Snark ahead. If you are an easily offended Evangelical, please leave now before you feel a wedgie coming on.
Fundamentalist Nancy Campbell, blogger extraordinaire for the Above Rubies website, asks the question What Goes on in Your Home? Campbell wants to know if people “feel” the presence of God when they come into a Christian’s home:
Do the people who come into your home feel the presence of God? Are your neighbors and those around you aware that your home belongs to God?…
…How will folks know your home is truly God’s home? It will be a house of prayer. Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Sadly, not much prayer happens in Christian homes today, but if our home is called by God’s name it will be filled with prayer. It will be filled with confessing the name of the Lord throughout the day. It will be filled with the riches of His Word. It will be filled with joy, singing, and God-inspired music. It will be filled with the inspiration of a mother who delights to be in her home, nurturing, feeding, and training her children to be God-seekers and God-lovers.
How are people on the earth going to know the name of the Lord? When they see our homes called by the name of the Lord. When they see that He lives in our homes. Everything comes back to the family and the home. We can get involved in all kinds of ministry, but if God doesn’t fill our homes, we miss the boat. It grieves my heart to see many people serving the Lord in different organizations and yet their families are in disarray…
Campbell thinks that a Christian’s home can give off some sort of God vibe, a feeling that resonates with the person entering the home. Evangelicals are taught that they have some sort spidey-sense that allows them to discern whether a person is a Christian. While their interpretation is out of context and does violence to the text, many Evangelicals think Romans 8:16 is a proof text for their Christian spidey-sense:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God
According to Evangelicals like Campbell, a Christian should be able to walk into a home and “sense” that they are in a bought by the blood, filled with the Holy Ghost, followers of J-E-S-U-S home. (please emphasize the word Jesus like Oral Roberts or Robert Tilton would) Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking; if the standard for a Christian home is that it exudes love, joy, peace, and kindness, well…I know of many homes that are like this and none of them are remotely Christian. I also know of uncounted Christian homes where the pretend game is on full display when other Christians are around, but as soon as their fellow Christians walk out the door the home reverts to some sort of Simpsons/Girls Gone Wild/Animal House/One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest home. Anyone can fake it. I guarantee you that Polly and I could, come Sunday, put on our Sunday-go-to meeting clothes, dust off our KJV Bibles, and visit a nearby Evangelical church and everyone would think we are a wonderful Christian family; especially if we have Bethany the love magnet with us. Everyone would “sense” that we are super-duper Christians on fire for Jesus, especially once they hear Polly and I lustily sing harmonies on whatever song the band is playing. And their sense would be dead wrong.
The infallible marks of whether one is part of the Evangelical club is not some sort of seventh sense, can’t say sixth sense since six is the first number in the mark of Obama, 666. Evangelicals recognize one another by the clothes they wear, what bumper stickers are on the back of their car, what euphemisms a person uses in their speech, and how much Jesus Junk® is on display in a person’s car, home, and work place. Ask any former Evangelical, they can spot an Evangelical family or a homeschooling family from a mile away. Polly and I can be shopping at Meijer and we will see a family in the distance and both of us will say, homeschoolers. We will then laugh, remembering that we were, for many years, THAT family.
How do you know which car in the parking lot belongs to an Evangelical? It’s the car with a faded Ronald Reagan bumper sticker, Obama is the Anti Christ sticker, a partially removed George W Bush bumper sticker, a Ted Cruz 2016 sticker, an Abortion Stops a Beating Heart sticker, and a bumper sticker that advertises what church they attend. If you look closely, you will likely see a Bible in the back window, right where it landed when it was chucked there after church last Sunday. If you don’t see it in the back window, move closer to the car, acting like you are trying to steal it, and look down on the floor. You might see a Bible stuffed under the front seat, partially covered by a McDonald’s Big Mac wrapper.
Drive by their house and what will you see? Wind chimes with a small Christian cross as the chime ringer, a brightly colored gnome holding a sign that says Welcome! This is a Christian Home; a Jesus is Lord doormat, and out by the front of the house a sign that says Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, A Christian Lives Here, or Protect Religious Freedom, or some other sign recently purchased from one of the fear-mongering Evangelical parachurch groups.
Once inside their home, what will you see? Everywhere you look you’ll see Jesus kitsch, likely made by child labor in China or some third world country. From Bible verse signs and paintings by Christian alcoholic Thomas Kincade to clock chimes that play Sweet Hour of Prayer and potholders with Christian slogans, Jesus will be on display everywhere you look. In the bookcase you will notice deep intellectual books by Tim LaHaye, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, and Beth Moore and dusty, well worn copies of The Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose Driven Life. (What!! Harry Potter? Starting to wonder what kind of Christian home this is.) Even in the bathroom there will be no escaping Jesus. Try as you might to defecate in peace, Jesus and the trappings of 21st century Christianity will be staring you in the face. J-E-S-U-S is everywhere. (please say Jesus in the voice mentioned above)
Visit them at their office, what will you see? You will likely see a picture of their family sitting on the desk, but the picture will be housed in a frame that says. As For Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord. The calendar on the wall will bear the name of the church they attend or an Evangelical parachurch group they support. Perhaps there will be a Bible or the latest Christian get rich quick book sitting next to the family portrait. The screen saver on their computer will have a picture of Jesus or a Bible verse. Everywhere you look you will see visible proof that the person who works in this cubicle is on Team Jesus.
And here’s the thing, all the things I’ve mentioned in this post that are meant to say to other Evangelicals, Hey, we are on the same team, mean nothing. I suspect the home Josh Duggar grew up in had plenty of Jesus Junk®. I suspect the homes of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, Paula White, David Loveless, and Tullian Tchividjian, to name of few of the Evangelical pastors who have run into sexual “sin”, gave the appearance that they were devoted, spirit filled followers of Jesus. Yet, in real life they were fornicators, adulterers, abusers, and child molesters.
All that the Jesus Junk® tells you is that family has enough disposable income to invest in the trappings of Evangelicalism. The clothing and the outward appearance of a person tells you nothing about the what kind of person they really are. Anyone can play the Evangelical game. Give me a few days and I can take a Muslim family and turn them into Bob and Marsha Evangelical. The Evangelical shtick is easy to reproduce, so much so that anyone can do it. I regularly correspond with closeted atheists who attend an Evangelical church every Sunday with their believing spouse. Everyone thinks the atheist is a Jesus-loving, praise and worship singing Baptist. I also correspond with several closeted atheist pastors. Everything about their life, including their demeanor, says to others, I am a follower of Jesus, Yet, if an Evangelical knew they were an atheist they would say the person is a follower of Satan.
Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t know what a person is made of. While we can never know all there is to know about a person, we can, over time, observe their life, and come to a conclusion about the kind of person they are. Here’s what Evangelicals need to understand. Non-Christians are not interested in or wowed by the consumer culture on display in your home, car, or workplace. They aren’t interested in what takes place on Sunday Morning at the church you call home. They are not interested in your Ken and Barbie pastor. What does interest them is the words you speak and your behavior, not only in public, but also when no one is looking. How do you treat your spouse, children, and grandchildren? How do you act towards minorities, the weak, the defenseless, and the marginalized? How do you treat those who are not your flavor of Christianity or vote differently than you do? How do you respond to those who have no interest in your God and have told you please don’t? What do your non-Christian coworkers say about you?
These days, when I see an Evangelical whose life is a walking billboard for the Christian Ghetto, I immediately doubt they are what they say they are. They are trying too hard to be viewed as a Christian. They are like the car dealer who tells you he is the most honest dealer in town or the husband who tells everyone around him how faithful he is to his wife. I don’t trust those who have to publicize their virtuous character. Just live it and everyone will notice.
One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that a fifteen-year-old teen boy touching the genitals of five little girls is criminal. One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that we should do all we can to protect children from those who will use them for sexual gratification. One would think that decent, thoughtful people would agree that covering up and not prosecuting sexual abuse is not in the best interest of the victims or society.
One would think…and you’d be wrong. I have been astounded by Evangelical excuses, justifications, explanations, and dismissals of Josh Duggar’s criminal sexual assault of five girls. Consider for a moment the universal condemnation of Congressman Dennis Hastert over his decades- old sexual abuse of a student of his. According to Hastert’s indictment, he paid a male student $1.7 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” him. Hastert used money to cover up his criminal behavior just as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar used their influence to cover up their son’s crimes. Why is one universally condemned and the other explained away as a teenager playing doctor, a “youthful mistake,” or “that’s what boys do”?
Let me illustrates this with three Facebook comments made by Fundamentalist Christian, Quiverfull defender, Duggar and Bill Gothard loving Rick Boyer:
Let me cut through all Boyer’s super spiritual, holier-than-thou, braggadocious, religious bullshit. He is using the “we are all sinners” argument to defend, excuse, justify, and explain a 15-year-old boy putting his hands on little girls vaginas and a grown man who manipulated and sexually molested girls and young women.
It seems that any time a darling of Evangelicalism finds himself in a compromising or criminal position, the first excuse trotted out by his defenders is “we are all sinners.” While I don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin, for the sake of this post, I am going to accept as valid the notion of sin. I will then, in the rest of this post, gut the “we are all sinners” argument.
First, we may all be sinners but most of us don’t sexually molest children or groom and assault girls and young women. Such behaviors are deviant and vile and deserve punishment. We the people, through our elected officials, have enacted laws that protect children and vulnerable adults from predators like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard. Thanks to the statute of limitations and a big help from law enforcement, neither of them will be prosecuted. The fact that they are not being prosecuted doesn’t mean that they are not guilty. Both admitted their behavior, though their admissions leave a lot to be desired. One would think that this would be enough for people like Rick Boyer, but it isn’t.
Imagine if Richard Dawkins, who was abused as a child, was accused of molesting five little girls. Why the Evangelical outrage would be swift and earsplitting. Evangelicals would demand his prosecution and would write voluminous blog articles about Dawkins’s crimes against children being proof that there is no morality without God. And here’s the thing: atheists such as myself would demand Dawkins be prosecuted. Because the issue is CHILD ABUSE and not obtuse, never-ending arguments about sin, God, and morality. We have laws, and we expect people to obey them. Both Duggar and Gothard broke the law. They got by with their crimes because people covered up their behavior. It wasn’t until a victim made her story public or an investigative reporter sussed out the facts, that the public learned about their crimes. And, as a person who thinks the rule of law is important, and that protecting children is a key part of a just society, I expect people like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard to be prosecuted for their criminal behavior.
Second, Rick Boyer blames all the outrage on pagans and gullible Christians. This is blame-shifting extraordinaire, a game played by those who want to deflect criticism or judgment. Anyone who has raised children has seen this game played. Johnny gets caught throwing food at Sally and when his Mom confronts him he says, but Rudy, Johnny’s little brother, was throwing food too. Mom rightly replies, but I am talking to you, Johnny, about what you did, not what Rudy did. The wise parent does not let her children blame- shift. Those who do end up having children like Rick Boyer.
I thought Evangelicals were the personal-responsibility wing of Christianity. Since their politics are overwhelmingly right-wing, they have demanded Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton accept responsibility for what was done on their watch. BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI, is the nightly cry of Faux News, and uncounted Evangelicals want President Obama impeached and Hillary Clinton criminally prosecuted. Yet, when it comes to Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, many Evangelicals are strangely quiet about “personal responsibility.” Why is this? Why has this been the case my entire life? Big name Evangelical gets in trouble and his defenders flock to internet and protect their boy. No matter the crime, they are quick to justify and forgive. I wonder if they would be so understanding or forgiving if it were their daughter or granddaughter who was sexually molested by Josh Duggar or Bill Gothard? Something tells me that they would be calling for the perpetrator’s head to be cut off as swiftly as Geoffrey cut off Ned Stark’s head in Game of Thrones.
Third, it seems that no matter what an Evangelical superstar does, the God of forgiveness and the blood of Jesus provide a get-out-of-jail-free card. While Evangelicals will feign concern for the victims, their real concern is for the perpetrator. He’s a star and is so important to God and his work here on earth that anything and everything he does must be forgiven. No matter the crime, the sin slate must be wiped clean. After all, King David, a man who committed adultery, was a polygamist, and had a man murdered so he could have his wife, is called in the Bible, a man after God’s own heart. If King David can have his slate wiped clean and be best buds with God again, surely the same can happen for Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard.
Sadly, Evangelical beliefs about sin, atonement, and forgiveness turn Evangelicals into lobotomized lemmings unable to see things as they are. What we have with Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard are clear cases of sexual abuse and abuse of power. Every non-lobotomized person knows this. The facts aren’t in dispute, yet many Evangelicals blithely preach up the love, grace, and forgiveness of God as an excuse for heinous behavior that is rightly condemned by Christian and atheist alike. It’s only Evangelicals who are defending these men. Why is this?
Most Evangelicals believe that the forgiveness of ANY sin is but a prayer away. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Let me use an extreme example to explain Evangelical thinking about sin and forgiveness. There are eight people in the Roberts family. The Roberts’ are a Christian family, noted for their love and devotion to Jesus. Well, except for Becky. Becky is sixteen and she has a boyfriend who is not a Christian. Her parents demand that she break up with Clint and never see him again. They remind her that the Bible says that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers and God says premarital sex is a sin. Becky continues to see Clint, often sneaking out of the house late at night, meeting Clint at their “special” place. Over time, Becky becomes so angry at her parents and their constant Bible- quoting and judgmental attacks on Clint that she decides to kill her family, all seven of them. Her boyfriend, enthralled with Becky and the sex they shared, says he would be willing to help her kill her mother, father, and six siblings. And one night, that is exactly what they did.
According to people like Bill Boyer and other grace and forgiveness Evangelicals, forgiveness for Becky is only a prayer away. She was a love struck teenager, kinda like Josh Duggar, and even though she did horrible things, one simple, heartfelt prayer will wipe away the blood of her dead family. Isn’t God awesome?
Oh Bruce, such a fantastical story, one that would never happen in real life. Really? Then you have never heard of 16-year-old Evangelical teenager Erin Caffey who is serving two life sentences plus twenty-five years for the slaughter of her mother and two brothers and the attempted murder of her father in 2008. You can read about the case here. Let me ask readers, would you or could forgive your daughter for slaughtering your entire family? Yet, according to Evangelical belief, forgiveness is not only just a whispered prayer away, it is demanded by God regardless of the circumstance.
Erin Caffey’s father Terry, being the good Christian that he is, forgave his daughter and the boyfriend and two friends that murdered his two children and wife. Here’s what Caffey had to say:
“I planned my own suicide. I decided that when I got well enough to travel, I was going back to my property, and I was going to end it. So when that day came, I went back there and stood on the ashes and began to cry to God. I said, ‘God, I don’t understand why you took my family. Why did you do this? I just don’t understand.’
“No sooner than I said that, I looked down and saw this scrap piece of paper from a book. It was burned around the edges. I picked it up, and it read, ‘I couldn’t understand why you would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. I may never totally understand that part of it, but I do know that you are sovereign. You are in control.’ When I read those words, I was like, ‘Wow.’ It brought me to my knees.”
“People ask me, ‘How could you forgive your daughter and how could you forgive those who murdered your family?’ I am not trying to justify anything. This is my daughter.”
Sadly, because of Evangelical indoctrination, Terry Caffey has lost the ability to feel anger and hate. As a father, I understand the love a father has for his children, but every child can cross a line where no love and forgiveness remains for him or her. Evangelicals have had drilled into their heads the idea that they must love unconditionally and forgive any and all who transgress against them. Besides, some day, in the sweet by and by, Terry will be reunited with his murdered children and wife. And Erin will be there too, maybe with her fellow murderers who found Jesus while in prison. One big happy murdered family reunion. Until their reunion in God’s Big House, Terry Caffey travels America telling his story. Caffey has a ministry called A Cross America Ministries: Enabling Today’s Youth to be Tomorrow’s Christian Leaders. He has written a book, been the subject of a People Magazine feature, been on the Dr. Phil Show, and has a new wife and kids.
I wonder, if there were no heaven, would Terry Coffey be so forgiving? Would Evangelicals be so willing to forgive and forget the crimes of Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, and uncounted other Evangelical superstar abusers and perverts, if there were no divine payoff in heaven? Evangelicals are taught that forgiveness is mandatory. As God has forgiven them, so are they to forgive others. Now, in real life, the forgive- everyone requirement is often ignored. As those of us who were in the Evangelical church for many years know, some of the most mean, nasty, vile, unforgiving people can be found at First Baptist Church on Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. And some of them are standing at the pulpit.
Fourth, man this post is getting way too long, but let me take some time to point out the hypocrisy of Evangelicals like Rick Boyer. If two consenting adult men have sex, Evangelicals are outraged. If two consenting adult lesbians get married, Evangelicals are outraged. From gay sex to non-married hetero-sex to teenage blow jobs, Evangelicals are outraged. Quoting a plethora of Bible verses that many of them ignore in secret, and calling on God to judge America, but just don’t judge them, they demand Biblical justice be meted out to these unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines. What happened to grace and forgiveness? Well Bruce, Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard confessed their sins, God forgives them, and they promised to never, ever, one time, I mean never, never ONE time, touch a little girl or young woman again. Those queers, adulterers, and fornicators refuse to stop their sin, so there is NO forgiveness for them!
Way too many Evangelicals naïvely believe that people like Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, Jack Schaap, Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar, David Hyles, Jimmy Swaggart, John Paulk, Jack Hyles, Paul Crouch, Douglas Goodman, Ted Haggard, Earl Paulk, Paul Barnes, Lonny Latham, Michael Reid, Todd Bentley, Tony Alamo, Eddie Long, Gilbert Deya, Coy Privette, Joe Barron, George Rekers, David Loveless, Isaac Hunter, Sam Hinn, Paula White and uncounted other Evangelical superstars, have stopped doing what got them in trouble. Why should they stop screwing church members, abusing children, and acting in ways most respectable people would consider decadent? Just pray, be contrite, promise never to do it again, wink, wink, and all is well.
What these modern-day Elmer Gantrys have learned is that Evangelicals are gullible, always ready to love, forgive, and forget. Perhaps some of them have learned their lesson and stayed on the straight and narrow, but my gut and six decades of exposure to Evangelicalism tells me that what has really has happened is that they have learned to be more careful. I am of the opinion that all the God, praying, and forgiving in the world won’t fix a child molester. Pedophilia, hebephilia, and ephebophilia aren’t curable. Those who desire and molest children will continue to do so until they are stopped. Anyone who thinks Josh Duggar’s or Bill Gothard’s behaviors are one- time events, never to be repeated, is either ignorant or fell on his head when he was a kid. This is why I support the incarceration of child molesters. Children will never be safe as long as we treat child molesters as sinners that can be fixed by God, prayer, and forgiveness.
Is Josh Duggar a pedophile? I don’t know. I do know he molested five girls and this is enough for me to say that he should never be allowed near children. Mark my word, in a few years Josh Duggar will write a book and start a ministry that will extol the wondrous grace of God; how that God forgave and delivered Duggar from his sins. And many Evangelicals will embrace him as the father did the prodigal son. All will be forgiven and no one will consider whether Josh Duggar might be a pedophile who should never, ever be allowed to be near children again.
In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject. It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people: wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people…
Let me digress for a moment and lay some groundwork for what I will say next. Evangelicals believe:
The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth. If they don’t they are not Evangelical.
That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.
As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, when we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.
God has given them a man or a woman (most often a man) to teach and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.
How do pastors gain such power over people?
People want to believe that when they go to church they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.
This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for churches to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe the facts. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana (at one time the largest church in America),was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement was divided into two groups of people; those that stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.
The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church. He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year prison sentence.
Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities. He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty hours out of every twenty four hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.
In the Evangelical church, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question…well that’s never happened.
Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about evangelicals, but many of they take seriously the teachings of the Bible. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.
Church members are taught toNOT trust their own reasoning. They are taught to NOT trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters.. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.
Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.
Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people. I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want to help people and to teach people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.
Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total number of churches. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at the mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’ church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.
No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board. The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss a pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.
As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.
I am sure you have heard the line absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many churches. Over time, the pastor becomes a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?
The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors and political personalities, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.” “What a powerful man of God you are!”
The pastor and the church are complicit in providing a fertile ground for abuse to occur. While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it failed to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving the same way as church members and non-Christians.
Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible. Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes it is bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes it really is good people doing bad things.
Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?
First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AMSOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher)
Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to the pastor about the troubles they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk.” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and mental/emotional stress.
This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalist?)
As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.
Most church members read the bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and they are encouraged to only send their kids to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.
Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.
When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.
Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blinds them from seeing themselves as they really are. As this point, the pastor lacks self-awareness and is extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.
Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.
Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Uncounted pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.
Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the person. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.
Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed provocatively. Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats. She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs she definitely had my attention. It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.
In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.
A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But, we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an Independent Baptist church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, explains most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastor. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control–and I readily admit there are some kids that need help beyond what parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home, such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (See Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)
Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do, The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students. Rarely, does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the student and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the student is on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Pastor Bob shows Church Member Felicia How Much Jesus Loves Her
In October 2013, Doug Phillips, president of the now defunct Vision Forum Ministries confessed to church leaders that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Defenders of Phillips took to their blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook to do damage control on the behalf of Phillips and the patriarchal movement. One such defender is Independent Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham, a man who is widely viewed as the African-American version of Doug Phillips.
Dennis, You ask, “How many times do we see this in Christian leadership?” The answer may surprise you, but it is actually quite rare. There are hundreds of thousands of churches in America. We hear of these types of things on a national basis when they happen to high profile people. However, considering the number of people in Christian leadership, the numbers are quite small. As to your other point, most men who go through something like this never recover. Of course, there are exceptions. Moreover, there are some circles wherein things like this, and much worse, are merely swept under the rug. However, in circles where leadership is taken seriously, it is very difficult for a man to come back from things like this. People have long memories, and tend to be rather unforgiving. (emphasis mine)
Baucham repeats the oft-told lie that clergy sexual misconduct is quite rare. I have heard this line more times than I can count. It is an attempt to prop up the notion that clergy are more moral and ethical than most people; that they are pillars of virtue and morality. Such claims are patently false.
Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
So much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.
Numerous studies have been conducted concerning sexual infidelity among married people. The percentage varies widely, but it is safe to say that between ten and twenty percent of married people have been sexually unfaithful to their spouse. The percentage is higher for men than it is women.
We know that men of the cloth are not morally or ethically superior. In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 600,000 clergy. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion and Research, this total includes active clergy and “retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries.” This number does not include clergy who are affiliated with independent churches. If between ten and twenty percent of married people commit adultery, and clergy are no different morally from non-clergy, then this means that between 60,000 and 120,000 clergy have committed adultery. Again, so much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.
Keep in mind, this is only the number of CONSENSUAL sexual relationships. Each month, the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter publishes reports of clergy misconduct on their Black Collar Crime Blotter page. In the October 2013 newsletter, there were over sixty reports of clergy being accused, arrested, charged, convicted, sued or imprisoned for criminal acts, many of which are sexual in nature. As we know from cases like Bill Wininger, Bob Gray, and David Hyles, predator clergy can prey on children, teens, and women for decades before they are caught.
Voddie Baucham’s suggestion that there is not a problem with clergy infidelity is a denial of the facts on the matter. As with the Catholic church, Protestant and Evangelical churches have their own their own sex scandals. Evangelicals love to point to the Catholic church’s sex scandals, all the while ignoring their own increasing problems with sexual infidelity, sexual abuse, and predator clergy.
Most clergy are faithful to their spouses and most of them are not sexual abusers or predators. That said, there are tens of thousands of clergy who can’t keep their pants zipped up and there are thousands of pastors who use their position of authority to abuse and prey on those who trust them.
The Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian church has many gods. While they will profess to worship the true and living God, the God of the Bible, often their true object of worship is human and not divine. Most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches have a congregational form of church government. Some churches have adopted an elder rule form of government. Regardless of what form of government a church adopts, there can be no doubt about who really runs the church. The CEO, the boss man, the head honcho is the pastor, also known as the senior pastor, executive pastor, and prophet, priest and king.
The pastor is the hub upon which the wheel of the church turns. He (there are very few she’s) is the man who runs the show. He sets the course for the church. He is a modern-day Moses leading the church to the Promised Land. He is the visionary with a vision that the church is expected to follow. He is, after all, the man of God. He is divinely called by God, a call that can not be explained with human words. He is the man of God, given a message by God, to speak to the people of God.
He is a man not to be trifled with. He has been anointed by God. He has been set apart by God to do the most important work in the world. His calling is higher than even the President of the United States. The congregation is reminded that the Bible says “touch not mine anointed.” They are also told the story about the Elisha, the mocking boys, and the bears:
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. 2 Kings 2:23, 24
You have been warned, says God’s man. Say anything negative about the pastor and you run the risk of bears eating you; or cancer, heart attack, accident, or death.
The pastor is the Lone Ranger’s Tonto. He is the Green Hornet’s Bruce. He is Batman’s Robin. God and the pastor are joined at the hip. After all, the pastor has a divine calling; a calling that can’t be explained. In fact, the only way anyone knows for sure a pastor is God-called is because he says he is.
Most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches are independent. Even those who belong to denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention are independent. Each church is a local, autonomous entity, accountable to no one but themselves. The Southern Baptist Convention has a HUGE sex abuse problem, yet little is done by the Convention because each church governs itself. The convention has no power over churches or pastors, or so they conveniently claim.
Since most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches are independent, there are few standards or requirements for starting a church. Anyone can start a church. Anyone can claim to be a pastor. Anyone, Anyone, Anyone. In most states, there are no legal requirements for starting a church. The Federal government, by default, treats churches as exempt from taxation. By default, they receive most of the benefits of 501c3 status without actually applying for it. Starting a church is a con artist’s dream. Just tune into a Christian TV channel for proof of this. There are no educational requirements; no ordination requirements. Anyone can become a pastor. It really is that easy. (Please see What is a Church According to the IRS)
In charismatic/pentecostal circles, some pastors have added titles to their name. Not content to be called pastor, they demand that they be called bishop or apostle. Several apostles have set up shop right here in the county I live in . Once again, a man is an apostle or bishop because he says he is. God has imparted to the man a special anointing, a special dose of Holy G-h-o-s-t power that raises the man to a higher level in the church. Or so he says.
Now let me try to tie all this together. I am writing under the anointing right now, so it is hard to put this all together for you common folks. But I will try.
We have independent churches with independent pastors without any checks or balances. A man can start a church whenever and wherever. The church becomes his church, the religious equivalent of a corporation. The pastor is considered divinely called by God because he says he is. How dare anyone question GOD! This type of religion flourishes in America. We are a people who applaud the entrepreneurial spirit. Starting a church is akin to starting a business. We worship personalities: entertainers, sports figures, preachers, playmate of the month, etal. We are a lazy people, content to let others think for us.
So what do we have? Churches operated by entrepreneurial pastors. These churches are often filled with people who love to worship personalities, and in this case the personality is the pastor. Content to let the pastor think for them, run the show, and speak to them on God’s behalf, many Christians have surrendered their autonomy for a seat at the feet of the most awesome pastor in town.
The pastor becomes god. He is given so much control and power that it is almost impossible to unseat the god when the church finds out the pastor has feet of clay. I said almost… Daily news reports of pastors committing crimes, seducing church members, sexually abusing children, and stealing money are too common to be just aberrations. I could write for hours about pastors I know who have a scandalous past, yet they are still pastors. They just moved down the road and started a new church or they stood their ground and ran off their accusers.
In the 1980’s Jack Hyles, at the time pastor of the largest church in the United States, was accused of sexual improprieties with a married woman in his church. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Yet, he successfully withstood his accusers, and when he died two decades later he was still pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. The church that Jack built lost thousands of members, but he remained god until he went the way of all human gods.
Jack Hyles’ son David was also accused of sexual improprieties. He left the church and moved on to another church in Texas, a church his father previously pastored, Not one word of his past peccadilloes was shared with the new church. David Hyles continued his sexual exploits and conquests. He had sex with women in the church and was only exposed after compromising photos were accidentally found by someone in the church.
After Jack Hyles died, his son-in-law, Jack Schaap became the Pastor CEO of Hyles Industries. Like his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Schaap had a problem with fidelity. Schaap was accused of having sex with a church teenager. He was later convicted and is now serving a twelve-year sentence in a federal penitentiary.
Aberration? Hardly. In many churches, the pastor has incredible power. They become gods. The pastor does the preaching, does the counseling, and is the chairman of the board. Everything goes through him. In some churches, the pastor even checks the tithing records to see who is giving and how much they are giving. One pastor was told by the Church treasurer that the many of the Christian school teachers were not tithing. The next Sunday he berated the teachers and told them that he was going to have their tithe taken out as a payroll deduction if they didn’t start tithing. Never mind the fact the church paid the teachers poverty wages, and if they tithed they would be well BELOW the poverty line.
One pastor decided one Sunday to preach against the evils of attending the Prom. When it came time to preach, he instructed the ushers to lock the doors so no one could leave. Everyone was going to hear what he had to say. This same pastor had the deacons secretly follow church members to see what they were up to. Young couples considering having children were encouraged (required?) to counsel with the pastor first before engaging in procreation.
One pastor had a portrait of he and his wife hung over the water fountain in the church foyer. He joked “that way every time someone gets a drink they have to bow to me.”Funny? Not when you consider the horrific mental and emotional damage caused by these megalomaniacs.
Children who grow up in Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches are conditioned to accept that the pastor is the final authority. Even in matters of faith, the Bible is not the final authority, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible is. The church believes whatever the pastor says the church believes. If he started the church, he likely wrote the church’s doctrinal statement, constitution, and bylaws. He determines what is truth and what is error. Remember he is God called; God speaks through him.
It should come as no surprise then that some men aspire to be pastors for reasons other than serving others. It’s the perfect job. No one to answer to but God, and he seems to never have anything to say. Conscientious, faithful men do a wonderful work and serve the church, however, far too many men are corrupted by the power they are given. Some men have ulterior motives and the pastorate becomes a safe place to hide. I know of men who had irregularities in their past and the pastorate allowed them to keep from being held accountable for their past deeds.
One pastor had no social security number. He had not filed an income tax return in years. His church paid him in cash. When the IRS changed reporting requirements, requiring evangelists and special speakers to be given 1099’s if paid over a certain amount, some churches began giving evangelists and special speakers (pastors) cash offerings. Many a pastor has received a brown-bag offering.
Pastors have incredible, and quite legal, ways to avoid income tax. Some incorporate as a charity or a ministry. The ministry has a “board” that is made up of the pastor’s family or friends By incorporating they avail themselves to the tax benefits that corporations receive. Pastors buy cars, trucks, travel trailers, and houses and put them in the church’s name. They receive a tax-free housing allowance. Many pastors have little taxable income. even though they live quite comfortably, It is a great gig if you can get it.
One day, the inevitable happens.The pastor, the god, falls from his exalted throne. Over time, people become disillusioned with the pastor. They take issue with his preaching, his vision, his wife, his children, his theology, his suit, his hairstyle, his entertainments, etc. People tire of pastors just like they do the other gods they worship. Perhaps he commits a grievous sin. He has an affair,steals money from the church, or embraces a teaching that the power brokers in the church consider heresy; heresy being anything they disagree with.
All of a sudden, the church remembers that IT has power. They remember they can take down their god and vote him out of the church. And so they do… The god may fight to keep his power, to keep his throne, but most often he negotiates a settlement package, the conditions of surrender, and moves on to another church. The church promises to never let another pastor have the power that he had.
But then a new god comes to the church. A new vision, a new inside track with God. He is a wonderful preacher. His wife and kids are adorable. He is given the reins of the church and once again the pastor is restored to his throne. And so it goes…
In no way do I wish to disparage good men and women who conscientiously serve their churches; people who sacrifice and work selflessly day in day out. But they, most of all, should know that what I write is true. The American Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian church is overrun with power-hungry, ambitious men who have an eye on their own kingdom and not God’s. They are the god of the church, not the God they preach about. Sadly it seems, in many cases, this is exactly what the church wants.
While I no longer believe in the Christian God, I did spend 50 years in the church. For many of those years, I was on the inside, knowing its secrets, knowing who did what and where the bodies are buried. I know whereof I speak. I know what I have seen and what I have done myself in the name of God. I know too much and I have seen too much for it to be anecdotal or coincidental.
I am not sure I have any answers. We can’t look to the structured denominational churches for answers. They too have their power-hungry gods. They too have scandals, as is clear for all to see with the scandal ridden Catholic church. It is hard not to at least question whether the Christian church is hopelessly corrupt. Regardless of the good men and women who serve selflessly, perhaps the church is irreparably broken.
Some people, realizing this, start new movements,but, over time, they most often become just like that what they opposed and despised. They organize, men gain power, and over time there are new gods to worship. Perhaps the best we can hope for is individuals who take the ethical and moral teachings of Christ seriously and live accordingly. They steer clear of organized religion. They seek no place of power or authority. They seek only to love God and love their neighbor.
I am convinced that Jesus, real or not, has been lost in the mire and corruption of the modern Christian church. I have little confidence that he can be found. He has been swallowed by a Leviathan called Christianity, and if Jesus appeared today he would most likely be nailed to a cross by those who say they worship him.
A couple of years ago, pastor Jack Schaap was fired over a sexual relationship he had with a sixteen year old teenager. The girl was in the church’s Christian school and Schaap was “counseling” her. Schaap was later arrested and convicted and is now serving a 12 year sentence in a federal penitentiary. (you can read the texts, letters, and cards Schaap sent to this girl here)
Several decades ago, Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, was accused of having an affair with his secretary. The evidence for his affair was overwhelming, but the church rejected the evidence and Hyles remained the church’s pastor until his death.
Both men pastored First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Hammond, Indiana. The church was an American Baptist church until Jack Hyles pulled it out the convention. At one time, the church was the largest church in the world.
Jack Hyles, 1973
Sexual and financial scandals are quite common in the IFB church movement. Pastors have sexual affairs, molest children, surf porn sites, cavort with prostitutes, lie, cheat, and steal. They are, in every way, just like the rest of the human race. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, church bus workers, Christian school workers, and every-day church members are also just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. No matter how much they might protest, they know if the curtain was pulled back, it would expose for all to see that IFB pastors, leaders, and members are no different from atheists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Methodists, or Southern Baptists.
They are human beings, capable of doing good or bad things. They are capable of being good, decent, kind, loving people and they are also capable of being evil, unkind, indecent, and unloving. Like all of us, they have the power to choose what kind of person they want to be. No matter what their theology tells them about the depraved, sinful condition of the natural, unregenerate, unsaved human heart, they KNOW they have the power to be whatever kind of person they want to be. They KNOW that there are countless atheists, deists, non-IFB Christians, and Catholics who are good, decent, kind, loving people, all without believing the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God or believing in the IFB God at all.
The IFB religion, and it IS a sectarian religion no matter how much they protest that it is not, believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. IFB churches and pastors are literalists. Most of them are young earth creationists who believe the universe is 6,019 year old. Most of them believe in the pretribulational, premillennial second coming of Jesus Christ. They believe that the rapture, the great catching away of every Christian, could happen at any moment. After the rapture comes the Great Tribulation, a seven year period when God pours out his wrath on unbelievers. According to most IFB adherents, after the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return once again to earth, establish his millennial reign, fight a final battle with Satan, judge everyone, and destroy and make a new heaven and earth.
They also believe the miracles in the Bible actually happened and that everything in the Bible is meant to be taken literally unless it is very clear that it is not meant to be taken literally. They have specific, albeit contradictory, hermeneutics for determining this. As Bible literalists, they believe Christians are to live sanctified (set apart for God’s service), godly, holy lives. To ensure this, they have long lists of things they consider sins, sins that no Jesus loving, sin hating, devil chasing, IFB Christian would ever commit.
Steven Anderson pastors Faithful Word Baptist Church, an IFB church in Tempe, Arizona. He believes it is a sin for a man to sit down to pee and for a woman to see a male gynecologist
Every IFB church and pastor has their own l-o-n-g list of things they consider a sin. Besides the “big” sins like adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, IFB churches have rules (standards) about things that many non-IFB Christians might not consider a sin. Things like:
Listening to secular music or Contemporary Christian music
Going to the movies
Gambling, playing cards
Men and women swimming together
Cursing or using bywords
Women wearing pants or shorts
Women wearing anything that reveals their “shape”
Long hair on men, short hair on women
Over the years, I heard IFB pastors, including myself, say the following things were a sin:
Wearing wire rim glasses
Having a beard
Having a mustache
Wearing any clothing with “worldly” advertising
Going to stock car races
Sending your children to a public school
Using any Bible but a King James Bible
Not having a Sunday evening or midweek service
Not having an altar call
Using recorded (canned) music
Marrying a non-IFB Christian
Going to a non-IFB college
Having non-IFB friends
Working on Sunday
Letting your children play sports on prayer meeting night or Sunday
Not giving at least 10% of your money to the church, along with extra offerings for revivals and missions
Eating in restaurants that serve alcohol
Allowing women to pray while men are present or teach anyone other than women or children
I am sure, by now, you are trying to figure where the heaven I am going with this post. Let me tie it all together.
The IFB church movement prides itself on being “better” than other Christian sects and the “world”. Their literalist belief system, along with their list of sinful behaviors, are the standard every IFB church member is expected to live by. For all their talk about salvation by faith and grace, their religion is all about works, as is every religion, to some degree or the other. They will tell you that a person does not have to do any works in order to be saved, but ask them if a person who refuses to live by the above standards is a Christian and they will likely say, I doubt it.
In the IFB world, “true” Christianity is determined by how well a person adheres to the church’s/pastor’s interpretation of the Bible and whatever list of “standards” they have. Some allowance is given for difference of opinion, but not much. Church members who don’t conform are labeled as worldly, carnal, weak, fleshly, or backslidden.
The moral and ethical standard is high, way too high. Remember what I said earlier about IFB pastors, leaders, and church members being just like the rest of us? Well, this poses a real problem for them. They take the high moral ground, believing they are superior to everyone else, including other Christians. They consider themselves pillars of moral virtue. But, they are not, and when pastors, leaders, and church members get in trouble, like in the case of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles, they have a real dilemma on their hands. Their moral and ethical failures expose the bankruptcy of their claim of superiority. They show that the fundamentalist emperor has no clothes.
The right thing to do would be to admit their failures, confess their “sins,” and come down from Mount “I am Holier than Thou.” Of course doing this would mean that they are just like the rest of us and that ain’t gonna happen.
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men
The latest major IFB scandal, courtesy of Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond, provides for us an excellent example of HOW IFB churches handle having their “humanness” exposed.
First, they deny. When the Schaap scandal first became public, IFB commenters on blogs, news sites, discussion forums, Facebook, and Twitter were quick to deny that Schaap had done anything wrong. The accusations were lies and they were certain that Schaap was completely innocent.
Second, they marginalize. When they could no longer deny the reality of the Schaap scandal, they turned to letting everyone know that Schaap was a “sinner” just like everyone else and, while his “fall” was regrettable, people should not judge the IFB church movement or First Baptist Church negatively. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel. Actually, it can.
Third, attack the critics. Instead of owning the scandal, many IFB defenders decided to attack those who reported the scandal or wrote negative things about Schaap, Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, and the IFB.
Across the blogosphere, in discussion forums, in blog comments, and emails, the defenders of the IFB attempted to ameliorate the scandal by attacking people like me. They couldn’t dismiss my impeccable IFB credentials so they attacked me personally or they dismissed me out of hand because I am an atheist. Why should anyone listen to what Bruce Gerencser has to say, they write. He’s a God-hater. He’s bitter, angry, and has an axe to grind. Besides, he never was a “real” Christian. They try to discredit the messenger so they won’t have to deal with his/her message. The goal is direct attention away from the facts.
Fourth, if all else fails, attack the victim. Let’s not forget that there is a victim in the Jack Schaap scandal. Schaap’s “sin” was not a victimless one. He had sexual relations with a minor in his church.
Jack Schaap is a 56-year-old man. He is almost my age. The victim was almost young enough to be his granddaughter. As a grown, mature man, he should be in control of his sexual desire. Surely he KNEW it was morally and ethically wrong to have sex with this girl. Schaap had the power to control the relationship he had with this girl. He was the grownup, he was the “man of God,” he was a married man with children, he was the one with everything to lose
If he had overt sexual desire, a need to get laid, he could have sought out the help of a professional, a prostitute. I am sure there are plenty of adult establishments in the Chicago area that Schaap could have went to in order to get his sexual need met. More than a few IFB pastors have availed themselves to the services of a prostitute. But, Schaap did none of these things and now everyone knows
In the sleaziest of attempts to justify Jack Schaap’s behavior, they attacked the girl. One commenter on this blog suggested the girl was a slut, that she seduced Schaap. She wrote:
So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.
It doesn’t matter how hot she was or whether or not she flaunted herself before him.
He is a grown, mature man, a few years younger than me. By now, he should have learned how to deal with temptation and keep his penis in his pants.
It is reported that he was counseling this girl. If this is true, then he abused his power and authority and, here in Ohio, could be held criminally liable.
Whatever the girl’s faults, she is not the problem in this story.
You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!
And, I responded:
You mean stealing pathetic, poor Christian men who have been taught they are helpless creatures unable to withstand sexual temptation? How about teaching them to be accountable for their own sexual behavior? They have a choice, do they not? Or are they so weak that the slightest temptation turns them into sexed crazed maniacs who are unable to control their lust?
The only right answer to the Jack Schaap scandal, the Jack Hyles scandal, or any other church scandals, is IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE disclosure. Instead of trying to cover the matter up or trying to make it disappear, churches should show they take these kinds of things seriously. What First Baptist Church in Hammond needed was a Penn State moment. They needed to come to terms with fifty years of cover-ups and denials. The deacons and church membership needed to own their own culpability in Schaap scandal. They are they ones who did nothing about Jack Hyles and his serial-adulterer son David. They are the ones who allowed an abusive, controlling, cultic environment to develop in the church. They are the ones who, like lemmings, sat and listened to Schaap’s preaching, shouting Amen. They are the ones who practiced the Jack Hyles Rule, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
David Gibbs, Christian Law Association
Instead of having a Penn State moment, First Baptist Church called in attorney David Gibbs, the Ray Donovan fixer of the IFB scandals. Gibbs has fixed and sanitized countless IFB sex scandals. Instead of encouraging churches to come clean, Gibbs helps them minimize fallout and loss. The goal is not restitution or helping the victims. Instead, it is all about protecting the church’s testimony.
The Christian Law Association exists to preserve Christian liberty for your children and grandchildren.
CLA received in excess of 100,000 phone calls annually, not counting the thousands of pieces of correspondence from those who are in some way facing legal difficulties for doing what the Bible commands. These cases involve Christians arrested for witnessing to others in public, public school students being told they do not have the right to read their Bibles at school, churches being excluded from communities, Christians being fired for sharing their faith at work, and thousands of other shocking assaults on our precious religious freedoms. CLA provides free legal services based in part on the generosity of God’s people.
Missing from this description is helping pastors and churches manage scandal and marginalize victims. Missing is their motto: Protect the Church’s Reputation at All Costs! Minimize Financial Payouts so the Church can Continue to Win Souls for Jesus.
This will not be the last scandal in the IFB church movement. Their theology and ecclesiology makes it certain that scandals will continue to happen. IFB pastors, leaders, and members are human. That they will, despite their theology, do things that are considered bad is a given. The only issue left to decide is HOW they will respond to these bad acts.
Jack and Beverly Hyles statue
The Joe Paterno statues have been pulled down as a public act of contrition, but the Jack Hyles statute remains, a reminder of who it was that built First Baptist Church. One can only hope that public scrutiny will force the IFB church movement to own their “sins” and that dramatic change will be made, resulting in a reduction of predatory acts against children and teenagers. One can hope, but as of today, it is business as usual in the alternate universe called the IFB church movement.
I ask you dear reader, do you care about lost and dying souls? If so, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, has a book or two he’d like to sell you. According to his blog, these books are so important that NOT buying them will result in more souls being lost for eternity. According to Gray:
…There are 400,000 plus churches of all types in our nation. If the Bible believing local churches would sharpen their soul winning tools and organize a strong Sunday School system we would see a reversal of our outreach to our worlds. Jesus is coming soon and we must have a second mile kick in order to finish our portion of the race for souls.
You can call xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxx-xxx-xxxx or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to order. Do not put this off. The longer you delay the more souls we will lose. This one-two punch will help your local church in your outreach in your world.
Gray warns fellow Independent Fundamentalists Baptists (IFB) about the soon return of Jesus. Isn’t this same sorry trope IFB preachers have been using for decades in an attempt to light a fire under complacent church members? Evidently, IFB churches are in a race and these books will help them start running faster so they “finish their portion of the race for souls.” Who are they racing against? Satan? Catholics? Muslims? Southern Baptists? Or is this just a Madison Fifth Avenue ploy to sell self published books? Guilt+fear=more book sales.
The first book is written by David Hyles. Yes, THAT David Hyles. Titled, Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School: Philosophies and Principles that Shaped His Pastoral Ministry, this book is all about the importance of having a Sunday school. And not just any Sunday school, but a Sunday school just like Jack Hyles had at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles if you are not familiar with him) I think it is safe to say that this book will NOT mention Jack Hyles’ passion for his secretary or David Hyles’ passion for anyone wearing a skirt.
“This book is in my opinion the BEST book I have ever read on the matter of personal soul winning. It is encouraging, instructive, enjoyable and convicting. I recommend this book to new Christians as well as to seasoned soul winners. Thank you Dr. Gray for your example of personal soul winning and for putting your life’s work into this book.”
“I’m thrilled that you are holding in your hands right now, this tremendous bound volume, “My Passion For Soul Winning” by my dear friend, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr.
I’ve said, as Andrew was the Apostle of Personal Workers in the days of the early church, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr. is the “Apostle of Personal Workers” in the present church”
Here is a principled fundamentalist, powerful preacher, published author and proficient soul winner, who has not only lead tens of thousands to Christ but also has trained and tutored tens of thousands of personal soul winners.
In this bound volume you will find the drive, desire, duty, determination and demeanor, of one, without question, of the most successful personal soul winners of our day.
The IFB church movement is dying on the vine. Countless churches have closed their doors and others face steep attendance decline. IFB colleges that once had burgeoning enrollment now have a hard time keeping the doors open. You’d think that someone, anyone, would stop and ask WHY this is? Some IFB preachers blame worldliness, a catch-all phrase for church members who love HBO more than they love Jesus. Others develop a persecution complex, thinking that liberals, Obama, socialists, Democrats, Catholics, Southern Baptists,other IFB preachers who aren’t in their camp, and a host of other groups and people they demonize, are actively working against them.
The fault lies with everyone but them. Instead of recognizing that their “motivation, message, and methods,” no longer work, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and over hoping for a different outcome. They continue to preach against the same “sins” they were preaching against 40 years ago. The difference now is that it is harder to find people who are willing to be assaulted week in and week out with the King James bible.
Gray will surely sell some books. The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, so big name IFB preachers preach for one another, give each other doctorates, and buy each other’s books. It is a wheel that keeps on spinning…
When Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — now a convicted felon — was accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenager in his church, apologists for the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and the Hyles/Schaap crime family came out in force to defend their own. They told me things like:
He is a man of God and he wouldn’t/couldn’t do such a thing
The girl was a whore
The girl seduced him
The girl was “almost” of age
If Schaap hadn’t taken her across the State line, the sex would have been consensual
Here are some of the messages that Schaap sent the girl:
From a birthday card
I can’t get you out of my mind. I keep thinking about how much I enjoy talking with you, how great you look when you smile, and how much I like your laugh. I daydream about you off an on all day, replaying pieces of our conversation . . .laughing again about funny things you said or did. I’ve memorized your face and the way you look at me . . . it melts my heart every time I think about it. And I catch myself smiling when I imagine what will happen the next time we’re together. You must be something really special, because I can’t remember the last time I felt so strongly about someone. Even though neither of us knows what the future holds, I know one thing for sure – you’re one of the very best things that’s happened to me in a long time.
From a handwritten letter
Hi [Jane Doe],
Because my time with you is so limited, I find great comfort in writing to you. Certainly it is no substitute for being with you – nothing is – in fact, being with you is unlike anything I have ever experienced.
You have a gift of making me feel more alive and more happy than I have ever felt! THANK YOU! I’ve been doing much thinking about you – our brief journey together has been like a spiritual allegory (a story that illustrates a truth . . .
Your life began to deteriorate w/ actions + activities that were self-destructive + that would have brought great tragedy eventually. Then, as your Pastor, I began to counsel you [unintelligible] you to God, the truth, and to a better path of living – that’s what we call Righteousness. Almost immediately, I felt such a profound tug in my heart for you – an intense desire to pull you away from destructive habits + to pull you into pure love + acceptance. I felt the only hope I had to truly make that difference was to pull you 1st to myself – if I could get you to trust me + open your heart to me. I could not have anticipated or hoped for what happened.
You opened your heart wide to me – you made me more than a Pastor/Rescuer – you made me your friend your confidant, your beloved. You gave me your trust, your heart, your love, + your affection. [Unintelligible] must feel when a sinner makes Him more than a Savior – he/she makes Him a beloved lover + friend. I have never felt so truly loved in my life. It is a feeling that is incomprehensible! (off the charts)In our “fantasy talk,” you have affectionately spoken of being “my wife.” That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!
I tried to craftily catch your heart so that I could lead you into a better life. You have caught my heart + I have never felt so loved by anyone! Thank you[Jane Doe]. Thank you for the privilege of helping a struggling teenager. Thank you for opening your heart. Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your love. My hope and prayer is that someday you will comprehend what an impact you have made on your Pastor and friend.
[Jane Doe] you have such a wonderful life ahead of you. I must be careful not to spoil that with any of my selfish fantasy desires. It would be grossly unkind to you for me to hold you captive in any fashion. When we get scared, Jesus sends His spirit to live within us. But He does not personally live with us. He waits until we have fully matured before he takes us to Heaven to live with Him. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceedingly so – sorta like [name redacted] (sp?) or a young child dying too young.
I must follow the example of Christ. I have espoused you to Him as a chaste virgin. You are pure + lovely + perfect in His eyes. Now you must mature in His grace until the time he brings you to Himself. Until then, I am here to guide you + help you. [Unintelligible] your heart.
I could only wish you would carry my love for you with you + in you forever. For me to wish for more would only be hurtful to the beautiful life He has planned for you. I will die 10,000 deaths knowing I cannot have you in my life as I would desire. But I would far rather die those deaths than to hurt you in any way by injuring your future.I would gladly do anything for you + I must lay down my life – my desires – for you
I will ALWAYS be here for you [Jane Doe]!! Always And I will carry you in my very soul as a part of me forever. I ‘ve never met anyone like you. Please keep on becoming what you are becoming now. I’ve tried to point you in the right direction. PLEEEAASSE don’t ever go back to what you were when we found each other. That would put my soul in Hell!
I promised you I would do anything to help you – and I have shown you what I mean by that. I still promise you I would do anything TO HELP YOU but I be me let + can you when see to by stop time- time from Text you! hurt would that anything do>part of your life + decision-making. But live your life – the life God has for you. Be 17 + enjoy this great stage of life. I’ll always be watching + always be pulling for you. I will always love you –
FOREVER! Your BFF, Pastor.
From another handwritten letter
Hey Baby, Hope you slept well.
I’m sitting at my table reading the Words that help me through powerful emotions that are surging through me. I miss my Bible Reading partner. It was fun to have our Bible Study yesterday morning. I Have my good music on – “I will trust in You” + the “Power of the Cross.” Good music drives me to the Scriptures to find the strength to go forward when my emotions want me to “freeze” time + go back to yesterday.
No matter how glorious the past, the future is the only direction we can go without dying inside. The past 3 days w/ you were beyond my imagination :! But what I hope you take from this wk. is more than the “magic” we enjoyed but also some better understanding of how incredibly important + special + awesome you are to Jesus! I wanted you to feel + know how much He loves you! I wanted to let some of the hurt + headache – the bad hurt – out of your heart.
This week, [Jane Doe], I tried to climb into your heart and write the graffiti of the Gospel on the walls. I wanted to spray paint in Neon colors that you are Priceless + Precious + are “off the charts” important – yes – to me personally -but especially to OUR Savior Jesus Christ. I’m reading my Bible now to draw a little closer to God – even if it’s a millimeter closer – because if we both get a little closer to Him, we also get closer + stronger + deeper w/ each other.
Every relationship not built around that truth eventually must die – that’s what happened w/ you + J. And that’s why afterwards you pursued “dead” things + “dead”relationships. My passion this week was to show you a living relationship + how to keep it alive! [Jane Doe], however, whenever God takes our love, we never have to[unintelligible] to each other. Keep pursuing Good and we keep living because He is Life!!
I have a special gift for you that I want to give you Sunday if you would stop by my office when you arrive. Also, I really want you to download the App Olive Tree Bible Reader when you get it, I’ll teach you how to use it.These days w/ you are tattooed on my heart + in my mind – Forever!
But these days, also gave me great insight to the profound needs of my teens + young adults. You’ve helped me. Finally, I want to thank YOU for giving me something I was not planning to receive. Through you, I have felt very loved by God. I gave Him my heart when I was 5, I gave Him my life when I was 17. And yes I love Him + know Him +understand much about Him, but, sometimes I just need to “feel” His love in away that only He can provide . . . and this week, through you, I have “felt” His love.
I absolutely cannot thank you enough!! It is obvious to me that God must trust you very much. He gave you the work of caring or ministering to His servant- just as the angel ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemine. Of course,you have been given enormous responsibility. The Scriptures do not tell us what the Angel said, how he arrived or how he left + apparently no one knows to this day – 2000 years later – what happened. That’s a very wise Angel! And so are you, Baby! 1432444!!!!!
Jack Schaap is not an outlier when it comes to sexual misconduct and abuse in the IFB church. His father-in-law Jack Hyles and his brother-in-law David Hyles preceded him at First Baptist in Hammond. Jack Hyles had a least one inappropriate sexual relationship and David Hyles had dozens. The list of abusers and predators that were trained by Jack Hyles and Hyles-Anderson College is long. Taken cumulatively, it is hard not to think there is something very wrong in Hammond and other IFB schools and churches.
Bill Wininger, former pastor of Kingsway Baptist Church
In 2013, Bethany Foeller Leonard alleged that Bill Wininger, pastor of King’s Way Baptist Church, Douglasville, Georgia, molested her 20 years ago when he was the pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church, Grass Lake, Michigan. Several other women came forward and added their voices to the accusation. Due to the statute of limitations, Wininger will never face justice for what he did in Michigan, but Leonard”s accusation did result in his resignation from King’s Way. Last year, in an unrelated case, Wininger was arrested and charged with four counts of misdemeanor battery of a female church member. He will likely receive probation and court ordered counseling.
When Leonard first made her accusation, apologists for Pastor Bill Wininger loudly defended him and said Leonard was lying. Some of you may remember the comments and emails I received when I first wrote about Bill Wininger being outed as a sexual predator.
Apologists for the IFB church movement and Bill Wininger couldn’t call Bethany Foeller Leonard and the other women sluts, whores, home wreckers, or church destroyers. After all, they were little girls, the age my granddaughters are now, when the abuse took place. So, they had to take a different approach when defending the most holy IFB church and Bill Wininger. They attempted to use the time honored if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen defense to silence those of us who aired Bill Wininger’s secret.
Take Jason, a young man who vociferously defended the IFB church movement, King’s Way Baptist Church, and Bill Wininger, even though he said he was not a part of the IFB church movement. Here is what Jason had to say about the accusations (spelling in the original, emphases mine).
Wow. I haven’t heard this much wining in a long time. It’s sad when Christians contribute to the pussifacation of America. I would be ashamed if this is how I had to get 15 mins of fame. When I first saw this I thought this was a joke but then I realized you people are serious. There are consequences that come with attacking a man called by God. Everyone who is pointing a finger needs to realize that no person is blameless. I have not seen one bit of proof that proves any of these theories. My advice… Shut up and worry about your own life and let ALMIGHTY GOD worry about everyone else
The definition of pussifacation is the state in which a society becomes less and less tough. As a whole men and women in America are becoming this way. For example I recently read about a man who’s daughter was allegedly molested. 20 years later he decides to say something about it. To me this man has no backbone whatsoever and has joined many others in the realms of weak and pathetic. Maybe you should talk to ________. She has shown more backbone in here by standing up for herself and the people she loves. My father taught me to be a man. You asked me what if this happened to your daughter. Let me explain that it would never happen to my daughter simply because child molesters target weak people. This is how they get away with what they do. There would be no getting away with anything should this happen to my daughter and justice would not begin 20 years later. IF any of your accusations hold any truth which I doubt considerably then you should get real life smoking gun evidenced and prosecute. Obviously you dont have this or you wouldnt be wasting time here.
Actually I am not in the ifb. I know this crushes your idea of how narrow minded I must be. However I do not see the point of targeting them out specifically or even more so targeting a single church which seems to be what is happening here. Cassandra the point is that without physical evidence of child molestation BW is innocent of this accusation. Without physical evidence of rape BW is innocent of this accusation as well which means that IF another woman was involved it was consensual.
Bruce how else would a woman excuse a relationship with a married man but pawn it off as “molestation”? In this day and age nothing is personal cultural suicide. You give me the evidence that supports these accusations and I will have concern for these alleged victims. Until then I will support innocence until proven guilty by a court of law. I will not take your moth to the flame approach just because someone made an accusation. Didn’t you say “After all, the lies told about a person always make for better news than the truth”? Sounds to me like you have your own koolaid for people to drink. I stand by my words. A year from now they will not be foolish nor will they 10 years from now. You dont want to hear what I have to say because you cant combat it. You deflect everything like you have no idea what to say. Its obvious that you have no idea what to do about my voice so you dismiss me. Sorry to ruin your pity party but there are 2 sides to every story. Here is a thought for you. Instead of blasting away at a man or a church or an entire religion why not open a thread that actually helps people who are truly victims? If your intentions are pure it would not matter what religion or church or person it happened with. Not all victims are from a church or a specific religion. You may even sound like you really care about them instead of sounding like a bitter ex-church member who is using this to harp on the ifb.
Let the words of the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul, the late Jack Hyles, state the official IFB position on abuse:
Bill Wininger, former pastor of King’s Way Baptist Church in Douglasville, Georgia
Shelly Foeller, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) mother, tells the horrifying story of her daughter who was sexually abused by Bill Wininger, then pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church:
If you will bear with me, I’d like to tell you a story. It is a true story of a little girl with incredible blue eyes. The church her family attended voted in a new pastor the same year she was born. Her family was very excited about this new pastor, and the little girl became very fond of him as well. She was a delightful child—very smart and tender-hearted. At a young age she expressed an interest in the Gospel, and at her mother’s knee, prayed to give her heart to Jesus.
When she was still quite young, unbeknownst to anyone else,something very terrible started to happen. Her pastor, whom she loved and trusted, began to take advantage of her on numerous occasions, violating her little body in unspeakable ways. Because of her tender age, she did not understand this at all. Since her young mind was incapable of processing these terrifying events, the dark memories of these assaults became sealed in the deep recesses of her conscience. Though she did not speak of the things that had occurred, she carried an overwhelming heaviness in her little heart,a pain that she could not put into words…
The pastor moved away, and years later:
Finally she reached the point when she knew the only hope for her survival was to face what was at the bottom of her festering wounds—the truth of what had happened to her as a little girl. Very gradually her memories surfaced, and she bravely, though timidly, started to talk about them. As she recalled details of these life altering events, her mother soon recognized and remembered specific opportunities for their occurrence.
Over time, as more details were remembered and shared, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together and make sense.The courageous little girl, who for many years had been unable to tell, had finally found her voice. The silence had ended.This same little girl is now a beautiful young woman, our beloved daughter, Bethany.It didn’t take long for us to learn that there were other young ladies, as well as adult women, who had been victimized by the same man. All their stories agree together and have a ring of similarity. The truth is undeniable. The perpetrator, unfortunately,was Pastor Bill Wininger. The time frame was when he was our pastor at North Sharon Baptist Church from 1988 to 1995.
I wish I could say that this heartbreaking story is unusual, but it is not. Just in the last two weeks alone, three women have emailed me about being sexually assaulted as a child or teenager by a deacon or the pastor of the IFB church they attended. Quite frankly, these kinds of things are far too common and every bit as scandalous as the sex scandal of the Catholic church. We should be grateful that, through the internet, women and men can now tell their story of sexual abuse at the hands of men of God.
All videos and sermons from him have been removed. The church, following the IFB practice of defiance against the Scripture, is maintaining a curtain of secrecy, even though Paul directly commands that elders who fall into sin are to be rebuked before the entire church. It is not to be a secret. And yes, the goal is to make miscreants afraid of abusing church office.
The good news is, thanks to the internet and those of us who refuse to allow these predators hide, we can hopefully keep them from molesting and harming other children and teens. More and more women and men are coming forward, willing to tell their stories of sexual abuse. Telling their stories takes great courage, because I know the hell that the IFB church movement releases on those who dare tell their secrets.
This is not an issue of Christianity vs. atheism. This is about sexual predators hiding in plain sight in Christian churches. They abuse their way through the church and then move on to another church of prey. They are the lowest of low and they deserve every bit of scorn and ridicule they receive. They also deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Sadly, many avoid prosecution for lack of evidence, or the statute of limitations runs out. Public shaming is often the ONLY recourse their victims have at their disposal.
Several days ago, a friend of mine told me about a recent service at former IFB pastor — now convicted felon — Jack Schaap’s church, First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. It was mentioned during the service that Schaap had led someone to Christ in prison! Praise Jesus. Soon his despicable acts will be forgotten, just like those of his brother-in-law David Hyles and his father-in-law Jack Hyles. In time, we will hear of souls being saved and the life of Jack Schaap being rehabilitated to the glory of God. As I mockingly told my friend, by the time Jack Schaap is out of prison, he will be pastoring the largest prison church in America.
Someone from Sharon Baptist Church sent me the following:
Our current pastor did do something about what Bethany ________ told about Bill Wininger. He went to the Michigan police about it & reported it. The police are the ones who are not doing anything about it. What would you have the current pastor say to the world about something that happened when he was not there, and didn’t know about until years later? Our church is not covering up for Bill Wininger. We were the ones who turned him in.
I replied to the question, what would you have us say to the world:
I would have them, on their website, say EXACTLY what you said here. Saying nothing is not an option.
All of the churches mentioned in this post are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, King-James-Only, Separated, Soulwinning churches.
If I remember correctly, there were students from North Sharon Baptist Church when Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the mid-1970s.
Ironically, Bill Wininger wrote a book while he was pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church.
Revival Fires, the ministry of Dennis Corle, carries the book. Their website says this about the book:
In a country church two male workers are accused of committing horrible crimes against children while running Sunday school bus routes. What should they do? How should they react in the midst of a county-wide scandal? How does a pastor keep from seeing his ministry, at the least, paralyzed and, at the worst, destroyed? How does he deal with the accused and their accusers?
Pastor Bill Wininger tells the amazing story of a church which experienced just such a traumatic event and amazingly, survived the ordeal with minimal damage done to the church. A Church Falsely Accused is the astonishing story of the North Sharon Baptist Church, a country church whose commitment to Christ and to the lost in its community saw victory through a vicious scandal.
UPDATE: August 2014
In August 2014, Wininger was arrested and charged with four counts of simple battery. AJC.com reports:
A former Douglasville pastor was released from jail Friday after spending a night there on charges of having inappropriate sexual contact with a member of the staff at the church and school that is one of the oldest private Christian academies in Georgia.
Four misdemeanor charges of simple battery against the Rev. Bill Wininger involve one woman on the Kings Way staff and are detailed in the charges brought by the Douglas County solicitor general.
Three counts accuse him of having unwanted physical contact with the woman by “grabbing and hugging” her. The fourth charge was that he made “physical contact of an insulting and provoking nature” when he pressed against her with a part of his body that was aroused. The events detailed in the accusation are alleged to have happened between August 2012 and
Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail.
Wininger was arrested Thursday night and he posted a $10,000 bond Friday afternoon following a brief court appearance. No other court date has been scheduled.
One of the conditions of his release was that he have no contact with members of King’s Way Baptist Church or employees of the school. Wininger must have a psycho-sexual evaluation and receive treatment if necessary…
…“The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spent the past 10 months investigating this individual,” Solicitor General Matthew Krull said. “It is my job to make sure that everyone in Douglas County is afforded the opportunity to live free of unwanted and unsolicited physical contact.”
Krull said there were other accusers but his office decided to prosecute Wininger just on the allegations of one woman, whom The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not identifying because of the nature of the charges.
Krull said Friday the investigation did not involve any allegations that Wininger targeted children.
Wininger resigned last October after 15 years at the church when allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused children in Michigan 20 years ago. He was never charged on those allegations…
I found no further reports about Wininger’s case.
I find it interesting that IFB churches and pastors preach against psychology and suggest every human misbehavior is sin, but once they are caught in their own web of sin and face criminal charges, they are quick to seek a psycho-sexual evaluation and treatment. Anything, to keep themselves out of jail. Why not stand on the unshakable ground of the King James Version of the Bible and refuse the evaluation and treatment? Shouldn’t Wininger just pray a David Hyles forgive me Lord prayer® and get back to winning souls for Jesus? Isn’t that the IFB way?
I am grateful that local law enforcement officials took the accusations seriously. Far too often, law enforcement ignores allegations against pastors because they have the naïve notion that clergy are above the fray, immune to the passions of mere mortals. As should be clear to all who are paying attention, countless pastors use their place of power and authority to manipulate and abuse others. Yes, most pastors are decent human beings, but a sizable percentage of them are predators lurking in the shadows waiting to rob people of their faith and trust.
A former Douglasville pastor accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a staff member will be in court Friday when he is expected to enter a plea.
Unfortunately, the story is behind a paywall. Once other news agencies report the story, I will update this post.
UPDATE: October 9, 2015:
A former Douglas County minister was sentenced Friday to two years on probation, resolving accusations that he forced inappropriate contact on a staff member of his church and school.
Rev. Bill Wininger was accused of “grabbing and hugging” one woman at the The King’s Way Baptist Church and King’s Way Christian School, one of the oldest Christian academies in Georgia. He also was accused of “physical contact of an insulting and provoking nature” when he pressed against her with an inappropriate part of his body.
Wininger pleaded no contest to two counts of simple battery.
“This plea brings justice for this victim and hopefully gives her some closure to a horrible series of events that happened in her life,” Douglas County Solicitor General Matthew Krull said in an emailed statement. “The victim gave a voice to all those that have been too afraid to stand up to defendant’s unacceptable behavior. This case was very troubling, to see … a preacher in a position of trust and power, use that position for his own selfish needs.”..
…As part of his probation, Wininger was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service at a location that does not assist women or children…
The King’s Way Baptist Church in Douglasville will pay $25,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of a kindergarten teacher who complained the church’s pastor sexually harassed her.
The independent Baptist church, which operates King’s Way Christian School, also will furnish other relief, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a news release.
The EEOC filed suit in 2015 on behalf of Marsha Pearson, a kindergarten teacher at the school, who said she was fired after complaining that the pastor, who was also school superintendent, had harassed her.
Former King’s Way pastor The Rev. Bill Wininger was arrested in 2014 on four misdemeanor charges of simple battery against a female employee.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Pearson complained in 2013 that the pastor had been sexually harassing her. Upon reporting the abuse, King’s Way officials “told her that she allowed the harassment to happen to her” and that she was being fired, according to the suit.
I was interviewed recently for the Preacher Boys podcast by Eric Skwarczynski. The primary purpose of Eric’s podcast is to expose abuse within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Eric is a Christian, but we share a common purpose when it comes to sexual abuse and clergy misconduct in IFB churches, so I was more than happy to lend my voice to his noble cause. The podcast will be available soon. I hope readers of this blog will find our discussion insightful and helpful.
At the end of the show, Eric asked me whether I thought the IFB church movement could be reformed. I told him I didn’t think it could be reformed and that I hoped to be alive when the IFB church drew its last breath. I want to be the person standing bedside with pillow in hand, smothering the last breath out of a religious movement that has caused incalculable harm. I have seen first-hand (and participated in) the carnage caused by IFB churches, colleges, and pastors. I have talked to and corresponded with countless people whose marriages, families, and personal lives were ruined in the name of the IFB God. The psychological wounds and scars run deep. The widening exposure of abuse within the IFB church movement is a sign that people are no longer willing to be cowed into silence by men who value protecting their reputations and their ministries more than they do victims. This exposure is in its infancy, so we can expect to see more and more abuse stories come forth in the days, months, and years ahead.
While it is certainly true that some IFB churches and pastors have “reformed,” I have found that the changes that they have made are largely cosmetic in nature. I don’t know of an IFB church that embraces progressive theology, liberal social values, or inclusivism. Big change in “reformed” IFB churches usually means they use translations other than the KJV, use drums, have praise and worship teams, allow women to wear pants, and permit men to have hair over their ears. Real “reformists” now let congregants go to movie theaters, drink beer from time to time, or read books not published by the Sword of the Lord or Bob Jones Press. Why, some IFB churches are so liberal that high school graduates are now permitted to attend colleges other than the ones attended by their pastors. Talk about unholy ecumenism! Such changes, however, are window dressings meant to give the appearance of a new, improved IFB. Once in the store, people find the same authoritarian practices and exclusionary doctrines. The fundamental problem with the IFB church movement is their beliefs and practices. These things will never change. They can’t. The very foundation of the IFB church movement is the notion of certainty and right belief. Countless IFB churches and pastors believe that they alone have the truth; that they alone are God’s voice and God’s chosen people in their communities. The IFB church movement has always been separatist in nature. I haven’t seen anything in recent years that suggests this has changed.
The only cure for the IFB church movement is death. And the good news is this: IFB churches, colleges, mission agencies, and parachurch organizations are in numerical and economic decline. The heyday of the IFB church movement was 40 years ago. In the 1970s, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Today, many of these same churches are either closed or shells of what they once were. From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — an IFB institution started by Dr. Tom Malone in 1954. Midwestern was never a big college, but today it roughly has ten percent of the students it had in the 1970s. Its website is outdated, and current information about the college hasn’t been posted in ages. The spacious 32-acre college campus has long since been abandoned and, I believe, sold. Midwestern is now an ancillary ministry of Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. Its president, David Carr, like his father Harry Carr, is a Midwestern grad. I predict that there is coming a day when I will hear that the college has closed its doors.
Dr. Malone was the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. A product of Bob Jones College, Malone started Emmanuel in 1942 after becoming increasingly troubled over what he perceived was liberalism in the Southern and American Baptist conventions. In the uber-sanitized authorized biography Tom Malone: The Preacher from Pontiac, Joyce Vick shares the following apocryphal story:
People ask me all the time, “Brother Tom, to what group do you belong? Of what association are you a member?”
I answer, “None.”
They ask, “Are you a Missionary Baptist?”
“Yes, I am.”
It may sound like a lie, but they do want to know what I am. “Are you a Southern Baptist?”
I say, “I am Southern and I am a Baptist.”
“Are you a Conservative Baptist?”
“Sure, I am conservative.”
“In what association book does Emmanuel Baptist Church appear?”
“Don’t have any.”
“Where are your headquarters?”
“I don’t have one.”
“You mean you don’t belong to anything?”
“No, I belong to the same thing to which the church at Antioch belongs. There is only one tie between New Testament churches, and that is the tie of fellowship. Each church is a local, autonomous church within itself. We have God, El Shaddai, and that’s enough.”
I have never felt I was called to preach for anybody, but I have felt I was caused to preach to everybody. I am not preaching for anybody but Jesus. There is nothing so wonderful, nothing so wholesome, as for a preacher to know there are no strings attached.
Thank God, I don’t have to fit into a denominational program. Thank God, I don’t have to get my orders from some national headquarters. Oh, thank God for the privilege of going to God for my directions! (pages 303, 304)
Emmanuel would be a new kind of Baptist church: an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregation. In the 1970s, Emmanuel had over 7,000 active members, and had attendances on special days over 5,000. Today? The doors of the church are shuttered, and its few remaining members scattered to other Fundamentalist churches in the area. The same story could be said of countless other IFB churches. Even First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by the late Jack Hyles and once arguably the largest church in the United States, is a shell of what it once was. Sure, you can find growing IFB churches here and there, but most of them are dying. Oh, they will still brag about the number of souls saved, but actual attendance numbers don’t lie.
My wife’s uncle, the late James Dennis, graduated from Midwestern in the 1960s. After pastoring a church in Bay City, Michigan, Jim moved to Newark, Ohio in 1968 to assume the pastorate of the Newark Baptist Temple. A church plant by the Akron Baptist Temple (started by Charles Vaden), the Baptist Temple, as it is commonly called, would see exciting numeric growth in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, by the time Jim died, after serving the Baptist Temple for forty-two years, the church was a shell of what it once was. Its one-time large Christian school was forced to drastically reduce its staff. Licking County Christian Academy (LCCA) at its inception was an Accelerated Christian School (A.C.E.) institution. It would later morph into an unaccredited traditional K-12 school. Today, a skeleton crew of staff use prerecorded Abeka videos to instruct students. Some of our relatives currently attend LCCA, as did our three oldest children for a short time.
Polly and I attended the Baptist Temple for a short time decades ago. I could write for hours about our experiences there — good and bad. We left the Baptist Temple in early 1981 to help Polly’s father, a 1976 graduate of Midwestern and Jim Dennis’ pastoral assistant, to plant a new church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. I continued to have interaction with Jim and the Baptist Temple into the early 2000s. When our family briefly relocated to nearby Frazeyburg, Ohio in late 1994, people were shocked that we decided to NOT join the Baptist Temple, choosing instead to join the Fallsburg Baptist Church, an IFB congregation pastored by my former best friend Keith Troyer.
Over the years, I have watched the Baptist Temple “evolve.” While the church and its leaders are no longer as dogmatic as they once were over “church standards” (extra-Biblical rules used to govern and control the behavior of congregants), they are still a hardcore, right-wing, King James-only authoritarian congregation. When asked what I think has “changed” at the Baptist Temple, I laugh, and reply, “men are allowed to have facial hair now.” I suspect that this is not the kind of “reform” Eric Skwarczynski is talking about.
IFB institutions don’t reform. At best, they pretty themselves up a bit, hoping to attract unsuspecting visitors. Most IFB churches, however, remain committed to what they call “old-fashioned” Baptist beliefs and practices. They are proud to never have changed anything except their underwear. James Dennis was proud of the fact that be believed the same Biblical “truths” when he retired that he believed when graduating from Midwestern years before. No one should wear unchangeability as a badge of honor. “I have never changed my mind on anything. Bless your heart, my beliefs have never changed! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so am I. Can I get an AMEN?” And it is for this reason alone that I am convinced that it is impossible to reform the IFB church movement. The movement has chosen to die on the twin hills of arrogance and certainty. All any of us can do is to help them swiftly meet their end.
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.
As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.
Cambria Baptist Church, Cambria (Hillsdale), Michigan,Dave Locke, pastor Cambria Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. (Church Website)
Allen Baptist Church, Allen, Michigan, David Wruck, pastor. Allen Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. Its pastor is a graduate of Jack Hyles’ college, Hyles-Anderson College. (Church Website)
Allen Baptist wants passersby to know that it is independent, fundamental, soul-winning, and only uses the King James version of the Bible. These words are nonsensical to unbelievers, but to IFB adherents looking for a new church, they speak volumes. These words also say to some Christians: you aren’t welcome here!
Grace Baptist Church, Angola, Indiana, Bob Koenig, pastor (No Web Presence)
Grace Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. Koenig has pastored Grace Baptist for thirty-two years. He is a graduate of Bob Jones University. He earned his doctorate through post-graduate work done at Bob Jones. Earned doctorates are rare among IFB preachers. (See IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor)
Word of Life Outreach Center, Quincy, Michigan, Bob and Carol Montgomery, pastors (Church Website) The Montgomerys have pastored Word of Life for thirty-one years.
Word of Life is a generic Pentecostal/Charismatic/Evangelical church. According to an article written by one of the pastor’s daughters, Word of Life is different from other churches because:
People often ask me, “What does your church believe?”
They are wondering what we believe that may make us different from other churches.
So, my short answer – we believe in tongues, the power of God’s Word, and that God is ALWAYS good.
So, here is my long answer (short answer with details).
1. Well, if you check our Statement of Faith, then you will notice that it is not much different than others you have seen. However, the first thing that might stick out to you or may be different from what you have seen is that we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
Word of Life believes that the only reason people are sick is because of their lack of faith. Churches are filled with sick and dying people. If they would only have f-a-i-t-h, the God who is ALWAYS good would heal them. Talk about a delirious fantasy. I wonder how many sick people presently attend Word of Life, and how many congregants have died despite leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus? Something tells me that the folks at Word of Life get sick and die at the same levels as the rest of us.
SonLight Community Church, Angola, Indiana, John Mueller, pastor
We believe the Scriptures, errorless in the original documents, are divine authority in all matters which they address. Their truthfulness is not negated by the occurrences of such things as irregularities of grammar or spelling, intended and conventional generalizations or approximations, various literary devices, observational descriptions of nature, or reports of false statements made by evil persons. Since God the Holy Spirit is the source of the message as well as the mover and supervisor of those who recorded it, the Bible is reliable in what it communicates and is the supreme authority for faith and practice. Nothing may be taken from it and nothing may be added.
Our services are casual and modern. We embrace a come as you are philosophy. You’ll find most people in jeans, but feel free to dress however you feel comfortable. When you arrive, be sure to grab a cup of coffee or cocoa from the coffee bar. We’ve got all the fixings! Don’t forget to get a couple of donut holes before you head into the auditorium. Have a seat wherever you’d like. We have a floor level and balcony.
Worship is typically songs you’ll hear on the radio from Bethel Music, Chris Tomlin, or maybe even our very own Aaron Scantlen. Join in if you know the words, or just enjoy the music and let the lyrics talk if you’d rather.
Next is the message delivered by one of our pastors or elders. Each message is crafted by a sermon prep team who ensures it is applicable, relatable, and biblically sound.
All in all, service usually lasts about an hour and 15 minutes.
How to be a wise guy, says SonLight’s sign. My first thought was this: what, the pastor is teaching congregants how to be mafia members? The sign also says, SEE God move through you. Pray tell, how can anyone “see” God move through them? Or see God at all, for that matter? I am a heathen, an apostate, a denier of the existence of God. Yet, if good works are a sign of God flowing through a person, I know a lot of atheists who are full of the Big Kahuna. Perhaps what Sonlight calls evidence of God moving through a person is just them being a kind, decent, loving human being — no deity needed.
During much of the 1970s, Evangelical crusades were all the rage. As a young teenager, I attended crusades conducted by Billy Graham, Bill Glass, Jack Van Impe (twice), and Bob Harrington. In the early 1970s, Jack Van Impe came to Findlay, Ohio, for a crusade held at Findlay High School. Thousands of people flocked to hear The Walking Bible preach on the soon-return of Jesus Christ. Van Impe even went so far as to predict that the Russian flag would be flying over the U.S. Capitol by 1976. He was right about the Russian flag flying over the White House. He just missed the date by forty years. Van Impe was/is what I call a newspaper preacher. He looked at the headlines and crafted his sermons to correspond with them. According to the Bible, false prophets are to be stoned to death. If that be the case, Van Impe would have died long before his wife Rexella had her first facial plastic surgery procedure. Van Impe has made countless predictions (prophecies) that have spectacularly failed to materialize. That said, as a recently saved, called-of-God preacher boy, I found Van Impe’s preaching thrilling and motivational, a call to win more souls for Christ before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returned to earth.
When it came to pure entertainment, however, no evangelist could match the wit, humor, and oratory of the smooth-talking Chaplain of Bourbon, Bob Harrington. I was able to locate a quality recording of Harrington on YouTube. The following sermon was preached in 1966 at Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, Landmark, pastored by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher John Rawlings, and was one of the largest churches in the country. Harrington, a Southern Baptist, frequently preached at large IFB churches, including Jerry Falwell’s church, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
I owned many of Harrington’s recorded sermon albums. I played them over and over and over again. I loved how he effortlessly mixed humor into sermons. My favorite Harrington quote comes from a sermon of his on the second coming of Jesus. Harrington said, I’m not looking for the undertaker, I’m looking for the upper-taker. I remember telling my youth director, Bruce Turner, at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, about my fondness for Harrington. Bruce tried to steer me away from Harrington, warning that his kind of preaching wasn’t Biblical and that Harrington was a fad that would soon pass away. If you listened to the recording above, you know that Harrington played loose with the “facts” of his life. For Harrington, preaching was all about telling a good story, even if he exaggerated or fibbed a bit. During college, I remember Tom Malone, the chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, saying during a sermon, “I’m not preaching now, I’m telling the truth.” Malone was joking, but after preaching thousands of sermons and listening to hundreds more, I have concluded that Malone was right; that preaching is often an admixture of truth and exaggeration, especially when it comes to sermon illustrations. I remember reading that David Foster Wallace, when questioned about his penchant for exaggeration, said that as long as the basic facts were correct there was no harm in exaggerating a bit to tell a better story. Remember that the next time you hear a preacher use this or that sermon illustration, and if you’re thinking, this story seems to be exaggerated or too good to be true — it probably is. (Another big-name preacher who loved to tell fanciful, exaggerated illustrations was Jack Hyles.)
In the 1960s, Harrington moved to New Orleans to start a street ministry. Armed with a Bible and a microphone, Harrington preached at people as they passed by. According to the Baptist Standard, after several months of street preaching:
….deacons at First Baptist Church in New Orleans loaned him enough money for a few months’ rent to open a chapel on Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter. Harrington began witnessing and preaching in the bars and strip clubs of Bourbon Street.
In 1962, Mayor Victor Schiro proclaimed him “The Chaplain of Bourbon Street.”
Harrington’s street ministry message was bold and simple: “God loves you just as you are. He knows you are a sinner and wants to save you. Don’t figure it out. Faith it out!”
In 1968, he held a revival at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio. During the revival, the owners of a burlesque club attended an evening service and became Christians. Guy and Evelyn Linton immediately closed the club and posted a sign: “Closed forever. See you in church.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, Harrington was one of the most popular preachers in America. People thronged to his crusades. As a young teenager, I heard Harrington at a crusade in Pontiac, Michigan. I can still remember the excitement that filled the football stadium. Every seat was occupied, and come invitation time, scores of people came forward to be saved. It seemed to me, as a young teenager, that God was pouring out his spirit on Harrington and using him to saved thousands of people. In the late 70s, Harrington traveled the country with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, holding meetings that were purportedly a debate between an atheist and a Christian about the existence of God. What it turned into was a much-rehearsed circus sideshow that made a lot of money for both Harrington and O’Hair. Harrington said of the atheist, “Yes, many may say Madalyn knows the Scriptures better than I do, but I know the author.”
Here’s a low-quality video of Harrington’s and O’Hair’s appearance on the Phil Donahue Show:
Much as my youth pastor predicted, Harrington proved to be a fad. In the late 1970s Harrington spectacularly crashed and burned, admitting he had committed adultery. He later said, “the devil threw me a pass, and I caught it and ran for defeat.” Harrington would divorce his first and second wives, marrying three times. In a 2000 SBC Life article, Harrington describes his moral failures this way:
Three things got me: fame, finance, and frolic. I was going strong with my little radio program there. Then after the mayor named me Chaplain of Bourbon Street the Governor of Louisiana named me Ambassador of Goodwill to America.
Early on I had trouble paying $500 a week rent for the office on Bourbon Street. But the next thing you know, $500 a week income was changing into $5,000 a week. The “kingdom of thing-dom” started getting more of my attention than the Kingdom of God. I was on nationwide television in four hundred and seventy cities. Everything was going good. Then, Phil Donahue had me on his pilot show. The other guest that day was Madeline O’Hare. That show took Donahue into nationwide syndication. He had us back eighteen times after that. She became a springboard toward my own national recognition, but also a witnessing tool for the Lord. Once people saw the condition of an atheist they wanted to become believers.
I challenged her to meet me in different cities. There were thirty-eight different cities where we would meet in the civic auditorium or the municipal auditorium, and have confrontations on the stage. It became quite popular. We were on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and The Merv Griffin Show.
I had fame, but when you get famous you start thinking, “Look at what I’m doing.” After I got saved, I grew too fast — I didn’t have a good, stable foundation. It’s nobody’s fault but mine, but when you get invitations to come give your testimony, you start adding more dates to it. I had to drop out of seminary because I was preaching two revivals a month. I was so caught up in being an evangelist. Money gets to flowing and you find yourself riding in a big customized bus, you find yourself flying in a Lear jet, and you find your staff members picking up your briefcases. Unless you’ve got a solid base, you can really fall into this. I started believing all my cockiness and all my press releases — and that precedes the fall.
Fame did that. And finance — you get money in your hand, and you’re the president and the treasurer. Signatures are pretty easy to come by. The folks were just giving and giving.
Frolic — after a while you got those Bathsheba’s, [sic] Delilah’s, [sic] and Jezebel’s [sic] out there in the church world – not the Bourbon Street world — that kind of temptation didn’t bother me because I knew they were notoriously wicked. But these were sweet, little ol’ church members. They start telling you how nice and neat you are, and how big and strong you are. Your wife isn’t telling you that any more because she knows what you’re turning into.
All those things — fame, finance, and frolic — led me to catch a pass that Satan threw at the peak of my success. And that pass — I caught that sucker, and ran for defeat. When you break that pass down, P. A. S. S., it’s pride, arrogance, self-centeredness, and stubbornness. That stole my first love away from me, and that’s when I fell.
After his “fall,” Harrington was out of the ministry for seventeen years. He credits Cathedral of Tomorrow pastor Rex Humbard for encouraging him to re-enter the ministry. During his time away from the Lord, Harrington was a salesman and a motivational speaker. Harrington was a once-saved, always-saved Baptist. This meant, regardless of what Harrington did during his time away from Jesus, he was still a born-again Christian.
After having served God for many years as Chaplain of Bourbon Street, I began to leave my “First Love” for the Lord. Fame, fortune and frolic got me off the track. I had been on all the major talk shows such as Donahue and Oprah, as well as having my own syndicated TV show across the country. Money got to be no object as the dollars flowed in, and the making of money began to be my focus. I began listening to the young women who bragged on how good I was and looked, and became addicted to their ego boosts. I finally left preaching altogether and went strictly into very successful years as a motivational speaker–finally leaving God completely out of my life. I was miserable; living (existing) on fun and thrills. Little happiness, no joy.
One night while in Los Angeles, CA, I was considering jumping out of a window, when the phone rang and my friend Rex Humbard asked me, “Bro. Bob, aren’t you ready to come back?” I cried, “Yes, I’m so ready!” He then lead [sic] me in reading the 51st Psalm and praying David’s prayer of restoration. Suddenly the burden of guilt was lifted and I knew that God had other plans for my life. These years since then have been a growing and rebuilding time for me, and I’m thrilled to say: “I’m back and It’s Still Fun Being Saved!”
December of 1998 was a particularly wonderful time in my life when God gave to my life a wonderful lady named Becky. We had been acquaintances for nearly 30 years, but when we found each other in August of 1997 after many years, we were both excited as God seemed to draw us together. We were married on December 5, 1998 at the Grand Palace in Branson, MO. Now we headquarter on her miniature horse ranch just south of Ft. Worth, TX, from which we continue to travel across the country doing what God called me to do in 1958…preach the Word.
Harrington died on July 4, 2017. He was eighty-nine years old. He, indeed, had fun being saved.
Did you ever attend a crusade back in the day? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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.
As the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical churches have just as big a problem with sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct as Catholic churches do. Thanks to the internet and an increasing awareness of sexual abuse, people are now more willing to speak out, and if warranted, report their assaults to law enforcement. Some victims are turning to civil courts to extract justice from their abusers and those who facilitated a climate where sexual predators could prey with impunity. Churches and their leaders are learning that it is quite expensive to ignore or cover-up allegations of sexual impropriety.
I am convinced that we have yet to see the full depth and breadth of criminal conduct that has gone on behind the closed doors of countless Evangelical churches. As I think about the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, including twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, I am increasingly grieved over how little churches and pastors did to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Victims were routinely disbelieved or accused of lying. Why Deacon Bob would never do such a thing, Sally. Why are you lying? Sometimes, victims were believed but told to forgive their abusers. Jesus forgave you, Sally. Shouldn’t you forgive Pastor Billy Bob? Other times, predators were run out the church, and told never to come back. He’s gone now, Sally. It is time to move on. That what Jesus would want you to do. What rarely, if ever, happened was the arrest and prosecution of offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and congregants.
I can only remember one instance where a predator was accused, arrested, and convicted of his crime, and this only happened after he was caught a second time sexually assaulting a teen boy. Even then, after “justice” was served, he joined up with a new Evangelical church and is “faithfully” serving Jesus. As a pastor, I regularly attended pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was not uncommon to hear whispers and stories about this or that pastor being accused of sexual misconduct. I would hear stories about pastor so-and-so abruptly leaving his church, only to find out later that he was caught at a motel with a church teenager or was fucking the choir director’s wife. One pastor was having sex with his secretary in his church office every Saturday while devoted members were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church and hear their “godly” on-fire pastor preach. He was run out of the church, but later surfaced, as Jack Hyles’ son David did, in another community busily “serving’ Jesus.
Years ago, a concerned congregant told me that an unmarried man who had been attending our church was inviting young boys to spend the weekend with him on his farm. I investigated the issue and concluded that the man was probably a pedophile. What did I do? I ran the guy out of the church. I angrily told him that I knew exactly what he was. I also called the pastor of another Evangelical church the man attended and told him about the allegations. He agreed that the man, who is now dead, was likely a pedophile. Both of us thought we had done our duty by protecting church children from a predator. However, neither of us reported it to law enforcement, knowing that doing so would embroil our churches in controversy and harm the reputation and “testimony” of our respective churches. I now know that I did not do all I could have and should have done.
There were other instances of allegations of sexual misconduct or physical abuse, where I reported matters to the appropriate authorities. Later in my ministerial career, a man confessed to me that he had viciously murdered his girlfriend. I immediately called the police, who I knew were looking for him, and he was arrested. The man is now serving a life sentence in an Ohio penitentiary. Early in my ministerial career, my father-in-law, with whom I worked with as assistant pastor, came to me and told me that a congregant had confessed to shaking his infant baby to death. At the time, the cause of death had been attributed to SIDS. I told my father-in-law that he should immediately report the crime to the police. He did, and the man was arrested and convicted of manslaughter.
The common thread running through the anecdotal stories above and current allegations/crimes is that often pastors serve as gatekeepers for their respective churches. Congregants are encouraged to bring ALL reports of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior to their pastor. It is up to the pastor, then, to decide whether the authorities should be called. Keep in mind, pastors are not lawyers, nor do they have investigatory skills as law enforcement professionals do. Unfortunately, pastors are often treated as a jack-of-all-trades. Most Evangelical pastors are not qualified to provide competent, professional counseling to congregants, yet, countless congregants are counseled by pastors who know little more than to quote Bible verses. Pastors are often considered vast repositories of wisdom and advice. Few congregants ponder whether their trust is misplaced. When pastors hear of accusations that could tear their church asunder, their natural inclination is to protect their churches’ reputations, thinking that in doing so they are protecting God.
Pastors wrongly think that they and their churches are indispensable parts of their local communities. Why, if scandal rocked the church, it would ruin our “testimony,” pastors think. There are souls to be saved and chicken dinners to be served. And just like that, pastor rationalize keeping wraps on all sorts of sexual misconduct, including the sexual and physical abuse of children. Where, oh where, are pastors who are willing to sacrifice everything to stand along-side of victims of abuse? Is it not better for a church to close its doors than for it to silently stand silently by while sexual crime goes unpunished. No pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or congregant should be above the law. Yes, making allegations public can and will cause harm to churches and the families of abusers. But, the only way to stamp out sexual abuse in churches is for people in the know to be willing to report allegations to law enforcement and child protective services.
It is time for churches to take the gate keys away from pastors and other church leaders. It is time for congregants to be instructed to take their allegations to law enforcement and let them determine whether crimes have been committed. The duties of pastors are simple: preach, teach, and eat chicken dinner at potlucks. When pastors hear whispers of sexual misconduct that could be criminal in nature, they should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200. These men of God should IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone and call law enforcement (and if a police officer attends the church, he should NOT be the person to whom the alleged crimes are reported). Pastors shouldn’t investigate, call a board meeting, accuse the perpetrator, or pray about it. All of these things can wait until law enforcement has been contacted. The only people who matter are the victims. Yes, an allegation doesn’t equal guilt, but it not up to pastors and other church leaders to determine guilt; that’s for police and prosecutors to do.
Local prosecutors can help prod pastors and churches along by prosecuting them if they fail to report alleged sexual abuse. Many states consider pastors and church leaders mandatory reporters, who are REQUIRED to immediately report sexual abuse allegations; not investigate and then report, not pray and then report, not get your ducks in a row and then report; not huddle with church board and then report. Throwing a few pastors in jail for not reporting might help other pastors “see the light” concerning sexual abuse.
The days of covering up allegations of sexual abuse are over. Pastors and churches who ignore this, do so at their own peril. From jail time to million-dollar awards, pastors and churches are learning that not only did Jesus take a dim view of those who harm children, so do those of us who believe that children deserve protection from those who dare to prey on them in the name of God.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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I previously mentioned that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) luminaries Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview Texas, and Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona are currently in a pissing war over whether homosexuals are “born that way.” Accusatory winds have blown the conflict into far corners of the IFB universe. The burning question facing these defenders of the one true and holy Baptist faith is this: Are homosexuals genetically born homosexual (nature or nurture)?
That IFB preachers are even considering this question is astounding, a sign that LGBTQ people are making themselves known in IFB churches and families. (Please read The Jonathan Nichols Story: Growing Up Gay in the IFB Church.) While there have always been gays in IFB churches, these tortured souls were buried so deeply in the dark recesses of church closets that there was little chance they would be discovered.
In the years since I left the ministry and Christianity, I have reconnected with several men who were children in one of the churches I pastored. These men are proud, out-of-the closet, sexually active gays. My mind goes back to the days when these men were young boys and teens who were forced to listened to preaching — not only mine, but that of evangelists and other guest speakers — who regularly excoriated homosexuals for vile, deviant, reprobate sexual behavior. While I have apologized to these men for my hateful, bigoted preaching, I can’t help but wonder how much damage my words did to them.
Over the years, a handful of LGBTQ people wandered into many of the various churches I pastored. While they didn’t announce their sexuality as they came through church doors, over time it became clear that they were physically attracted to the same sex. Sadly, once the whispers of gossips turned into accusations, I was put into unenviable position of deciding how to deal with them. At the time, I believed that LGBTQ sexual behavior was sinful, and, in some instances, a sign that people were reprobates. (Please see Out of the Closet, Into the Light: According to Steven Anderson, I Am a Sodomite.) I regularly preached against sexual sins, giving adultery and fornication as much attention as homosexuality. The difference was how I went about preaching against homosexuality. Shamefully, I must admit that I used derogatory labels when preaching against homosexuality — words such as queer, homo, sodomite, and fag. I refused to use the word gay because I believed that there was nothing “gay” about the homosexual lifestyle. I remember — oh, I wish I could forget! — when the AIDS epidemic came to light that I let congregants know that AIDS was God’s judgment of homosexuals. Had I remained an IFB preacher, I have no doubt that I would have been staunchly opposed to same sex marriage.
LBGTQ people didn’t stay around long in the churches I pastored (with the exception of the men mentioned above, who were forced by their parents to listen to my preaching for years). When whispers turned to accusations, I confronted these “perverts,” demanding they leave the church. In one church, a gay man visited for months before it was discovered that he was a pedophile. Several fathers came to me and said this man was inviting their young sons to spend weekends with him at his nearby farm. Livid, I went to this man and told him he was not allowed to attend the church. When he objected, I threatened to physically throw him out of the church. He left, never to return. In retrospect, I deeply regret how I handled the matter. If the man was indeed a pedophile, I should have reported him to law enforcement. If he wasn’t, I should have tried to help him, though I doubt that there was much I could do because of my homophobic beliefs. That he was accused of being a pedophile was enough to reinforce the stereotype believed by many congregants: homosexuals are child molesters.
Thirty years later, some LGBTQ people in IFB churches are no longer willing to sit by and silently suffer while their preachers rail against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I have always wondered why anyone would willingly submit themselves to psychological assaults by supposed “men of God.” Children and teenagers have no choice, but adults are free to flee the verbal assaults and attacks on their person. Why stay?
As American society becomes more LGBTQ-friendly, IFB churches are confronted with how best to minister to people whom they consider to be sexual deviants. The Steven Andersons of the IFB world think attacking LGBTQ people in their sermons is the best way to “reach” them. I highly doubt such preaching is reaching anyone for Jesus. In fact, I doubt that reaching “sodomites” for Jesus is the goal of men such as Steven Anderson and Bob Gray Sr. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement can attest, attacking homosexuals from the pulpit is a surefire way to get lots of rounds of “amen!” Preaching against certain sins will always invigorate the righteous, and sexual sins are crowd favorites (even though we now know that IFB congregants are not immune from all of the behaviors they deem sexual misconduct, including homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, adultery, and fornication).
Realizing that the cultural tide is turning against IFB churches and their incessant prattle against sexual sin — particularly homosexuality — men such as Johnny Nixon and Bob Gray Sr. have cooked up a novel reinterpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Now, these men still believe engaging in homosexual sex, or any sex outside of marriage, for that matter, is a sin, but they now admit that homosexuals are “born that way.” These “eunuchs” are expected to refrain from same-sex sexual behaviors and relationships, and if they are willing to do so, they will be considered Christians. I suspect that the greater goal is to “convert” homosexuals, helping them to see that only by switching sides can they ever know true sexual fulfillment and romantic love. I am left to wonder why, if it is God who determines sexuality, does he make some people homosexual while at the same time saying that homosexual sex is a criminal act worthy of execution. (I refrain from using the LGBTQ acronym because the IFB preachers in question do not consider all sexual identities equally. Their primary focus is on gay men. I know of no IFB church that is accepting of bisexuality or transgenderism.)
I was surprised today while listening to a sermon by Pastor Steven Anderson (website). There is an ungodly book (published in 2015) titled, “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” authored by Dr. David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm. They also have a website at BornThatWay.org. The book is unscriptural and promotes a wicked philosophy of tolerance for sin. What surprised me is that the website lists Dr. Bob Gray Sr., Pastor Jeff Owens and Pastor Paul Chappell, as being supporters of the book and ministry. The book is an ungodly perversion of the Scriptures!!!
I am trying to understand why Dr. Gray and Pastor Owens would approve of something evil like this. Both of these good men have counseled tens of thousands of people combined throughout their church ministries. So I tread lightly and don’t want to criticize them in my article, this is not my intent. However, I will voice my opinion of this ungodly book “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” and their ungodly “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website. The book is clearly a sinful attempt to bridge the gap between the ungodly homosexual community and the New Testament Church. Dr. David Nixon and his co-author are trying to straddle-the-fence on the issue of homosexuality. As far as I’m concerned, they are pulling on the same rope as the Devil.
David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm base their strange doctrine on Matthew 19:12, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Being a eunuch from a mother’s womb simply means, for one reason or another, that a man is born impotent. The Greek word for “eunuch” in Matthew 19:12 is eunouchos, meaning, “a castrated person (such being employed in Oriental bed chambers); by extension an impotent or unmarried man; by implication a chamberlain (state officer).” Here’s some helpful Bible commentary on the topic, “EUNUCH.”
The Bible mentions eunuchs, who are born “THAT WAY” from the womb, which is equivalent to castration. This is not homosexual lust! A eunuch “FROM THE WOMB” cannot procreate, that is, cannot have children. A homosexual can procreate (with a woman if they so choose). Obviously, homosexuals do not come “FROM THE WOMB”! And as I will evidence to you later, many people who profess to be “heterosexual” admit to committing homosexual acts at times. This tosses a monkey-wrench into David Nixon’s retarded hypothesis! Homosexuality is a sin, and Christians won’t be able to help sodomites unless they address the issue as such. God only saves THE UNGODLY (Romans 4:5-6). It is evil to tell homosexuals that there’s really no problem, because God made them “THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” intending for them to become celibate as eunuchs for God. That doesn’t solve the problem, which is, HOMOSEXUALS ARE SINNERS in need of the new birth. Unless a homosexual is willing to confess to God, “I AM A SINNER,” they cannot be saved. You’ve got to admit that you are a sinner to believe the Gospel. You need to know what you’re being saved from!
On their “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” website, they say:
“The gay community is not the battle field, they are the mission field. They are not the enemy, they are the mission itself. We are in a spiritual battle, but if you view them as the enemy, you are fighting the wrong war (Ephesians 6:12). Our book “Born That Way After All” explains God’s unique design and purpose for those who are not attracted to the opposite sex.”
Although I agree that the gay community is a mission field, from a soul-winning perspective; I totally disagree when such reasoning is used to silence Christians about the evils of homosexuality which is targeting, recruiting and hurting America’s children. Hugh Hefner’s perverted Playboy business could be called “a mission field” too. We could say that the dirty magazine business is not the enemy as well. But does that mean preachers and Christians should be silent about such evils? Of course not. Now, more than ever, pastors and Christians need to expose the evils of homosexuality in our society. Silence is not golden, it is yellow cowardice. The false idea that exposing homosexuality as a filthy sin will hinder reaching the gay community for Christ is a big lie!
Homosexuality Is A Filthy Deathstyle (homosexuals account for 75% of all Syphilis cases!). Placing an adopted child into the hands of two homosexual parents (perverts) ought to be considered criminal child abuse! But our nation’s ungodly courts disregard God’s Word. Americans can legally commit adultery, film themselves in bed having sex and upload it to the internet, get drunk, murder their children by abortion, homosexuals can marry and children are forced into their care by adoption, et cetera. In eternity, God will hold people accountable for even their words (Matthew 12:36).
The insane notion that believers will never convert homosexuals to Christianity by calling them “perverts” is totally untrue. When the rich man in Hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to warn his five brothers, “lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Abraham plainly said that if people won’t listen to the Word of God, THEY WON’T GET SAVED, even if they see miracles and supernatural signs. “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:29-32).
The ungodly book effectively attempts to silence Christians to the evils of homosexuality, portraying sodomites as a needy group who ought to be ministered to (informed that God really made them to be eunuchs) and otherwise left alone. So while naive preachers are spending the rest of their life reaching out to gays with the Gospel, America’s children are being homosexualized. If churches must become worldly to attract the homosexual community, then they’re coming to apostate religion, not Jesus Christ.
Although I disagree with Pastor Steve Anderson’s lack of love for the homosexual community, I must say that Brother Anderson COMES MUCH CLOSER TO BEING RIGHT than today’s compromised preachers who hobnob with gays and won’t preach against them!!! HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL. You’re NEVER going to win sodomites to Christ by tolerating their sins. A fundamentalist preacher ought to be a balance of grace and truth, of strength and beauty! Jude 1:22, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” The Word of God condemns the sinful world. That’s why gays reject the King James Bible, changing it into a lie (Romans 1:25). All of the modern PERversions of the Bible completely remove the word “sodomite.” The unscriptural website “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” says they “do not necessarily endorse the term… ‘homosexual’ for several Biblical reasons.”  These are wicked people, who are trying to silence fundamentalist Christians about the evils of homosexuality. The idea that preaching and standing against open public wickedness, is a form of hate, is as satanic as can be!!!
I love Pastor Jeff Owens and Dr. Bob Gray Sr. I promote their sermons and ministries, because my heart’s desire is to help others in the Lord. I don’t throw people away because I disagree with them on something. I don’t stop promoting someone because they don’t agree with me. My faithful web visitors know that I often promote and expose someone at the same time. Most preachers won’t do that. Dr. Hyles invited Dr. R. G. Lee to preach at Pastor’s School in Hammond, knowing that Dr. lee was in the compromised Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Hyles didn’t demand that someone agree with him 100% on everything, to be his friend. I like that! There’s not one man that I promote whom I agree with on everything. I want to help others. If I find something that helps me, I want to share it with you also, to help you too. YOU are my Epistle. YOU are the book that I am writing. 2nd Corinthians 3:2, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” YOU are my treasure!
Having said that, I love the preaching and teaching of Dr. Bob Gray Sr. and Dr. Jeff Owens. Albeit, I do not agree with them in their support of the “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” book and “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website, where they are listed. I am 100% in agreement with Pastor Steven Anderson on this issue, because I believe Brother Anderson’s position is 100% Biblical. Romans 1:24-32 plainly condemns the homosexual deathstyle!!! No one is born with a Sodomite tendency. Homosexuality is abnormal, against nature. We are all born with a sin-nature. If the sin-nature is allowed to flourish, uncontrolled and unbridled by moral restraint, anything evil is possible. America was doomed the day in 1963 that the King James Bible was removed from our nation’s classrooms.
All human beings are born with a sin-nature. Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” We are ALL sinners by nature and by choice. A child doesn’t have to be taught to steal. They have to be taught to be honest. Children must be trained and taught the Word of God. And yet, even having grown up in the best home, with the most faithful Christian parents, enrolled in a great Christian school, attending a strong Bible-believing church—They may still ruin their lives and choose to go into a reckless deathstyle of sin. Having good Christian parents does not guarantee godly children. Certainly, training up a child in the admonition and nurture of the Lord stacks everything in their favor when they become adults, but they are still sinners by nature and by choice. What a proper upbringing DOES give a child is a strong FOUNDATION for the rest of their life. So if the house of their life burns down one day, it can be rebuilt!!! Amen!
No one is “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL.” I am not trying to be mean or unkind to anyone. If you are not saved, you’ll never get the victory over sin. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” If you have homosexual desires as a believer, then there is a Bible verse for you. 2nd Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
You can read all of Stewart’s homophobic rant here.
Stewart’s website features countless articles against this or that sexual sin, leaving me to say “The [man] doth protest too much, methinks.” I so wish that there were a God and I wish there really were a Jack Chick-like This Was Your Life final judgment. Can you imagine what would come rolling out IFB closets come judgment day? All of us have things that we have done that we never want to be brought to light. All of us have done things that we regret or wish we had done differently. The good news is that our embarrassments are safely stored in the back of our closets right next to our white buckskin shoes, platform shoes, frayed blue jeans, maxi dresses, and our dad’s collection of old Playboy magazines.
With one exception, I oppose prying open the closets of others, revealing secrets long buried in the dark recesses of people’s lives. We all have a right to have secrets, things that are no one’s business but ours. I do my best to write openly and honestly about my past and present life. But, there are some things that I can’t or won’t talk about (such as being sexually molested as a boy and kissing a boy as a teenager) because I find these events embarrassing, even fifty plus years after the fact.
The one exception I make is for preachers, politicians, and church leaders who deign to be the voices of moral authority; those who demand the Ten Commandments be posted on school walls and self-righteously demand their fellow citizens obey the anti-human moral code found in the Bible (as interpreted by them according to a literalistic, Fundamentalist hermeneutic). These defenders of virginity, the anus, and all things sexual, often don’t practice what they preach. While these “men of God” are preaching against adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, short skirts, tight pants, teenage petting, and lustful glances, they are often wallering in the very sins they condemn. (Behaviors they call sins, anyway. I wouldn’t call these behaviors sins, depending, of course, on context. Sins? No. Bad Behaviors? Maybe.) For these self-absorbed preachers of God’s plan of intercourse — Evangelical, heterosexual, married, missionary position only — I am all for exposing their secrets. It is for this reason I write the Black Collar Crime series. The sooner the truth is known — that preachers are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world — the better. Imagine how different things would be if Evangelical preachers swung wide the doors of their closets and openly talked about what is buried deep within. I am not talking about criminal behavior here. Sexual predators who hide in plain sight as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and church leaders should be aggressively pursued and prosecuted. The secrets I am talking about are the things that are common to man. Imagine how different Sunday morning church would be if preachers admitted that they are human, burdened with the same desires, wants, needs, emotions, and feelings as everyone else. Granted, Evangelicals would have to re-write the Bible and abandon previously held certainties for them to truly reenter the human race. As long as they maintain that the Bible and Christianity are morally superior and demand everyone live according to their interpretation of a bronze-age religious text, preachers shouldn’t be surprised when people take delight in their moral failures.
Why do some people lack a desire for the opposite sex? They feel weird, like an outcast, often getting bullied or ridiculed for being different. Sometimes they feel trapped in their own bodies with nowhere to turn as they search for answers. Society tells them that they must be gay. But is that the only sensible explanation? In Born That Way After All, you will see the Biblical fact of men and women who were created different and special—unique servants of the Lord. God has created every human being with a unique purpose: do you know yours? TO PASTORS AND CHURCH LEADERS: How would it feel growing up and knowing there is something different about you? You might be surprised if you knew how many families and friends in your own congregation struggle. They don’t want to. They despise it. They need your help. Are you willing to provide that help? Are you prepared to answer their questions? This book can help you learn how to help them—we guarantee it. Remember God’s declaration in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Let’s destroy the void and help the hurting.
Nixon’s book has a two-star rating. Sixty-seven percent of reviewers gave the book a one-star review. However, proving yet again that IFB zealots lack reading skills, only one of the negative reviews came from someone who bought the book. No need to read the book, right? Just read the B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-i-b-l-e. BIBLE!!.
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983
I recently received the following email:
I read your blog. Thanks for sharing. I have been an Evangelical Christian since I was 5. I accepted Jesus of the Bible at that time. When I read your “Why I Hate Jesus”, it made me sad. I couldn’t help but think that you have had a lot of pain from people who profess Jesus Christ and that Jesus Himself has let you down. I did have a question. On your ABOUT page, the question was “when were you called into the ministry. ” If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?
In this post, I want to focus on the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?”
This is a fairly common question I am asked when someone is trying to square my current atheistic life with that of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. I believed that it was GOD who called me into the ministry, but now I believe that this same God is a fiction. If God doesn’t exist, who is it then that spoke to my “heart” as a fifteen-year-old boy, telling me that I was to be a pastor, a preacher of the good news of the gospel?
The Evangelical culture I grew up in emphasized the importance of boys and girls growing up to be full-time servants of Jesus Christ. Children and teenagers were encouraged to pray and ask God if he wanted them to devote their lives to the ministry, be it as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Parents were challenged to give their children over to God, as Hannah did with Samuel, in hopes that he might see fit to use them in a mighty way to advance his Kingdom. Pastors considered it a sign of God’s favor if boys and teenagers were called to preach under their ministry. Like the gunslingers of yesteryear, pastors put a notch on their gospel gun every time a boy surrendered to the ministry.
Being called to full-time service means you are special, uniquely chosen by God to do his work. From the moment a boy says, preacher, I think God is calling me to preach, he is treated by the church as some sort of extraordinary human being. I heard countless preachers say that being called into the ministry was the greatest calling in the world; that becoming President of the United States would be a step down from the ministry. Preacher boys — as young men who are called into the ministry are often nicknamed — are quickly given preacher things to do. No time is better than NOW, I was told, to start serving God and preaching his Word. I preached my first sermon to the Junior High Sunday school class two weeks after I stood before the church and said, God is calling me to be a preacher. I spent the next few years honing my preaching skills at youth meetings, nursing homes, and any other place that didn’t mind hearing the ramblings of an inexperienced, uneducated boy preacher. By the time I delivered my last sermon in April 2005, I had preached thousands of messages, often preaching three or more sermons a week.
What I have written above is key to answering the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?” Since I do not think God exists, the only way I can possibly answer this question is from and environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological perspective. It is important to remember that it is not necessary for God to exist for people to believe that he does. Billions of people believe in a supernatural deity/force that does not exist. Every day, billions of people will pray to, worship, and swear allegiance to deities that cannot be seen, heard, or touched. These deities can, however, be felt, and it is these feelings that lead people to believe that their invisible God is indeed real. Thus, I KNOW that God called me into the ministry because I “felt” him speak to me. This is no different from the 5-year-old Bruce Gerencser believing that Santa Claus somehow came down the chimney every Christmas Eve and put presents under the tree just for him. Of course, time, experience, and knowledge caused me to see that my beliefs about Santa were false, as they did when it came to my beliefs about God.
These religious feelings and beliefs of mine were reinforced by the Bible. Various verses in the Word of God speak of men who are called to be pastors/elders/bishops/missionaries/evangelists. Variously interpreted by Christian sects, all agree on one point: God calls boys/men (and in some cases, girls/women) into the ministry. This calling is essentially God laying his hand on someone and saying, I have set you apart for my use. Church youngsters are regaled with stories about men and women called by God who did great works. From the Bible, stories of the faith-driven exploits of Noah, Moses, David, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, the apostles, and Paul are used as reminders of what God can and will do for those willing to dedicate their lives to serving him. Church children are encouraged to read the biographies of men (and a few women) mightily used of God. I heard more than a few preachers say, look at what God did through Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Dwight Moody, Bob Jones, John R. Rice, Billy Sunday, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, Jack Hyles, B.R. Lakin, and countless other servants of God. Who knows what God might do through you if you will dare to surrender your life to him. What young preacher boy wouldn’t want to someday be used by God like these men?
I spent thirty-three years believing that God had called me to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ; that this calling was irrevocable; that misery and judgement (and perhaps death) awaited if I failed to obey God. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 9:16:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
As with Paul, Bruce the Evangelical preacher had a burning desire to the preach the gospel; to tell as many people as possible that Jesus alone can save them from their sin; that there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain; that what is a man profited if he gain the world and lose his soul. I shed countless tears over the lost — both in and out of the church. I spent untold hours praying for revival to break out in America, spreading to the ends of the earth. Believing Jesus was coming back to earth soon, I devoted myself to making sure as many people as possible heard the gospel. I thought, at the time, my duty is to tell them. It is up to God to save them. For many years, my evangelistic zeal burned so hot that I preached a minimum of four sermons a week, along with preaching on the streets and holding services at the local nursing home and county jail. To quote the motto of Midwestern Baptist College — the institution I attended in the 1970s — Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry. We Never Will Give in While Souls are Lost in Sin, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry!
My burning the candle at both ends wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t believe that God had called me into the ministry and was speaking to and through me. I believed that this God existed. I may never have seen or audibly heard God, but I felt his presence in my life. I “heard” the Holy Spirit speaking to me, leading me, and teaching me truth. These experiences of mine were verified by what I read in the Bible and Christian biographies and what I observed in the lives of my pastors, teachers, and mentors. Most of all, they were verified by the work God accomplished through my preaching and leadership. How then, knowing these things, can I now believe that God is a work a fiction; that my ministerial experiences were the work, not of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, but the works of a quite-human Bruce Gerencser?
The deconversion process afforded me the opportunity to step back from my life and view it from a distance. As I looked at my parents’ religious, theological, social, and political leanings and that of the pastors of the churches we attended, it would have been shocking if I hadn’t, as a teenager, professed that God was calling me into the ministry. At age five, while we were living in San Diego and attending Scott Memorial Baptist Church (Scott Memorial was pastored by Tim LaHaye), I told my mother that I was going to be a preacher someday. Not a baseball player, policeman, or garbage truck driver — a preacher! This, of course, pleased my Mom. (Ironically, neither my mother or father ever heard me preach.) When people talked about the angst they had over trying to determine what they wanted to do with their lives when they grew up, I had no frame of reference. I never wrestled with what I wanted to be as an adult. I always wanted to be a preacher, and by God’s wonderful, matchless grace, that is exactly what I became. Everything I experienced in my life led me to the monumental day at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio when, with tears and trembling, I told the church God was calling me into the ministry. Scores of fellow church members shouted Amen! and later hugged me, telling me that they were going to pray for me. I am sure that more than a few people had mixed feelings about my calling. Really Lord? Are you sure you can use this temperamental, ornery redheaded boy? I have often wondered what my peers thought as I went from the boy who told the youth director to fuck off! to a young man who loved Jesus, carried his Bible to school, handed out tracts to his unsaved friends, went soulwinning, worked on a bus route, and occasionally preached at Sunday evening youth meetings. The old Bruce, who wore frayed jeans, boots, and tee-shirts to church, gave way to the New Bruce, who wore preacher clothes, including ties. What’s next? Swearing off girls? Anyone who knew me as a preacher boy knows I resolutely obeyed the Baptist Rulebook®. (Please read The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) I didn’t smoke, drink, cuss, listen to rock music, or engage in premarital sex. I had plenty of girlfriends, but I drew the line at kissing, holding hands, and putting our arms around each other. My commitment to virginity was part of my devotion to God. As much as I wanted to have sex, I willingly took many a cold shower, keeping myself pure until my wedding day.
Most Baptist preachers will likely say that they just KNEW God was calling them to preach. If they are still Christians, I am sure they attribute their feelings to supernatural intervention. It’s all because of J-E-S-U-S, not me, I’m sure they’ll say, yet the signs in front of their churches say Rev. So-and-So, Pastor. You see, the whole notion of being called by God is rooted not in the supernatural, but in earthly human experiences. My Baptist faith taught me to call my interest in the ministry a calling from God, but in truth, it was the natural outcome of my upbringing and experiences. My entrance into the preaching fraternity was never in doubt. How could I not have become a preacher?
There is nothing in my story that requires the actual existence of a supernatural deity. All that is required is that I, along with the other players in my life, believe God exists. For my first fifty years of life, I believed that the Evangelical God was every bit a real as the sun, moon, stars, and earth. And now I don’t. Does this invalidate my years in the ministry? Of course not. All that has changed is my perspective and how I see my trajectory from a sinner to a Holy Spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of God being the first cause, I now know that environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological influences molded me into the man who would one day preach thousands of sermons in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Congregants called me Pastor Bruce, Rev. Gerencser or Preacher — the man God who spoke the Word of God to the people of God. I now know who I really was…his name is Bruce.
Thanks to ever-increasing media scrutiny and the willingness of sexually and psychologically abused people to tell their stories, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches can no longer pretend that they don’t have a problem with sexual predators and child abuse. For years, IFB preachers have — with lustful glee — used the Catholic church sex scandals as sermon illustrations, reminding congregants that IFB churches don’t have such problems. We now know that predator IFB preachers, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and bus drivers, over the years, have had their perverse way with countless church children and teenagers. We also know that more than a few IFB pastors talk a great line when it comes to marital fidelity, but behind closed office, bedroom, and motel rooms, these “pillars of moral purity” are fucking their way through the church membership.
IFB churches are predominantly single-pastor run outfits or pastor/deacon run institutions, These pastors are often treated as demigods and given absolute control of their churches. When rumors of sexual misconduct become known, church members are expected to report the rumors to the pastor and/or deacons. It is then up to church leadership to determine what should be done about the rumors. Sadly, far too often church leaders hide these reports from congregants, preferring to quietly make problems go away. I know of two churches where numerous acts of sexual misconduct took place, yet congregants were never given a complete accounting of what happened. Hiding behind insurance company lawyers and following the advice of IFB “cleaners” such as the Attorney David Gibbs and the Christian Law Association, church leaders keep church members in the dark. Always protect the ministry, the church’s name, leaders are told. If congregants are told ALL the facts, why who knows what might come falling out of church closets!
Frustrated victims and their families have turned to law enforcement and the courts in attempts to hold IFB pastors and church leaders accountable for the vile things that have happened on their watch. In some instances, as in the case of the Catholic Church, settling lawsuits have impoverished and bankrupted offending IFB churches. I would think that IFB churches, now knowing that accusations of sexual misconduct or abuse could bankrupt them and lead to criminal prosecutions, would do their utmost to make sure their churches are safe places of worship. And many have done just that. While I still consider their theology to be psychologically harmful, I am grateful that some IFB church have taken steps to make sure church children and teenagers are not being sexually abused and that adult women are not being preyed upon by predator preachers.
Unfortunately, some IFB preachers think that church members suing is the problem. Using the Bible as a bludgeon, these so-called men of God warn congregants that God prohibits lawsuits against churches and fellow congregants. Thou shalt NOT sue churches, pastors, or fellow church members, IFB preachers often say. Allen Domelle is one such preacher,
In a July 18, 2016 post for the Old Paths Journal titled Suing a Church, REALLY? (link no longer active) Domelle writes:
Every pastor is always cognizant of the fact that one day his church may get sued. In a day when ambulance-chaser attorneys are very willing to represent clients who sue a church, pastors have to make sure they are extra careful with how their ministry is run. Every pastor knows that the Devil is more than willing to use one mishap to encourage someone to sue the church and cause them to face litigation for months, and sometimes years. Satan knows that this litigation will take focus and energy away from what the church is supposed to do; reach the world for Jesus Christ.
What is unexpected is for a church to be sued or threatened litigation by respected Christians. What surprises me is how well-known “Christian” leaders are not afraid to break the glass ceiling and actually file lawsuits against a church, or have their attorney send letters that threaten the church of litigation if they don’t do what the individual wants them to do. Whatever happened to the fear of God? I’m amazed that in recent years some of my pastor friends have had to deal with litigation because of preachers suing their church.
Never in my lifetime would I have imagined churches being sued or threatened with a lawsuit, especially by people who know better. There used to be a time in America when nobody would do anything against a church. Yet, somehow we have come to a low point in Christianity where people have stooped to the spiritual level of the church at Corinth. The church of Corinth was guilty of court litigation against fellow church members because they felt they had been defrauded. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:6, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” I can only imagine that the Apostle Paul was just as shocked about Christians suing each other as I am.
Let me make this clear; it is just as evil to sue or threaten litigation as it is to attack or change the KJB, play rock music in church, live a sodomite lifestyle, or commit adultery. It is just as wrong for a Christian to sue or threaten litigation against a church or fellow Christian as it is never to run one bus or lead one person to Jesus Christ. Your Christian credentials are out the window if you would even consider suing a church.
My friend, suing a church is a direct contradiction of Scriptures. It doesn’t matter what the reason may be, it is always wrong. Just because others have chosen to disobey the Scriptures doesn’t make it right when you have been wronged. Listen, we have all been wronged, but for the sake of Christ, it is better to be defrauded than to go to law and make a mockery of the name of Christ.
While Domelle doesn’t mention abuse or sex-related lawsuits, there can be no doubt they are included in what he considers sinful acts of litigation against IFB churches and pastors. I find it interesting that Domelle calls such claims “mishaps,” acts inspired by Satan meant to sidetrack churches from their singular purpose — winning souls to Jesus Christ. Evidently, Domelle doesn’t value truth, justice, and restitution as much as does protecting — at all costs — the “good” name of IFB churches and pastors.
While I am indifferent towards IFB preachers suing each other or pastors suing former churches over being fired, when it comes to punishing predatory behaviors, I passionately support victims and their families in their use of law enforcement and the courts to punish offending churches and their leaders. The only way to put an end to rampant abuse is to make it so painful for offenders and their enablers that they will stop treating victims are collateral damage in their war against Satan.
Allen Domelle is best buds with Bob Gray, Sr. Both men are graduates of Hyles-Anderson College, and both sport honorary, pay-for-play doctorates. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor .) Both men worship Jack Hyles — an IFB demigod who was once accused of adultery. (Please see The Legacy of Jack Hyles.) Domelle, an evangelist, considers the Longview Baptist Temple to be his home church. Longview was pastored by Gray, Sr. for many years and is now pastored by his son, Bob Gray, II.
Both Domelle and Gray, Sr. know about the plethora of rumors concerning sexual misconduct in IFB churches. Several readers have told me that Domelle’s preacher father was caught up in a sexual scandal of his own years ago. Since this scandal allegedly took place before the invention of the internet, I have been unable to verify this claim. Knowing these things, however, casts Domelle’s post in a different light. Of course he doesn’t like congregants suing IFB churches and pastors. Doing so opens up IFB outhouse vaults for all to see (and smell). If these accusations make it to court, defenders of the one true IFB faith know that discovery and sworn testimony will expose hidden secrets, dredging up past sexual misconduct claims.
Over the years, I have spoken privately with several victims of pastor sexual misconduct and child abuse. Their stories are heartbreaking, especially the parts about IFB adults and church leaders who were supposed to love and care for them and didn’t. Putting church “testimony” and reputation first, these abuse enablers shamed victims into silence, often suggesting that what they experienced is their fault of some sort of perverse test from God. Upon hearing such stories, I encourage victims to do three things:
Tell law enforcement
Consult a competent, non-Evangelical lawyer
Publicize your story
By publicizing their stories, other victims often find the courage to tell their stories. As is often the case, IFB sexual predators and abusers rarely, if ever, stop their behavior. This is why victims, if they are able to do so, should use the legal system to punish IFB churches and their leaders for their misconduct. If doing so forces churches to close their doors, so be it. As Tony Barretta famously said, Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.
Former pastor and convicted felon Jack Schaap continues to cast a long shadow over the First Baptist Church of Hammond congregation. According to the Northwest Indiana Times, Schaap and Deacon Thomas Kimmel pushed a fraudulent investment scheme that resulted in church members losing their investment. In 2014, Kimmel was convicted of fraud, sentenced to 22 years in prison, and ordered to pay $16.5 million in restitution. Schaap, who is serving a 12 year prison sentence for having sex with a church teenager, received a one percent commission on each church member’s investment. Kimmel received a ten percent commission. Neither man disclosed these commission to the church.
The First Baptist Church of Hammond is being sued by two couples for money they said was lost in an investment scheme pushed by a former deacon who allegedly was hired by the church to provide “one-on-one financial counseling.”
The lawsuit against First Baptist Church of Hammond, Inc., was filed this week by Joseph Elwell, Crystal Elwell, Robert Baldwin, and Deborah Baldwin, individually and as custodian for her two minor children. The Elwells are former Schererville residents now living in Yuma, Arizona, while Deborah Baldwin is a former Crown Point resident now living with her husband, Robert, in Kiel, Wisconsin.
Rick Hammond, an attorney representing the church, said Friday the church “believes the charges are baseless. That there has been absolutely no wrongdoing on behalf of the church and the church stands by its good works and the missionary work it has been doing in the community and around the world,” for decades.
“There are times when individuals may engage in wrongful conduct, but,” he said, “many people want to take that as an opportunity to wrongfully criticize the church.”
According to federal prosecutors, Kimmel sold investments in Sure Line Acceptance Corp. in churches across the country. The federal indictment against Kimmel characterized the corporation as a Ponzi scheme where investors were paid their interest from new investor money.
The lawsuit seeks to recover approximately $225,000 in losses supposedly incurred by the Elwells and $235,400 incurred by the Baldwins.
According to the lawsuit, by January 2006 Schapp (sic) had hired Kimmel to act as an employee of First Baptist Church for the purposes of providing financial advice, debt counseling, budgeting and investment advice for members of the First Baptist Church. Schaap allegedly informed church members during services that Kimmel “was the church’s financial adviser with offices on church premises and was available to members of the church for financial advice.”
The lawsuit states that Kimmel also “represented to parishioners” he had invested $450,000 of his own money in Sure Line and First Baptist Church of Hammond and Schaap had invested $1 million in the corporation.
According to the lawsuit, First Baptist Church and Schapp (sic) could “have terminated Kimmel’s ability to provide financial services to parishioners, solicit the Sure Line Investments, and the right to use First Baptist Church Office for the same purposes at any time.”
The lawsuit contends an attorney named David Gibbs, retained by First Baptist Church, advised Schaap around November 2007 they should not be offering Sure Line Investments to parishioners “because it could violate Indiana law and the parishioners were largely unsophisticated investors.”
“There are times when individuals may engage in wrongful conduct, but,” he said, “many people want to take that as an opportunity to wrongfully criticize the church.”
According to federal prosecutors, Kimmel sold investments in Sure Line Acceptance Corp. in churches across the country. The federal indictment against Kimmel characterized the corporation as a Ponzi scheme where investors were paid their interest from new investor money.
The lawsuit seeks to recover approximately $225,000 in losses supposedly incurred by the Elwells and $235,400 incurred by the Baldwins.
According to the lawsuit, by January 2006 Schapp had hired Kimmel to act as an employee of First Baptist Church for the purposes of providing financial advice, debt counseling, budgeting and investment advice for members of the First Baptist Church. Schaap allegedly informed church members during services that Kimmel “was the church’s financial adviser with offices on church premises and was available to members of the church for financial advice.”
The lawsuit states that Kimmel also “represented to parishioners” he had invested $450,000 of his own money in Sure Line and First Baptist Church of Hammond and Schaap had invested $1 million in the corporation.
According to the lawsuit, First Baptist Church and Schapp (sic) could “have terminated Kimmel’s ability to provide financial services to parishioners, solicit the Sure Line Investments, and the right to use First Baptist Church Office for the same purposes at any time.”
The lawsuit contends an attorney named David Gibbs, retained by First Baptist Church, advised Schaap around November 2007 they should not be offering Sure Line Investments to parishioners “because it could violate Indiana law and the parishioners were largely unsophisticated investors.”
While Jack Schaap supporters — yes, he still has them — will place all the blame on Kimmel, those of us who understand how First Baptist Church operates know that the authoritarian Schaap had full knowledge of what Kimmel was doing. Schaap and Kimmel used trusting congregants as a means to amass wealth. In Schaap’s case, not only did he sexually prey on a trusting church teenager, he also financially preyed on numerous church families. And if it is true that Schaap indeed had $1 million invested in Sureline Acceptance Corporation, perhaps someone should be asking where this money came from.
The financial aspects of the lives of former pastors Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church have never been investigated. Those of us who spent years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) have heard countless stories about the largess of Hyles and Schaap. While these anecdotal stories make for wonderful sermon illustrations, few bother to question their veracity. Defenders of Hyles’ empire would have people believe that Hyles and Schaap were selfless servants of the most high God. My gut tells me that these men are really far different from the persona presented to the thousands of people who called them pastor. To those who would suggest that Kimmel’s and Schaap’s investment scheme had nothing to do with Jack Hyles, I say this: Jack Hyles conditioned generations of congregants to accept without question his “leadership.” Hyles’ son-in-law Schaap followed in his father-in-law’s authoritarian footsteps. Both men were megalomaniacs who — in the name of God — abused, misused, and took advantage of countless church members. Until First Baptist congregants are able to see this, they will continue to be easy prey for so called “men of God.”
In an earlier blog post, The Dogma That Followed Me Home, Cat Givens described the horrifying abuse she suffered at New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. This school used the Accelerated Christian Education/ School of Tomorrow curriculum. I too attended an ACE school, and abuse was rife there too. While New Bethany was a particularly extreme example, physical abuse is endemic to Accelerated Christian Education. It is at the heart of the theology that inspires the curriculum. Their beliefs about the nature of the child inform the whole way the schools are built.
Accelerated Christian Education believes that children are inherently wicked, full of original sin, and that this must be driven out of them by breaking their spirits. This results in ruthless discipline. Among the Scriptures that inspire this belief are:
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Several years ago, I had dinner with a supervisor from my old ACE school. She told me, as though it were completely natural, “sometimes when you look into the eyes of a child that’s being naughty, you can just see this spirit – it’s demonic.”
It’s this theology that leads to ACE’s system of separating children into carrels, with high partitions on each side to stop them from communicating with their neighbors, shown in this ACE promotional video. The message is simple: With your inherently sinful nature, child, you cannot be trusted.
This need to break the child’s will is a staple of Christian Right thinking, says Arizona State University’s Professor David Berliner. In “Educational Psychology Meets the Christian Right,” (website link no longer active) he quotes extensively from fundamentalist literature on child raising. This is John Robinson, leader of the Puritans and hero to modern fundamentalist educators:
“Surely there is in all children … a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon.”
Who is more a fundamentalist icon than John Wesley? This is his mother’s view on child-rearing:
“A child must be conquered. . . . And when the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies … may be passed by. . . . I insist on the conquering of the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education … [and] when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents.”
The tone has barely changed in the intervening centuries. Berliner cites Jack Hyles, from 1972:
“The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child’s will is broken. It should last until the child is crying, not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue.”
Berliner notes that this way of thinking is utterly opposed to the healthy development of the mind. “Various subject matter fields now require of a learner curiosity, agency, and thoughtfulness – characteristics that cannot develop well when obedience is the primary goal of child rearing.”
This view of the child as needing to be broken, like a horse, led to hideous abuses at my school. It was not only spanking. In drama classes, if a movement was painful, the teacher made students repeat it endlessly. A classmate recently emailed me to describe a time her sibling was made to snap his fingers until they were covered in blisters. In a choral verse class, children had to hold contorted positions on stage for 10 minutes or more at a time, and the teachers screamed at them if they were seen to move at all.
The same student also described the experience of being paddled at an ACE school:
“I was at [the ACE school] aged 3 – 7, and i cant remember what happened exactly when, but i got paddled a lot and remember having big red marks on my thighs from it and it hurt and was really terrifying! And straight after being paddled [the teacher] asked ‘do u believe that i love u?’ and i said ‘no’, cz obviously i knew that she hated me, and she said ‘YES I DO LOVE YOU!’ and it was just weird and confusing for a small child! and the things i remember getting paddled for were dragging my gym bag along the floor cz it was too heavy, and for drawing a cat on my pace, and for saying i havent had a biscuit when actually i had had a biscuit, which was a malicious lie!
“And [the teacher] would make you say a prayer after being paddled to apologize and I said ‘I wont do it again’ in my prayer and she interupted and said ‘YES YOU WILL DO IT AGAIN’! again, weird and confusing for a child!!”
Earlier editions of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual have clear instructions for supervisors on how and when to use the paddle to administer spankings (cited, for example, in Roger Hunter’s “The Shock of the Old: The Militant Church and Education”). The Catholic Herald (website link no longer active) described the paddle in one British ACE school as “a cricket bat-shaped US import.” The latest edition of the manual is sanitized, and only says that students who receive more than six demerits should be referred to the school administrator for appropriate punishment. It then quotes three of the Scripture verses most commonly used to justify corporal punishment, including Proverbs 22:15.
The probable reason for this sanitization is that school spankings are now illegal in a majority of territories where ACE is sold. That doesn’t mean spanking is entirely a thing of the past. My school ran a discipline policy that required parents to come in and paddle their own children if the teachers deemed it necessary. If parents declined, their children could not attend the school. The Branch Christian School is one school running a similar policy today.
In places where paddling is still legal, including 19 US states, of course, it happens openly. You can read online the policy at Victory Christian Academy, Florida, (link no longer active) for example. It’s almost word-for-word the same at each school that uses it, because it’s lifted from the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual. The same discipline policy appears in ACE schools across the world.
What can students get paddled for? That’s for the school to decide, although past ACE manuals have included suggestions. One of the schools that has posted a non-exhaustive list is Cornerstone Academy, Amarillo (link no longer active). The punishment can be awarded for such obscenities as (this is just a selection):
Disobedience to school authorities and school policy
Being disrespectful to proper authorities
Cheating in any manner
Lying in any manner (word or deed)
Stealing or borrowing without owner’s permission
Griping and complaining or chronic bad attitude after being cautioned
Being disruptive in class after being cautioned
Touching any student in an inappropriate manner
Vulgar or offensive slang expressions
Consistent failure to have required items for school activities
If there is any question over whether religion can make good people do evil things, fundamentalist child abuse is the answer. My ACE supervisor used to tell the class all the time how much it hurt her to have to paddle us, how awful and painful it was, but she had no choice because God commanded it. No evidence that it might be harmful was considered. No alternative interpretation of the the Bible was countenanced.
It is this doctrine of the child as naturally rebellious against God that must be challenged. It is the idea that the child must be made unquestioningly subject to the teacher’s authority that is the problem. That, and the interpretation of Scripture that makes corporal punishment a non-negotiable imperative, are the great danger. Any attempt to improve fundamentalist curriculum content is a treatment of the symptoms, not the disease.
Several years ago, I received an email from a Christian man by the name of Mike Gallagher. Here’s what he had to say:
I’ve noticed in your articles that you have a bitterness toward so-called Baptists. (Hyles, Swaggart, etc.) I’ve never considered these men to actually be true men of God. ( “by their fruits, ye shall know them”). If I may, please allow me to state some observations; and I shall make them brief. I will not preach to you (tho preaching is a form of communication; and in my experience people are afraid to listen to preaching because they are not secure in their core beliefs.)
1. I perceive that what you had was religion. Sure, you knew about God and all the doctrines and teachings associated with it. (tho I can’t understand how a serious Bible student could get the doctrine of Calvinism out of it. Calvin wasn’t even a Baptist- yet he persecuted them) You knew about the Bible and studied it and crafted sermons from it. You looked up to and deified(?) men that you admired; even mentored a few. You were also strongly influenced by them, yea, molded by them. You had the mechanics of all what a Christian life should be – except for one thing..
2. Relationships. You know what they are. You’ve had one with your wife for 37 years. No doubt you’ve had strong friendships with others for years. You have a relationship with your children and grandchildren; each one individually (I hope).
Relationships consist of 3 essential elements – Trust, Honesty, Commitment. Long lasting relationships must consist of these. But the One whom you have not had a relationship is – God. Sure one can study all about Him, know about Him, what men say about Him – but to know Him, ahh is different. That’s why salvation always comes
First; it’s the actual meeting; the face to face (by faith) contact. From that point on you get to know Him more (just as the more time you spent with your wife, you got to know her better; and your friends; and your children; etc.). You’ve always known He was out there but always distant. You prayed but didn’t know if He answered or not until you saw results – disappointing or otherwise.
He’s a person. This is why prayer is a 2-way street; not one sided. He’s not there just to listen to you – He wants you to listen to Him.
3. God didn’t forsake you; you forsook Him. The Bible is not a law book – it’s a guide book. God isn’t the One who’s changed all these years (especially in our generation in America) We are the ones who have “gone astray”. Can you HONESTLY say we are better off as a society than we were 50 years ago?
Well, I said I would keep it brief. Hope we can become friends, Bruce. Some of the things you said about our flesh and humanity is true. The Apostle Paul had trouble with his; and David; and Peter; and Samson; and….. you get the idea. If I’m honest with myself, with others and most importantly, with God; then I feel secure in what I believe. I don’t think that you do. write soon, come on you know you can’t let this go without a response!
I will leave it to you to judge the merit of his letter. My response was short, sweet, and to the point:
You are kidding right? Be friends? Why would I want to be friends with someone who is a judgmental, arrogant ass that refuses to allow me to tell my own story on my own terms?
So no, I am not interested in being friends, hearing from you, or anything else. After hundreds of emails just like yours, I hope you will forgive me when I say to people like you, go to hell.
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