor robert ross

Robert “Bob” Ross, the pastor of Open Door, was arrested in April 2018 and charged with failing to report the alleged abuse. He remains free on a $2,500 bond.

The Dallas News reported at the time:

Robert Arnold Ross, 70, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church, was booked into the Mesquite jail Tuesday morning on one count of knowingly failing to make a required child abuse report. His bail was set at $2,500.

….

Police say Ross learned about the abuse on Feb. 1 — more than two weeks before police learned of the accusation — and did not notify authorities.

pastor matt jarrell

And finally, in 2011, Matt Jarrell, Open Door’s pastor at the time, was arrested and accused of raping a woman. He later hung himself in jail.

According to the Star-Telegram:

Open Door Baptist Church pastor Matt Jarrell died in May 2011 in a Charleston, W. Va., jail cell. Days before, Jarrell had been arrested and accused of raping a woman.

The woman told authorities Jarrell picked her up in Charleston when she needed a ride home. Instead of taking her home, he took her to a secluded area and raped her, according to a criminal complaint.

….

The Dallas News reported in 2011 that Jarrell lived a double life while pastoring Open Door Baptist:

Baptist preacher Matt Jarrell was a traveling man. He usually hit the road by himself, leaving behind his wife, four children and the loving embrace of his congregation at the Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite.

Jarrell, a bear of a man at 6-3 and 285 pounds, hunted moose and preached a sermon last fall in Alaska. He hunted elk in Nebraska with church friends.

But his travels weren’t always for hunting and fellowship.

In 2003, Jarrell traveled to Baltimore, where he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and illegal handgun possession.

In 2007, San Antonio police arrested him for sexual assault after a woman accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.

Last weekend, Jarrell’s final trip ended tragically in a jail cell in Charleston, W.Va. Two days after his arrest on a rape charge, he hanged himself in jail. At age 41, the double life he had been leading was over.

….

Like other Baptist sects, the fundamentalist churches don’t allow women in leadership positions. While Open Door Baptist Church has no dress code, most church women wear long dresses or skirts and tops with high necks — no sleeveless tops.

“It’s just respecting the Lord,” said Donna Woodson, an Open Door member for more than 20 years. “It’s nothing … we just feel that we should dress in modest apparel.”

Woodson, 57, said Jarrell was respectful of women.

“He seemed like he really loved his wife, Ginny,” she recalled. “So I’m just shocked to hear any of this stuff. I’m not even sure to believe it.”

Jarrell traveled to Columbus, Ohio, in January to deliver a guest sermon at High Street Baptist Church, another Fundamentalist Baptist affiliate. He began by telling the congregation his personal story of salvation in the mid-1990s.

He was in the Army at Fort Campbell, Ky., when he attended a revival meeting featuring the Baptist preacher Jack Hyles, who was a well-known Baptist evangelist in the Midwest.

“I’m carnal, wicked as hell,” Jarrell told the Ohio congregation, describing the way he was back then. “I used to be a fighter until I got saved that night.”

….

Jarrell’s first brush with the law, as far as The Dallas Morning News can determine, came at 11:40 p.m. on April 15, 2003, in Baltimore, about 60 miles south of York.

Court records and police reports say he solicited a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer running a “john sting.” Police found two handguns in Jarrell’s white Chevrolet truck — a .44-magnum Taurus with a laser sight and a .45-caliber pistol with one round in the chamber and five in the magazine.

Shonte Drake, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor, said available records don’t make clear whether Jarrell pleaded guilty or was found guilty after a trial.

“In any event, he was convicted and served 18 months probation on the handgun charge,” Drake said.

….

Jarrell’s next brush with the law came in San Antonio on May 24, 2007, when he was arrested after a woman complained that he threatened her with “force and violence” unless she performed oral sex on him. She told police she believed he had “the ability to execute the threat” because he was so big, according to court records.

Jarrell was released from jail on $50,000 bond.

….

A Bexar County grand jury meeting in San Antonio indicted him on a second-degree felony charge of sexual assault on Dec. 19, 2007. Jarrell’s attorney told The News that the case is still pending because of a backlog in the criminal courts.

….

The details surrounding Jarrell’s arrest in West Virginia now seem almost irrelevant. But, for the record, the criminal complaint against him alleges that he met a woman in a bar. She needed a ride home and he offered to help. Instead, he took her to a remote area and sexually abused her in his Toyota Tundra pickup.

The woman escaped after the attack and called police. Investigators said Jarrell first denied the assault, then confessed.

“According to family members, Jarrell was supposed to be in Pennsylvania,” said Lt. Sean Crozier, a Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “It’s disturbing that a man could lead such a dual life with aspects of it on opposite ends of the spectrum — if the allegations were true.”

No one will ever know what tortured thoughts ran through Matt Jarrell’s mind in the moments before he hanged himself two days after his arrest.

Did he pray? Did he believe he was going to heaven or hell?

During the nine months before his death, he told his congregation that he was suffering from liver cancer. During his sermon in January in Columbus, he told his listeners that a malignant tumor the size of a grapefruit was on his liver and that the cancer had spread to his lymph system.

The medical examiner’s office in West Virginia performed an autopsy after his suicide, but the results were not available late last week. Whether the cancer was real or fictional is yet to be resolved.

….

Sadly, Open Door Baptist Church remains open for business, as does its school, Mesquite Baptist Academy. In November 2018, “Dr.” Eric Pittman became the pastor of Open Door.  The church is busily remodeling its building, hoping to bury past scandals under new drywall and carpet. I plan to do what I can to make sure the public knows what happened. I should note in passing, that the late Jack Hyles was mentioned in several of the stories I read about Open Door and its pervert pastors/workers.  It seems that Hyles as a person or his bankrupt theology is never far from sexual scandals. Perhaps it is time for IFB churches and pastors to connect the dots and conclude that Hyles and his theology has caused untold harm, both to children and adults.

Quote of the Day: Science Literacy is the Cure for the Recent Measles Outbreak

anti-vaxxer

While the measles outbreak in Brooklyn is the worst in decades, it’s only the latest in a long line of crises that can be traced to a lack of science literacy and quality education.

Our public health and children’s lives are at risk because so many parents, community leaders and policymakers lack the science literacy and critical-thinking skills to decipher fact from fiction.

This widespread dismissal of science is a pandemic, and with each new crisis, it becomes clearer that we are treating the symptoms instead of the underlying disease. From vaccine skepticism to climate-change denial, ignoring proven science could have life-threatening or even catastrophic results.

We must address the root cause and support and invest in STEM education and public science literacy before the damage is irreversible. The health and safety of our communities and future generations depend on it.

— Maya Ajmera, president and chief executive of the Society for Science & the Public and the publisher of Science News, New York Times

Further Information

Please read an excellent article on the subject by Annie Laurie Gaylor titled, Is it a Measles Pandemic or is it Really a Crisis in Critical Thinking Skills?

My First Steps Towards Believing the Bible Was Not Inerrant

bible inspired word of god

I grew up in a religious faith that taught me the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. The word “inspired” meant that that the Bible was the word of God; that holy men of old who wrote the Bible were told by the Holy Spirit exactly what to write. Some of my pastors believed in the dictation theory. The authors of the Bible were mere automatons who wrote what God dictated to them. Other pastors believed that men wrote the Bible, thus their writing reflects their personality and culture. God, through some sort of supernatural means, made sure that human influence on the Bible was in every way perfect and aligned with what he wanted to be said.

The inspiration got complicated when dealing with the question of WHAT, exactly, was inspired. Were the original manuscripts alone inspired? If so, there’s no such thing as the inspired Word of God because the original manuscripts do not exist. Were the extant manuscripts inspired? Some pastors believed that the totality of existing manuscripts made up the inspired Word of God, and some pastors believed that certain translations — namely the King James Version — were the inspired Word of God. Regardless of how they answered the WHAT question, all of them believed that God supernaturally preserved his Word down through the ages, and the Bibles we held in our hands were the Word of God.

The word “inerrant” meant “without mistake, contradiction, or error.” Some pastors, knowing that every Bible translation had errors and mistakes, said they believed the original manuscripts were inerrant, and modern translations were faithful, reliable, and could be depended on in matters of faith, practice, morality, and anything else the Bible addressed. Of course, these men were arguing for the inerrancy of a text they had never seen, and there is no evidence for its existence. Whatever the “original” manuscripts might have been, their exact wording and content are lost, never to be found.

The word “infallible” meant incapable of error in every matter it addressed. Thus, when the Bible spoke about matters of science and history, it was always true, and without error. No matter what scientists and historians say about a particular matter, what the Bible says is the final authority. That’s why almost half of Americans believe the Christian God created the universe sometime in the past 10,000 years.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution that prided itself in turning out preacher boys. My three years at Midwestern reinforced everything I had been taught as a youth. Every professor and chapel speaker believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I was a seedling and Midwestern was a controlled-environment hothouse. Is it any wonder that I grew up to be a Bible thumper; believing that EVERY word in the Bible was straight from the mouth of God? If ever someone was a product of his environment, it was Bruce Gerencser.

I left Midwestern in 1979 and embarked on a ministerial career that took me to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.  I stood before thousands of people with Bible held high and declared, THUS SAITH THE LORD! For many years, I preached only from the King James Bible. I believed it was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God for English speaking people. Towards the end of my ministerial career, I started using the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and after that I began using the English Standard Version (ESV).

Many of my former Fundamentalist colleagues in the ministry and congregants trace the beginning of my unbelief back to my voracious reading habit and my abandonment of the King James Bible. One woman, after hearing of my loss of faith. wrote to me and said that I should stop reading books and only read the B-I-B-L-E. She just knew that I if I would stop reading non-Biblical books, my doubts would magically disappear. In other words, ignorance is bliss.

As I pondered my past and what  things ultimately led to my loss of faith, two things stood out: a book on alleged Bible contradictions and the differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions of the King James Bible.

As I studied for my sermons, I would often come across verses or passages of Scripture that didn’t make sense to me. I would consult various commentaries and grammatical aids, and usually I was able to reconcile whatever it was that was giving me difficulty.  Sometimes, however, I ran into what could only be described as contradictions – competing passages of Scripture. In these times, I consulted the book on alleged contradictions in the Bible. Often, my confusion would dissipate, but over time I began to think that the explanations and resolutions the book gave were shallow, not on point, or down-right nonsensical. Finally, I quit reading this book and decided to just trust God, believing that he would never give us a Bible with errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I decided, as many Evangelical do, to “faith” it.

For many years, the only Bible translation I used was the 1769 edition of the King James Bible. I had been taught as a child and in college that the original version — 1611 — of the King James Version and the 1769 version were identical. I later found out they were not; that there were numerous differences between the two editions. (Please read the Wikipedia article on the 1769 King James Bible for more information on this subject.)

I remember finding a list of the differences between the two editions and sharing it with my best friend — who was also an IFB pastor. He dismissed the differences out of hand, telling me that even if I could show him an error in the King James Bible, he would still, by faith, believe the Bible is inerrant! Over the next few months, he would repeat this mantra to me again and again. He, to this day, believes the King James Bible is inerrant. I, on the other hand, couldn’t do so. Learning that there were differences between the editions forced me to alter my beliefs, at least inwardly. It would be another decade before I could admit that the Bible was not inerrant. But even then, I downplayed the errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I continued to read about the nature of the Biblical text, but I kept that knowledge to myself. It was not until I left the ministry that I finally could see that the Bible was NOT what my pastors and professors said it was; that it was not what I told countless congregants it was. Once the Bible lost its authority, I was then free to question other aspects of my faith, leading, ultimately, to where I am today. My journey away from Evangelicalism to atheism began and ended with the Bible.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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 Do Liberals Think Trump Supporters Are Stupid?” by Adam-Troy Castro

donald trump

Found on Facebook. Written by author Adam-Troy Castro

An anguished question from a Trump supporter: “Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?”

The serious answer: Here’s what we really think about Trump supporters – the rich, the poor, the malignant and the innocently well-meaning, the ones who think and the ones who don’t . . .

That when you saw a man who had owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people, you thought “Fine.”

That when you saw a man who had made it his business practice to stiff his creditors, you said, “Okay.”

That when you heard him proudly brag about his own history of sexual abuse, you said, “No problem.”

That when he made up stories about seeing Muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, you said, “Not an issue.”

That when you saw him brag that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and you wouldn’t care, you chirped, “He sure knows me.”

That when you heard him illustrate his own character by telling that cute story about the elderly guest bleeding on the floor at his country club, the story about how he turned his back and how it was all an imposition on him, you said, “That’s cool!”

That when you saw him mock the disabled, you thought it was the funniest thing you ever saw.

That when you heard him brag that he doesn’t read books, you said, “Well, who has time?”

That when the Central Park Five were compensated as innocent men convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, and he angrily said that they should still be in prison, you said, “That makes sense.”

That when you heard him tell his supporters to beat up protesters and that he would hire attorneys, you thought, “Yes!”

That when you heard him tell one rally to confiscate a man’s coat before throwing him out into the freezing cold, you said, “What a great guy!”

That you have watched the parade of neo-Nazis and white supremacists with whom he curries favor, while refusing to condemn outright Nazis, and you have said, “Thumbs up!”

That you hear him unable to talk to foreign dignitaries without insulting their countries and demanding that they praise his electoral win, you said, “That’s the way I want my President to be.”

That you have watched him remove expertise from all layers of government in favor of people who make money off of eliminating protections in the industries they’re supposed to be regulating and you have said, “What a genius!”

That you have heard him continue to profit from his businesses, in part by leveraging his position as President, to the point of overcharging the Secret Service for space in the properties he owns, and you have said, “That’s smart!”

That you have heard him say that it was difficult to help Puerto Rico because it was the middle of water and you have said, “That makes sense.”

That you have seen him start fights with every country from Canada to New Zealand while praising Russia and quote, “falling in love” with the dictator of North Korea, and you have said, “That’s statesmanship!”

That Trump separated children from their families and put them in cages, managed to lose track of 1500 kids. has opened a tent city incarceration camp in the desert in Texas – he explains that they’re just “animals” – and you say, “well, ok then.”

That you have witnessed all the thousand and one other manifestations of corruption and low moral character and outright animalistic rudeness and contempt for you, the working American voter, and you still show up grinning and wearing your MAGA hats and threatening to beat up anybody who says otherwise.

What you don’t get, Trump supporters in 2019, is that succumbing to frustration and thinking of you as stupid may be wrong and unhelpful, but it’s also . . . hear me . . . charitable.

Because if you’re NOT stupid, we must turn to other explanations, and most of them are less flattering.

donald trump the liar

Access database of lies and misleading claims told by President Donald Trump

 

The Existence of God

one true god

Guest post by Neil. You can read more of Neil’s writing at Rejecting Jesus.

Amateur apologist and C. S. Lewis wannabee, Don Camp, makes the argument that as human beings have always believed in gods (have they?), it must mean that gods exist. They – or at least one of them – must have planted an instinct for worship within us from the outset. Don, of course, feels it is ‘self-evident’ that the god he believes in (the Christianised version of the Jewish tribal god, YHWH) is the One True God and consequently the deity who imbued us with the god instinct. Eventually, after millennia, during which humans misdirected their god-instinct to create thousands of false gods and imaginary supernatural beings, this One True God revealed himself and made known his expectation that he be acknowledged as the only God.

Where to begin?

It is not ‘self-evident’ that the tribal god of ancient Jews is the One True God. It is not ‘self-evident’ that this god exists while all the other gods humans have created (current estimate: 28,000,000) do not. The people who created these other deities were equally convinced they existed. Some had texts setting out the expectations the gods had of their human acolytes; most had rituals and forms of worship that had to be adhered to; they had experts – priesthoods – who knew exactly what the gods required; many encouraged adherents to serve the gods in their daily lives.

These other deities were every bit as ‘real’ as YHWH. There is nothing that singles ‘him’ out from them; nothing that makes him any more real than they were. He is indistinguishable from them in every way. It cannot be argued that they don’t exist, while, ‘self-evidently’, the Christian god – a very late arrival on the scene – is real.

What of the god instinct then? Where does it come from if not from the gods themselves? As others have argued (Dawkins and Harris, for example) it appears to be a misfiring of our need to know. The ancient peoples who devised gods to explain their world were doing their best with what little knowledge they had. Attributing agency to the activities of nature is an understandable mistake to make. Early people had first-hand experience of human agency and it was not an unreasonable assumption that agency must therefore lie behind other phenomena. We know that very early religions did precisely this in respect of animals, weather, and the stars (animism; while astrology, in which celestial bodies control human behaviour, survives to this day).

We now know, however, that such attribution was wrong. Inanimate phenomena do not possess agency. They do not possess it because they are not cognitive beings; any cognition we think we detect is our own, reflected back at us. The entities earlier humans created to explain what they took to be the purposeful activities of nature had no independent existence.

Our imaginary creations have no counterparts in reality; none of the 28,000,000 gods that humans have conjured up have actually existed. Is it reasonable to assume, then, that one of these otherwise imaginary beings really does? That YHWH is the exception; the one god, who, just because we’re more familiar with him than any of the other 27,9999,999 deities, is one hundred percent real?

What do you think?

Tales From the Appalachian Foothills — Do You Want Some “Rose of Sheridan?”

somerset baptist church 1989

In July, 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

From time to time, I want to share a few short stories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Today’s story is titled, Do You Want Some “Rose of Sheridan?”

One spring, a woman who attended our church with her husband and three children asked Polly is she would like some “Rose of Sheridan.” The year before, we had moved a 12’x60′ trailer on to the church property, parking it fifty feet from the main church building. The first thing we did was put a chain link fence around our small yard so Bethany couldn’t wander away and get hit by a car in the parking lot or fall down the cement stairs to what was commonly a called the basement building. After the fence was installed — we paid $400 for the fence out of our income tax refund — we set out to beautify our yard as best we could. Knowing this, Mrs. M made the offering of the “Rose of Sheridan.” We had no idea about what “Rose of Sheridan” was. All we knew is that we wanted “stuff” to plant in our newly fenced yard.

Several days later, Mrs. M brought us three “Rose of Sheridan” bushes. We planted them on the northeast corner where our yard met the basement building. The bushes didn’t bloom that much the first year, but the next summer they were in full bloom. Another church member asked Polly what the bushes were and she replied, “Rose of Sheridan.” The church member got a quizzical look on her face and said, you mean “Rose of SHARON,” right? You see, what Mrs. M gave us was Rose of Sharon and not “Rose of Sheridan.”

phil sheridan somerset ohio

How did Mrs. M confuse the name? Oh, that was easy. You see, nearby Somerset was home to Civil War general Phil Sheridan when he was a child. His boyhood home sits on the south edge of town on State Highway 13. A statute of Sheridan on a horse — the only equestrian Civil War monument in Ohio — adorns the center of town where two state highways meet. The local high school was named Sheridan High School. In Mrs. M’s mind, she confused Sharon with Sheridan, so that’s why the bushes she gave us the spring of 1990 were called “Rose of Sheridan.”

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Much Like Mutual Orgasm, God Has “Perfect” Timing

gods-timing-is-always-perfect

Imagine for a moment a passionate, uninhibited couple making love. As their naked bodies writhe in unison, they reach a point of sexual release. And in that perfectly timed moment, both simultaneously have an orgasm. Nothing better, at least to me, than such moments in life. My wife and I have been married for almost 41 years. We have made love a time or two. As any long-married couple will tell you, not every sexual encounter leads to sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight. Sometimes, the sex is just good or okay. But there are also times when the sex is magical, when it seems that everything is perfectly aligned, leading to the type of momentary experience I mentioned above.

As I was reading a comment on social media from an Evangelical talking about God’s “perfect” timing, I thought about how this notion is quite similar to a couple having a mutual orgasm. Bruce, you have a “dirty” mind, some Evangelical is sure to say. Yep, I do. Now that we have THAT out of the way . . .

Most Evangelicals believe that their God not only created the universe, but also controls every aspect of their lives. Calvinists, in particular, preach up the sovereignty of God, believing that everything that happens — past, present, and future — is ordained and decreed by God. I wonder if the recent mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue by an Orthodox Presbyterian man has Calvinists questioning God’s string pulling in their lives? I doubt it. God is God, and if Calvinists stick to their fatalistic beliefs, they must conclude that the carnage and murder wreaked by John Earnest was according to God’s inscrutable will. The same could be said for every mass shooting.

Most Evangelicals believe that their God is involved in not only life’s big things, but also what is considered minutia, the trivial things of life. According to Evangelical orthodoxy, the Triune God of the Protestant Bible is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is all-powerful, present everywhere, and knows everything. According to the Gospels, God cares for the fallen sparrow and knows the very number of hairs we have on our heads. He is a God of detail; a God who pays close attention to the small stuff. Years ago, I preached a sermon about the cliché, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I rejected this notion, telling congregants that God sweated the small stuff and so should they. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that the Christian deity most certainly cares about our every behavior. The Bible story that illustrates this best is that of Uzzah and the Ark of Covenant. 2 Samuel 6:1-8 states:

Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

Uzzah, being a good Jew, saw the Ark shaking, and fearing the embodiment of God’s presence would fall, he put out his hand to steady it. How did God reward Uzzah for his quick save? He smote him — love the King James Bible! — and Uzzah died.

According to the Rational Christianity website:

The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God’s presence with the Israelites. The atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) that covered the ark was God’s throne (2 Sam 6:2) and God’s presence was above it (Lev 16:2); it was also the place where God met Moses and gave him commands (Ex 25:22). If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God’s presence – a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6) – and would die as a result of their sins. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation’s sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God’s holiness: sinful people couldn’t be in his presence, not even the high priest.

Hence, when Uzzah touched the ark, he was profaning it and disobeying God; he should have grabbed the poles used for carrying the ark instead, for that was their purpose (Ex 25:14-15)

God sure made his point, didn’t he?

Another Bible story that punctuates God’s attention to triviality is found in Acts 5:5-11:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Acts 4 details the story behind the aforementioned passage of Scripture. Recent Jewish converts were selling their lands and houses and giving the proceeds to the Apostles so they could buy a Lear jet. Verses 34 and 35 state:

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Married converts Ananias and Sapphira want to do their part, so they sold a parcel of land, planning to donate the money to the Apostles. Being good Independent Baptists, however, Ananias and Sapphira decided to short God a few bucks so they could take a vacation to Rome. Somehow, the Apostle Peter, who just weeks before denied knowing Jesus, found out about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s greed and exposed their subterfuge. Once exposed, God rained judgment down upon their heads, killing them both. As a pastor, I said on more than one occasion that if God still killed Christians today for lying as Ananias and Sapphira did, churches would be empty. One little lie, and God struck both of them dead. Damn, Jesus, your Father sure has a temper!

It’s clear from Holy Writ that the Evangelical God cares about everything Christians do. Thus, it is not surprising that Evangelicals believe that Jesus sits in Heaven hearing their prayers, making sure that their requests align with his will. And at the exact moment a prayer lines up with the perfect will of God, the request is granted, leading the recipient to praise God’s “perfect” timing.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Evangelicals believe that these verses teach that there is a time (and purpose) for everything. Evangelicals are known for divining what happens in their lives as God’s “perfect” timing. Meet a man at Starbucks you later marry? God’s “perfect” timing. Find a red Ford Fiesta at a price you can afford? God’s “perfect” timing. Need a house to rent and find one that’s just the right price? God’s “perfect” timing. Receive a call from a church wanting you to be their next pastor? God’s “perfect” timing. Leaving a church to pastor another church? God’s “perfect” timing. Having sex with your secretary in your study? God’s “perfect” timing. Okay, I am kidding about the last one. That aside, Evangelicals believe that whatever unfolds in their lives is according to some sort of divine clock God uses to determine what will and won’t happen in their lives.

Bruce, this is nonsense! Yes, it is, but this doesn’t change the fact that most Evangelicals view God as the controller of their lives (as do many Catholics, Muslims, and other religious people). In the real world, there’s no master string-puller. Luck, and not divine decree, often facilitates many of the events in our lives. Back in my college days, I believed the Evangelical God brought my wife and me together. After all, I had planned to enroll at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, but at the last minute God — also known as a lack of money — “led” me to register for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I planned to have fun dating as many girls as I could, eventually settling on one to marry when I was a junior or a senior. God, however, had other plans for me — a beautiful, dark-haired seventeen-year-old preacher’s daughter. I dated one girl for a couple of weeks, but then I decided to ask Polly out on a date. Talk about God playing matchmaker!  Six months later, I asked Polly to marry me, and in July we will celebrate 41 years of marriage. God’s will? God’s timing? Pfft! . . . Luck, just plain luck. Two years before meeting Polly, I was wildly in love with a college girl I met while attending a Baptist church in Sierra Vista, Arizona. We talked about marriage, and for six months we had one hell of a torrid relationship — within the boundaries of no-sex-before-marriage Christianity. And then, POOF! our relationship was over and I moved back to Ohio. Years later, I would conclude that had this girl and I married, one of us would had ended up in prison for murdering the other. Both of us had similar personalities: outgoing and temperamental. Was our failed relationship God’s “perfect” timing for our lives? Of course not. We were lucky that we dodged a bullet.

As I look back over my life, I can see luck playing out time and time again. Not always, of course. Sometimes, I can see that things happened because of decisions I made or decisions that were made by others. Who is absent in this survey of my life, however, is the Christian God.

The next time you are having an awesome roll in sheets with your lover, I hope when you achieve that mutual orgasm, you will be reminded of God’s “perfect” timing. 🙂 Or at the very least, how lucky you are to have had such a wonderful experience.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Is Rachel Evans in Hell? Pulpit & Pen and The Transformed Wife Say YES!

rachel evans

Recently, Christian author and conference speaker Rachel Evans suddenly died at the age of 37. The Religion News Service reported:

Rachel Held Evans, a popular progressive Christian writer and speaker, died Saturday morning (May 4) at age 37 after a brief illness.

Evans had been in a medically induced coma for several weeks and never returned to an alert state.

Writer and collaborator Sarah Bessey tweeted that Evans was surrounded by close friends and family at the end, and the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber shared that friends were at Evans’ bedside Friday night, offering “our touch and tears and song. I anointed her with oil.”

Her husband, Dan Evans, informed followers and supporters of his wife’s death on her website.

“This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story,” he wrote in an update on Evans’ blog.

“I cannot express how much the support means to me and our kids. To everyone who has prayed, called, texted, driven, flown, given of themselves physically and financially to help ease this burden: Thank you. We are privileged. Rachel’s presence in this world was a gift to us all and her work will long survive her.”

On April 14, Evans, who was particularly gifted at using social media to connect with her readers, tweeted that she had been admitted to the hospital with a “flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics, asking for prayer and — with the characteristic humor she often used to defuse difficult conversations — lamenting she would miss “Game of Thrones.”

Later, in an update on her website, Dan Evans said that she began having “unexpected symptoms” while receiving treatment for an infection and that doctors found her brain was experiencing constant seizures. Doctors had placed her in a medically induced coma while working to determine the cause and treatment, he said.

Evans is best known for her popular blog and best-selling books, including New York Times best-seller “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” ”Searching for Sunday” and, most recently, “Inspired.” She also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In her books and blog posts, she wrote openly about her faith journey, which led her from Bryan College — a conservative evangelical school known for promoting belief in a literal, six-day creation — to the mainline Episcopal Church. Along the way, she chronicled her faith, doubt, honest questions and evolving beliefs with a sense of humor.

That didn’t come without controversy, including pushback from more conservative Christians over “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” which celebrated an egalitarian view of women’s roles in both marriage and the church.

But in her writing she rarely lapsed into us-versus-them arguments, instead presenting a vision of the church as a place with room for everyone.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes,” she wrote in “Searching for Sunday.”

“And there’s always room for more.”

Evans, a one-time Evangelical, was loved and hated by Evangelicals. Several self-righteous Christians took took to their blogs and social media to let it be known that Evans is now in Hell.

First up, are the miscreants at Pulpit & Pen. Greg Smith writes:

Rachel Held Evans was on the wrong side of every controversial issue and point of doctrine plaguing the western church today. With full knowledge she loudly and publicly chronicled her departure from anything that could be considered the historical Christian faith. No need to establish and or document that here and now. It is beyond dispute for anyone with a modicum of commitment to the biblical gospel.

In that light, how do we respond when a person like this passes into eternity, by all biblically reasonable accounts, apart from the saving blood and knowledge of the true and holy only begotten Son of the living God?

We should certainly not shrink from the realities that such a situation confronts us with. Only God Himself can pass final judgement on a human soul, however He has given us His word whereby we are to declare His revealed mind on all things, including the standards by which yes, we ARE to judge the state of others when it is this clear according to the evidence their life has shown us.

If we do not warn that the denial of the saving truth as it in Christ Jesus IS eternal death, then we are presuming ourselves to be wiser and holier than God who commands exactly that. The blood of those who hear us would then be on our hands as the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Ezekiel.

With that in mind, we also should never rejoice or sneer at the loss of another, no matter who or what they are. To do so is to demonstrate a profound lack of the knowledge of our own sin and the grace and power of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit required to save us from it.

It is in the spirit of both of these biblical principles that Pulpit and Pen expresses it’s [sic] sorrow and regret at the passing of Rachel Held Evans. Both for the loss of her soul and for the unbiblical and further soul damning treatment that her already tragic death will inevitably give occasion to

….

Jordan Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana and a writer for Pulpit & Pen, stated he believed Jesus would have likely said the same thing as his Bible buddy Smith:

jordan hall comment rachel evans

Church Watch Central quoted Jordan Hall as saying:

As in her life, Rachel Held Evans was surrounded by heretics and applauded by apostates at her death. She was ‘anointed’ with oil in the hours before her passing by the self-professed “profane bulldyke” and mannish, self-graffitied, vulgar blasphemer, Nadia Bolz-Weber, who better personifies the Grim Reaper than perhaps anyone in a clerical collar. It’s hard to believe that anyone ushered into the world to come by Bolz-Weber would be ushered into the right world.

Perhaps her own tweet conveys this point the best [Evans’ tweet about God not being a dude.]

Evans knows that God is male now. She also knows so much more. The God she expected to see is not the God she now knows.

Evans, who has used her life’s energy to attack the authority and inerrancy of the Scripture, Biblical gender roles and sexual ethics, and commit all kinds of ontological heresies against God, has been eulogized as though a saint after her death by many who criticized her as an enemy of Biblical Christianity during her lifetime.

For many, theological debate is Kabuki theater, where each side has a role to play and even the audience has a part to act out. There are protagonists and antagonists who spar on stage, but go out afterward to celebrate their dramatic endeavors and the show they’ve put on for the masses. This is all basically a more sophisticated version of the showmanship of professional wrestling.

However, some of us religious types view apostasy as a serious matter. Furthermore, some of us think hell is real. Likewise, we think people actually go there. And, we believe that we know what it takes to avoid that place. Ergo, we take theology, you know…seriously and stuff.

Next up is up Lori Alexander and her cadre of followers at The Transformed Wife. My friend, Suzanne Titkemeyer, posted several Facebook screenshots of comments by Alexander and Co:

lori alexander rachel evans

lori alexander followers rachel evans

Many people were outraged by Alexander’s words and demanded she take down her post. She replied:

lori alexander rachel evans

And finally, here’s what Emily Thomes, a former homosexual-turned-Evangelical, had to say:

emily thomes rachel evans

Hateful words from Greg Smith, Jordan Hall, Emily Thomes, and Lori Alexander. However, readers need to understand that their linguistic bile reflects a viewpoint held by millions of American Evangelicals. Evans was viewed by many Evangelicals as a heretic. They despised the larger-than-life presence Evans had among Evangelicals. Her untimely death is viewed by them as God settling the score with one of America’s beloved heretics. That Lutheran pastor  Nadia Bolz-Weber was by Evans’ bedside when she died only confirms their belief that God rained judgment down upon her head. Bolz-Weber’s theology and sexual ethic has been a frequent target of Evangelical writers. That Weber was with Evans at the time of her death only reinforces for them how far she had fallen from grace.

There was a time in my life when I would have agreed with Greg Smith, Jordan Hall, and Lori Alexander about Evans’ unexpected death. I would have viewed her demise as God silencing a heretic. I have long “prayed” that I live to be eighty lest my Evangelical critics turn my death into a sure sign that God has judged me and thrown my ass into Hell. The fact that countless former Evangelicals critique Evangelical doctrine and practices with no recrimination by God should be a sign to zealots that God ain’t paying attention.

Personally, I hope Pulpit & Pen,The Transformed Wife and others of their ilk continue to preach their hatred for people such as Rachel Evans. Their words go far beyond their blogs and social media, leading those with doubts about Evangelical Christianity to conclude that they no longer want to be part of a religion that promotes judgmentalism, bigotry, and hate. Keep preaching the word!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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 IFB Pastor Garry Evans’ Trial Scheduled to Start in September

pastor garry 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.

In October 2017, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Garry Evans, pastor of Rushville Baptist Temple in Rushville, Indiana.  Rushville Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

RTV-6 reported at the time:

A 72-year-old pastor in Rush County is accused of molesting multiple young children in his congregation.

Garry Evans, Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple was arrested Wednesday evening during a traffic stop.

According to court documents, the investigation began after a 3-year-old child who attends the church told her mother that Evans had taken her into his office to give her candy then “pulled his pants down” and made her touch his genitals.

Shortly after the investigation began another mother came forward saying her 7-year-old and 5-year-old claimed they had also been touched by the pastor. Both girls told investigators that “The Pastor” gives the kids candy when they go into his office alone, and touches them or makes them touch him. The youngest girl told investigators that it started happening after she started kindergarten in August.

And another mother with two young girls at the church also came forward with a similar story.

Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker said a woman also came forward and said she had been molested by Evans decades ago, in a different community. That woman helped police pursue the new cases, but it is unclear if charges can be sought in hers.

Evans is charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation. He is currently being held without bond at the Rush County Jail.

….

In November 2017, the Rushville Republican reported:

The Rush County Prosecutor’s Office filed more charges Thursday against Garry Evans, the Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple Church. The new charges stem from allegations from a new alleged victim, identified in Court filings as a six-year-old. The new charges include Child Molesting, a Level 4 Felony, and Child Solicitation, a Level 5 Felony.

Evans previously was charged with Child Molesting, Child Solicitation, and Sexual Battery involving five alleged victims. Evans posted the $20,000 bond soon after it was set by the Judge. Along with the new charges, the Prosecutor filed a motion to increase Evans’ original bond. Rush County Prosecutor Phil Caviness explained that the fact that these charges bring the number of alleged victims to six justifies a higher bond than the standard Level 4 Felony case, and added that his office was seeking Evans to be monitored by the Rush County Community Corrections Program if he is released on bond. “We feel that given the charges, GPS monitoring and protective orders for all of the alleged victims and their families are important conditions of bond in this case,” Caviness said.

Court documents indicate that these new alleged incidents occurred sometime between the Fall of 2016 and Summer, 2017, but were disclosed after the first charges were filed against Evans. Trial for these charges currently is scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2018.

After these latest charges were filed, Evans attempted to commit suicide.

In February 2018, Evans was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. His wife was also arrested. The Herald-Tribune reported at the time:

A report of criminal trespass received by the Rushville Police Department Jan. 29 led to the arrest of Pastor Garry Evans, 72, and his wife Gay Evans, 70.

The elder Evans had been released from jail after posting a $20,000 bond following his initial arrest in October 2017 regarding a number of allegations of inappropriate activity with minors, according to earlier editions of the Rushville Republican. A condition of his bond required that Evans be placed on GPS monitoring by the court.

Although innocent until proven guilty, Evans was initially charged last fall with three counts of child molestation, a Level 4 felony; four counts of sexual battery, a Level 5 felony; and five counts of child solicitation, a Level 6 felony.

Additional allegations and charges were filed with the courts in November 2017 when another minor child came forward. Following the second arrest, Evans, the longtime pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple, unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life and, as a result, was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

The couple’s most recent legal troubles began when the pair appeared Jan. 28 at a Rushville residence stating they wished to see a family member they believed to be inside. The tenant reported they would not leave until they spoke with the individual. The tenant and complainant in the case informed the Evanses that they were not welcome at the property and needed to leave. The couple refused and demanded to speak with the relative.

Following several attempts to get them to leave, the complainant stated that she felt threatened and retreated into the residence, where she retrieved a firearm. The woman returned to the door and again told the couple to leave, but they refused. At this time, Gay Evans attempted unsuccessfully to take the firearm from the resident. The complainant then locked herself inside and stowed the firearm.

A few moments later, the resident observed Garry and Gay Evans looking in a vehicle on the property. The complainant then chased the pastor and his wife off her property with a baseball bat.

As a result of the incident, warrants were issued for the arrest of Garry Evans and Gay Evans for criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor.

The pair were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30. During the course of the arrest, Gay Evans became verbally abusive and physically resistant toward officers and as a result was additionally charged with resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.

….

Last week, the Rushville Republican reported that Evans’ trial was moved from April to September 2019.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Les Hughey Accused of Additional Sex Crimes

les hughey

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.

A year ago, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Les Hughey, pastor of Highlands Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. The alleged sexual abuse occurred decades ago while Hughey was youth pastor at First Baptist Church (now Crosspoint Community Church) in Modesto, California. This revelation forced Hughey to resign as pastor of Highlands Church. At the time, Hughey release the following statement:

Over 40 years ago, as a church intern in California, I sinned and harmed the most important relationships in my life. I was unfaithful to my God, my wife, and the ministry, and was rightly removed from that church.

I engaged in consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff. With God’s help, my wife’s forgiveness, and discipline and counseling from church authority, I sincerely repented and we put our lives back in order. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to undo what happened, so I instead accept and live with the consequences, even now so many years later.

My family and the authority over me at my church are aware of this history. I thank God for his forgiveness and grace.

Pastor Les Hughey

Hughey, according to the Arizona Republic, lied about the victim being “college-aged staff.” The Republic reported at the time:

Carey Fuller was shocked to see the news about Hughey. For decades, she thought she had been the only one to receive one of what Fuller called his “famous full-body massages.” That massage crossed the line when he groped her genitals, she told The Republic.

Hughey, then a youth group leader at Scottsdale Bible Church, was attractive and charismatic, Fuller recounted. He was married and in his late 20s at the time, she said.

“Everyone always wanted to be around him,” she said. “It was always a gift to be around Les.”

Fuller said she was honored to be selected as one of the few who were invited to hang out in the church van one night during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 18.

She happily accepted when Hughey offered her one of his “famous” massages, but she didn’t know what to do when it suddenly went too far, Fuller said. Somehow, no one noticed in the van’s dim light, so she figured it had must have been an accident.

“I wasn’t a strong enough person and I didn’t want to offend anyone there,” Fuller said. “I didn’t think to call him out, so I just laid there.”

Fuller said she didn’t realize that what had happened to her was sexual assault until she saw an article on azcentral.com Sunday.

Within hours, she learned at least five other women she had known during her time in the youth group said they had experienced the same thing, she said.

Her best friend, Juliet Buckner Pekaar, was one of them.

Hughey pulled the same “massage” ruse when they would travel together on band trips when she was 16, Buckner Pekaar said. The abuse continued until she married another youth pastor at the church when she was 19.

“His power was in making you think you were the only one,” Buckner Pekaar said. “Nobody ever talked to each other, so there was just this shame and depression.”

Neither of the women reported the incidents to police, they said.

Buckner Pekaar said she did attempt years ago to tell Scottsdale Bible Church staff members about Hughey’s actions, but she said she stopped after their reaction made it clear they weren’t interested.

I concludes the April 2018 post with this: Dare I ask the proverbial rhetorical question: can a leopard change its spots? According to a May 4, 2019 story by Erin Tracy in the Modesto Bee, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! Tracy writes:

A Modesto youth pastor accused of sexual abuse in his church here decades ago continued to prey on young women after moving to Arizona, a Scottsdale police report issued this week alleges.

The 100-page report compiled by Scottsdale Police Detective Tara Ford contains interviews with more than a dozen victims and witnesses who described sexually predatory behavior, including full-body massages, by Les Hughey during his time as a high school youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church in the mid to late 1980s.

The report was submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney several weeks ago for consideration of charges against Hughey, said Scottsdale Police Sgt. Ben Hoster. The county attorney’s office did not return calls for comment about what charges Hughey could face.

The investigation began last April after The Bee broke the story about Hughey’s alleged sexual misconduct during the time that he worked as a youth pastor at a popular church in Modesto.

Scottsdale police conferred with Modesto police on the investigation, but no reports were filed here.

Hughey, in his 30s and 40s at the time under investigation in Arizona, would tell dirty jokes and stories and normalized back rubs among the youth so it didn’t seem inappropriate when he requested massages from the teenage girls, some as young as 15, according to the report.

He was able to get the job at Scottsdale Bible Church and work at several other churches before that because his alleged sexual abuse of girls at First Baptist Church in Modesto was covered up, according to a victim and two witnesses. First Baptist has since become CrossPoint Church.

Tracy Epler told The Bee last year that Hughey was her youth pastor at First Baptist in the late 1970s, when he coerced her into having sex when she was a 17-year-old virgin.

Four other women at First Baptist said Hughey would give them back rubs that bordered on fondling.

Epler confided in church leaders, but instead of an investigation, Hughey got what Epler described as a hero’s sendoff, a “one-man Academy Awards show.”

Hughey went on to work at churches in Sonora and Little Rock, Arkansas, before working at Scottsdale Bible Church for about a decade prior to founding Highlands Church, also in Scottsdale.

Hughey created what victims and witnesses interviewed by Scottsdale police described as a cult-like culture during his time as a youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church.

They described Hughey as charismatic and charming, the “life of the party.” He sang and played the guitar in a band and had a “sort of celebrity status and a way of drawing people in.”

They also described a man who could be cutting, tempestuous and narcissistic.

….

Hughey preached purity but created a sexually charged environment, according to victims and witnesses. Back rubs among the youth were encouraged, and sexual jokes were common.

Hughey used choir and mission trips to begin physical contact with the girls through full-body massages. This is how the grooming started, several of the women said.

All of the women interviewed said that within the youth group there was an “in crowd,” Hughey’s “inner circle,” that got to stay up late with him during mission and choir trips and sit up front with him in the van he’d drive on the trips.

Fuller said she wanted nothing more than to be part of Hughey’s inner circle, to be “one of the cool kids.” Being invited at night into his van, which he’d sleep in during the trips, was like “reaching the pinnacle.”

The first and last time Fuller accepted an invitation to his van, she was one of his staff during a trip to Mexico in 1989. There were others in the van, but it was dark.

Fuller said she gave Hughey a back massage and then they switched. Hughey started at her feet, worked his way up her legs, and touched her vagina through her shorts and underwear, according to the report. She jumped, then froze, and Hughey moved his hands back to her calves. She thought it must have been an accident, but then Hughey made his way back up her legs, rubbing her buttocks and in between her thighs.

Fuller said she doesn’t remember how it ended or how she got back to her bed.

“The next day, she didn’t want to see him, talk to him or make eye contact with him,” the report reads.

While it pained her to do it because she was “blackballed” from the group, Fuller quit upon their return to Scottsdale.

The physical contact often would start with the girls giving Hughey massages. He was usually wearing only shorts or swim trunks and would instruct them to straddle him and massage his buttocks and thighs, then eventually he’d tell them to lie down so he could give them a massage, according to the report.

During her interviews with Scottsdale police, Jennifer Parrella described hearing about “Les’ famous massages” before she experienced one inside Hughey’s van during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 15.

She said there was another male staffer there as well as a teenage boy and that they were all making fun of her because Hughey had to instruct her on what to do.

When Hughey massaged Parrella, she said, she remembers feeling “he was heavy on top of me” and that he touched the side of her breasts.

Juliete Buckner Pekaar said Hughey massaged her on several occasions during church functions and after babysitting at his home. One of the incidents occurred during a choir trip to California. During the trip, they were staying at a cabin when Hughey gave her a massage.

“He sat on her butt, unlatched her bra, and then started touching the sides of her breasts, and then touched her at the groin area, before actually touching her vagina outside her clothing,” Ford’s report reads.

None of the women reported having sex with Hughey, although one said her memories of that time are too repressed to know for sure whether she did. She also was being molested by her father and said she was “the perfect target for Les.”

Hughey resigned as senior pastor of Highlands, the church he founded, days after The Bee broke stories about Hughey’s behavior at both First Baptist Church and Prescott Bible Church.

 

 

Black Collar Crime: Orthodox Presbyterian John Earnest Shoots Up Jewish Synagogue

john earnest

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.

John Earnest is a committed member of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Escondido, California.  The Calvinistic church is affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) — a Fundamentalist denomination. Earnest’s father in an elder in the Escondido church. On April 27, 2019, John Earnest entered a Jewish synagogue and opened fire, killing one worshiper and wounding several others.

CNN reports:

John T. Earnest, the accused synagogue shooter, may have summed it up best himself.

“If you told me even 6 months ago that I would do this I would have been surprised,” he allegedly wrote in an online manifesto before last weekend’s attack on the Chabad synagogue near San Diego.

On Tuesday, Earnest entered a not guilty plea in court. Wearing glasses and dark blue jail-issued clothes, the 19-year-old was assigned a public defender as he faces one count of murder, a count of arson of a house of worship and three counts of attempted murder.

He will be held without bail while investigators, family and friends continue to piece together Earnest’s baffling, and seemingly sudden, departure from the world he once knew.

How, and when, they wonder, did the piano playing, academic overachiever from a churchgoing family of lifeguards, go so wrong?

“How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us,” Earnest’s family wrote in a statement released this week. They said their son’s “actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold.”

Former classmates also say they were perplexed by the turn of events. The Earnest in court Tuesday is unrecognizable from the high school boy they knew two years ago.

Back then he was known as the guy who was so smart that he didn’t bother to take notes in advanced chemistry and physics, but still aced every exam; so quiet that some teachers were startled when he spoke.

“I walked the same hallways as this guy, read the same textbooks, drove around the same areas, and essentially had the same upbringing,” one student posted on the online forum Reddit, “but he became a murderer?”

….

According to law enforcement officials, Earnest used an “AR-type assault weapon” to shoot the victims. Prosecutors told a judge Tuesday that Earnest donned a tactical vest and helmet during the attack and had extra magazines of ammunition with him. The shooting, they said, was captured on video and abruptly ended when either his gun jammed or he was unable to reload. He fled the scene and called 911 on himself, making statements about the incident that San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan described as “consistent with the charges.”

….

In the online manifesto, Earnest allegedly wrote he was inspired by an attacker who killed scores of people at a New Zealand mosque and Islamic center on March 15. The teen said he conceived of and executed his own assault within a month. The assault on the synagogue was April 27.

The manifesto reflects a long-simmering, extreme hatred of Jews. His expletive-filled rant refers to Jews as degenerative, genocidal, ugly, cursed and corrupt. He blames the Jews for a multitude of what he considers societal problems, from communism to pornography. He added bigoted and racist comments about many other ethnicities, religions and races.

Earnest brags of what he calls his European ancestry — his “magnificent bloodline.” He claims that his violence is condoned by his Christianity. He rails against law enforcement. He lists Adolf Hitler as one of his inspirations.

The teenager’s family said they were disgusted by his actions, writing in their statement, “He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day. To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.”

The Washington Post adds:

Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven-page letter spelling out his core beliefs: that Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God.

Days later, the Rev. Mika Edmondson read those words and was stunned. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching,” said Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small evangelical denomination founded to counter liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities but also cogent Christian theology.

So the pastor read those seven pages, trying to understand. “We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him — he was radicalized into white nationalism from within the very midst of our church,” Edmondson said.

Earnest’s actions on Saturday in Poway — where he allegedly killed one Jewish worshiper and injured a rabbi, a child and another synagogue-goer — have spurred debate among evangelical pastors about the role of a certain stream of Christian theology in shaping the young man’s worldview, which allegedly turned deadly on the last day of the Passover holiday.

Christian leaders across denominations condemned the attack, saying violence against others and white supremacy are completely antithetical to Christian beliefs. “Anti-Semitism and racist hatred which apparently motivated the shooter . . . have no place within our system of doctrine,” the OPC denomination said in a statement.

But while some said Earnest’s background in the church has nothing to do with his alleged crime, and the church shouldn’t have to answer for him, others called for a moment of reckoning.

Some drew comparisons to Muslim communities asked to account for terrorist actions and worried that they could be in the same position when the shooter claims to be a faithful Christian.

“When there’s an act of ‘radical Islamic terror’ — somebody claiming they’re motivated by their Islamic faith — if we’re going to call upon moderates in Muslim communities to condemn those things, we should do the same. I wholeheartedly, full stop, condemn white nationalism,” said Chad Woolf, an evangelical pastor in Fort Myers, Fla., who was one of the first to join in heated debate online about how the attack reflects on evangelicalism. “We should recognize that somebody could grow up in an evangelical church, whose father was a leader, and could somehow conflate the teachings of Christianity and white nationalism. We should be very concerned about that.”

Earnest could face the death penalty, if convicted.

For further information

National Review article

San Diego Tribune article

Terry Mattingly article

 

 

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Artie Sturm Charged With Statutory Rape

pastor artie sturm

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.

Artie Sturm, pastor of DaySpring Baptist Church (no web presence) in Newport, Tennessee, was arrested last week and charged with using his position of trust to rape a church teenager. DaySpring Baptist is affiliated with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement.  Sturm was released after the judge reduced his bail from $150,000 to $50,000.

dayspring baptist church newport